Learning Significance – Journeys in the Health Science Research Fellowship

Throughout our readings, I learned that in research, purpose and significance are two very different statements. I previously believed that purpose and significance had the same connotation, as the reason or importance to do something. However, throughout the fellowship has taught me that purpose is the objective to be reached, where significance is the importance of the study for a broader impact.

Erica Lloyd, the chief-editor of the Pitt Med journal taught us this. She had us listen to a podcast about tinnitus in veterans, and how this has major implications on their daily lives after service. This podcast demonstrated clear purpose and significance statements. The purpose was to describe tinnitus and its lifelong effects on its sufferers. The significance was to describe to the public what tinnitus was and provide a call-to-action to help provide aid and treatment to those with the condition.

When talking to a general audience, there are many strategies one can use to get their point across. For many in the health sciences field, terms like “PCR” or “in vitro” seem like obvious words to us, but this is not the case in the health science field. I learned many strategies in our meetings to help combat this while speaking to a general audience. For example, the use of metaphors and similes are extremely useful. We watched a short pitch by a Dr. Ramsey, who works with bees and their parasites. To describe the threat of parasites, he used monstrous terms, such as “vampires” or “werewolves” to show the threat they process to the bee community.

For me, my research focuses on correlations between obesity and osteoarthritis, and finding a biochemical correlation between the two. The purpose of my work is to find this correlation, where the significance of my work is to create an avenue to treat obesity-associated osteoarthritis by creating an out-of-body model of these comorbidities.

In the future, I will have to present this work to a wide variety of people, both in and out of the health science field. Within my own lab, I will have to present my findings, so we can discuss projects moving forward. Within my bioengineering cohort, I will also have to present this work. As a part of my course requirements, I must take an “Intramural Internship” class, in which I present my research to my peers, who likely have no experience with my specific work.

Lastly, when applying for grants or fellowships in the future, I again expect to have to use general terms. To receive funding from these sources, they should be able to understand my work as I describe both my methods and the importance it serves.

As seen, the Health Sciences Fellowship has taught me a lot about scientific presentations, specifically about purpose and significance statements. It has taught me to simplify my terms and phrases so that those around me can understand. Even through scientific jargon can make one sound smart where in reality, all it does is confuse your reader! I am looking forward to what else the fellowship can teach me, as we continue through the summer!

-Katelyn Lipa

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