As someone conducting basic biology research, I was elated to receive the Brackenridge as it meant I would have an opportunity to engage with a community of undergraduate scholars across the spectrum of fields and research disciplines. After just a few short weeks into the fellowship, I can safely say I have not been disappointed in the slightest. Considering I major in both a natural science (Molecular Biology) and a social science (Sociology), I believe that I have diverse interests offering me opportunities for many different types of research. However, despite my interests I have not been able to fully explore them and have instead mostly been focused on quantitative and semi-quantitative biological work. These past few weeks, though, have allowed me to engage with and learn from the amazing work the other fellows have been doing.
After taking a look at some other projects from my cohort, I was excited to see work that was very different from mine, taking completely different research approaches. For example, Jasmine Al Rasheed who tackling the “occupational trajectory and integration of female, Muslim migrants in Pittsburgh.” I was particularly interested in her methodology which consists primarily of individual interviews which will then help her paint a picture of the broader immigrant landscape. This type of interview-based research is something that I never really thought about since there is little to no opportunity for such methodologies in my current research field, but makes a lot of sense when you think about qualitative ways to learn about individual experience.
Another project I found interesting was Sarah Hulse’s project on “understanding the emotional experiences of patients with metastatic breast cancer.” It was very interesting to see someone take a qualitative approach to understanding patient experience since so many in the healthcare field are so preoccupied with treatments they forget about the patient’s mental well-being. Since I also work in cancer but on the metabolic mechanisms side, Sarah’s project gave me a new perspective on the work I do and how I should go forth with the human experience in mind.
Even though my project for this Brackenridge is conducted using very typical cell biology methodologies, engaging with all the other projects has opened my eyes to more types of research out that other fields conduct. I think it is very important, especially for those in the STEM fields, to not be trapped by rigid and established methods that tend to be inherently positivist. It is our differences that make each and everyone of us unique, and we all have something to gain by learning from others around us. Whether it be a new methodology that we incorporate into our own research, or even just a fun fact about a new topic, we all have something to bring to the table and that’s what makes us truly interdisciplinary.
Even though we are just a few weeks into the fellowship, the Brackenridge has already been an amazing experience allowing me to engage with a diverse group of interdisciplinary scholars. I’ve already learned so much from hearing about the projects everyone else is involved in and I’m excited to continue with this journey throughout the rest of the summer!