Within my cohort, there are a few projects that I feel are similar to mine. In general, the projects in the sciences (biology for Gayatri and Zack, neuroscience for Vivek, and psychology for Jolie and Siyan) follow the same process. They have an expectation about a certain phenomenon (hypothesis), develop a way to analyze that phenomenon while keeping all other variables the same (experiment), and then calculate statistics using quantitative data to determine if their expectation was correct (analysis and conclusion). A further similarity between Gayatri’s project and mine is that hers is also focused on improving cardiovascular health, although she is observing biological factors while mine are mechanical.
The distinction between biological and mechanical perspectives of the human body has been on my mind a lot. Although my project involves both biological and mechanical properties, due to my major I am much more confident with the mechanical side of things. Working with enzymes that break down proteins, learning about the different layers of tissue that make up the aorta, even attending meetings where others in my lab are seeding scaffolds for tissue engineering – all of these are new concepts that are outside of my comfort zone. Because of this, I enjoy hearing about the other biology-focused projects in my cohort. Some of them use similar concepts as my own lab, and since my cohort and I are expected to communicate broadly about our work, learning from other Brackenridge fellows sometimes feels more approachable.
I am also learning from my cohort just how narrow my previous understanding of what constitutes research was. Throughout the past four years, the only exposure I had to research was from talking to my friends and professors within the engineering school. Because of this, I find it really fun and exciting to hear how Jolie encourages young kids to play with toys to observe differences in gender, or how Jacqueline is creating a video game to represent how the deteriorating Century 3 Mall has impacted people in the surrounding community. Most of all, I was (and am) excited to hear Greta’s updates on her art history research on the painter Artemisia Gentileschi. I love the arts, and going to art museums is one of my favorite things to do in my free time. One of my hopes for the Brackenridge was to understand more deeply the time and attention that goes into curating the exhibits I love so much. Hearing about how Greta combines historical readings, aesthetic observations and her own emotional response into her thesis is both personally fulfilling for me, and a distinct change from my own research process.