Building A Supportive and Collaborative Research Network

It’s hard to believe that there are only two weeks left until the Community Research Fellowship ends. It feels like just yesterday I was meeting new faces at the first boot camp meeting and was in awe of the diverse projects the ten of us set out to work on this summer. Even though we are all different majors with very different career goals, we face similar challenges and can offer each other advice, feedback, and beneficial resources. 

In a broad sense, this summer, I hoped to get more research experience. As I came out of high school with only one research program under my belt, I did not truly understand what research meant. In that two week research experience, we met every day from 8 AM to 5 PM. The first half of the day was dedicated to lectures and the second half of the day involved conducting our experiments with the given procedure. While I had a bench partner, we didn’t interact much as we were too caught up in pipetting, figuring out how to use our lab equipment, and trying not to skim through the extremely long experimental steps. This project wasn’t very collaborative and indicated to me that research is just following steps and trying not to make mistakes along the way. Also, I did not understand why it was particularly valuable for us to isolate the genes and characterize the DNA sequences of Landoltia punctata

Since this project ended, I learned that I needed to explore a topic that I was truly passionate about. As the University of Pittsburgh is a research-based school, I had much more freedom to explore topics that captivated my interest. I eventually realized that experiencing the collaborative aspects of research was very important to me; interacting directly with the community to learn about their needs and problems uncovered the value and necessity behind my work. In other words, open communication with community partners means that my research would be more equitable and applicable. 

I am very grateful to have met a dedicated and inspiring professor like Dr. Rauktis who provided me with the resources, mentorship, and support to pursue a sub-study of her project. Whereas in my previous research experience, the students were lectured to, this summer, my learning has been self-driven with readings and meaningful discussions with Dr. Rauktis. I also appreciated how immersed I was in every step of the research project, from crafting the research questions to reaching out to interviewees and learning how to use qualitative software.

Though my project takes place in the School of Social Work, I have previously never considered taking classes in this department. However, by taking on some of the responsibilities of a social work researcher, I felt like I learned a great deal that can’t be taught by just taking classes. Working across disciplines helped me become more open-minded and receptive to feedback and asking for help. In addition, working in a field different from my major inspired me to think more critically than I may typically. Rather than finding answers for questions already asked, I learned to ask my questions, which was certainly a challenging task at first.

Learning outside the classroom feels just as important as learning within it. My experiences with the Community Research Fellowship encourage me to have an open, curious, and innovative mind. By being an active member of a research network, I am confident I have received invaluable insight that I will take with me wherever I go in my next three years at Pitt and graduate school.

Lifesize. (2021, March 22). Team collaboration: How to maximize productivity (& the tools to help). Lifesize. Retrieved July 23, 2022, from 

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