Being part of an Interdisciplinary community

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month since the Brackenridge Fellowship started. While I have been enjoying my summer free of any academic obligations, I have been making steady progress in my research project. It’s comforting to know that everyone else’s experiences so far haven’t been perfect; a big part of research is making mistakes and learning from them, which I’m glad we can all bond over, regardless of the type of project we’re pursuing. I consider that to be one of the benefits of being involved in the program, the sense of community and the opportunity to connect with other fellowship recipients.

A project that I find particularly thought provoking is Sivan’s work on children’s early cognitive skills, and learning more about how kids learn math. One of the ways she is going to do this is by interviewing children and transcribing the interviews, and quantifying various key words related to her research. I think that the way she’s able to to study something as abstract as the idea of learning numbers and arithmetic through various research methods is very interesting to me as a basic science researcher, where majority of my project involves experiments and assays that can be pieced together to learn more about a particular subject. A similarity I’ve found between our projects is that they are both exploratory in nature and have qualitative observations that are translated into quantitative data points. But instead of interview transcripts, I’m working with images of cells and blood vessels, which I will quantify using staining and computational methods. 

Learning about the research that’s being done in different disciplines has been helpful for me as it has allowed me to broaden my view of the idea of research. For example, Camila’s project is on colonialism and Puerto Rican art, which is a topic I know little about, but I’ve been able to appreciate some of the aspects of her topic, such as the issue of the lack of awareness of Puerto Rican culture. It’s easy to get caught up in our own projects and forget about the fact that there are millions of different fields other than the one we’re working on. Being able to interact with others, and have them share some of their own experiences, as well as learn about their work on a deeper level is something I wouldn’t have been able to do without this program. 

In the future, I hope to become more familiar with everyone’s projects, and have more discussions about the wider skills surrounding completing a full time research project over the summer, such as how we’re managing our projects, how we’re planning them and what we want our outcomes to be.

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