As we are all settling into our respective projects, one thing that I can assert for certain is the value of the community of fellow undergraduate researchers in the Health Sciences Research Fellowship (HSRF). Upon applying for this fellowship, I heavily anticipated that the nature of our discussions, while still pertaining to the health sciences, would also bring upon the interdisciplinarity within the subject itself. One month into the fellowship and a multitude of discussions later, my anticipations were affirmed. The human body entails a large ordeal of illness, from cardiovascular disease to cancer. It was truly interesting to listen and become oriented to the specificities of other projects that deal with not only disease but also the treatment and other forms of testing. While not only listening but also communicating my project to a level of other students in my cohort are able to understand was something I found myself becoming more comfortable with. As a result, I hope to continue being able to evolve as a scholar and be able to relate on a more interdisciplinary level to that in the health sciences.
Working with other researchers in similar but different fields was quite an experience so far. Firstly, I would say that the ability to communicate to an audience that does have a general sense of prior knowledge is quite valuable. In order to make sure that the general audience understands a project, it is important that you are able to convey your project to your targeted audience first. Effective communication skills are what I found myself improving the most since working with students across other disciplines in the health sciences. As for some obstacles, I would say brevity can be quite a challenge to achieve. I found myself and other students in my cohort have a slight difficulty in keeping this concise, as with a targeted audience it is quite easy to go onto tangents about the projects and into minute detail.
Despite the cohort covering disciplines across a variety of the health sciences, it was truly interesting to see the similarity between some of the projects that other students are pursuing. For example, the methodology is arguably one of the most conserved aspects of our projects. From pipetting to running gels, most of our experiments utilize the same procedures to determine our unique outcomes. Another similarity is the nature in which the projects often target specific molecules/substrates within the body to achieve an intended result. For example, my project focuses on programmed death ligand-1 (PDL1), which is a protein found on tumor cells that help block the immune system, like T-cells and NK cells which bind to PDL1, from attacking it. We have developed a diabody to block this interaction and hopefully initiate an immune response against the tumor. A similar project in the HSRF, run by Alexandra Hughson (@alexandrakhughson), consists of a “drug compound called C74 that is proposed to bind to profilin and has been shown to disrupt angiogenesis from occurring. This disruption caused by C74 suggests that it could be used as drug therapy to prevent pathogenic ocular angiogenesis after a traumatic eye injury is sustained”. What I find amazing is how two separate problems are trying to be solved by two unique potential treatments all to improve the quality of life for a patient as the end goal.
Link to Alexandra’s blog: https://pitthonors.blog/2022/05/27/health-sciences-fellowship-introduction/