Brackenridge Fellowship: Discussion Across Disciplines

We’re around a month into the Brackenridge Fellowship, and I’ve had some great discussions with my peers about their projects, goals, and ambitions. It was quite jarring when we did introductions a few weeks ago, and I realized that I was the only physics major in the room; I’m not used to interacting with people in such different disciplines – I’ve essentially had the same people in my classes for the past two years. For that reason, many, if not all, of the projects being done in the fellowship are vastly different than mine. This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it has been very refreshing to try and discuss my interests with all these new faces – it certainly forces me to talk about topics other than homework problems and confusing lectures.

A couple projects that have stood out to me thus far are Sivan Lurie’s research about early childhood math discussion/development and Sarah Moore’s research on the differences in how “nice” and “kind” are defined and viewed. Both of these are topics that I’ve loosely thought about, but never would have thought to look into. For example, it has always bothered me that math does not interest nearly as many people as topics such as English and history; it confounds me that the majority of people (my beloved family included) prefer reading to solving mathematical puzzles. Perhaps, Sivan’s project will help explain why this is the case.

To me, the greatest benefit to working and discussing across disciplines is simply gaining the ability to find more interests. Throughout the last couple years, I haven’t had much of a chance to discuss the world with people outside of physics or math, and it is great to finally have conversations with new, vastly different, viewpoints. It is also interesting to see how people go about doing their research, from conducting interviews to physically going outside and collecting specimen; I hope to continue to learn more methodology as the summer progresses.

All this said, I think that one of the bigger issues with discussions thus far has been an inability to understand specific concepts across disciplines. I’ve struggled a lot to explain what exactly I’m doing for my project because it requires a bit of physics knowledge to even begin understanding (or a lot… see image). I hope that, as the summer goes on, I figure out ways to communicate my research without needing to rely so heavily on physics knowledge. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer and can’t wait to continue broadening my view of the world.

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