Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Research

The Brackenridge Fellowship fosters a community of individuals working on research projects from various disciplines, furthering their knowledge and expanding their opportunities. This summer, I am very fortunate and excited to be part of this interdisciplinary cohort. I am getting the chance to interact with people from other disciplines, working together and sharing ideas on complex problems that have a broader impact and foster skills across many fields of study. 

The blog posts are a unique element of the fellowship. Within them, I get an introduction to fellow researchers and their planned research work. Many researchers are conducting research with a similar focus on impacting multiple aspects of healthcare. For instance, Gayatri Ratakonda is trying to understand the protein C5x and figure out its responsibility in controlling the cell cycle of cardiomyocytes, otherwise known as heart cells. More importantly, she is trying to induce the creation of cardiomyocytes so they can regrow when there is any loss that occurs in the heart. Another research project of interest is Emma Ahlgren’s work, which uses biomechanical forces to find a better solution for diagnosing and treating patients with Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms. As a rising sophomore planning for many lab research experiences at Pitt, the fellowship is a creative way to learn from fellow researchers the various methods used in a lab setting to apply them later when working in that particular environment. 

Then there are other researchers who are focusing on disciplines unrelated to natural sciences or STEM. For example, Camila Aguayo is researching how Spanish and American rule have impacted Puerto Rican culture and identity. Another researcher of interest is Corinne Mammarella, focusing on development plans such as the Walnut Capital housing recovery plan and the Pitt Victory Heights athletic facilities expansion plan and how these plans affect the Oakland area. Their research work enhances my science learning experiences through relationships with the arts and society.

My research concentrates on ethical issues related to Artificial Intelligence algorithmic bias in healthcare. Though my research focuses on the healthcare aspect, similar to others but differs from others as it takes an interdisciplinary approach and relies not only on natural sciences but also on humanities to provide critical viewpoints on how we can position these automated technologies in healthcare.

All of the research work done by the fellowship recipients are extraordinary, but I find one very interesting from Zachary Leydig. He is working on characterizing a protein that is thought to have a role in sex cell development. This research is captivating as the work can be used to identify which proteins cause various developmental defects in humans and understand the required proteins for correcting sex cell development. 

There are many benefits to working with researchers from other disciplines as it forces us to think across boundaries to a particular problem and bring in knowledge from other areas. I get to learn about new ways to do research and a chance to communicate my research work to a broader audience. I can also collaborate with researchers from other disciplines to understand their perspectives on my research questions.

On the other hand, there can be some challenges when working with an interdisciplinary community. Researchers may be too focused on their discipline and may not be very open to ideas from other fields that can perhaps provide perspective to the problem they are trying to solve. They may not simply realize the complexity of the problem for a single expert to tackle on their own but instead requires individuals’ expertise from other disciplines. Also, there can be issues of the knowledge gap, and a researcher might find it difficult to comprehend information easily from diverse subject areas. While such challenges exist, it is exciting to see individuals performing research to find solutions for so many problems. I am honored to be part of such an incredible intellectual group.

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