One extremely unique and cool aspect of the Brackenridge Summer Fellowship is the ability it gives me to learn more about projects that aren’t necessarily in my field of expertise, due to the cohort being so interdisciplinary. Over the course of initial discussions about my peers’ research projects, I was able to learn more about how research questions are formed explored in different disciplines. With some members in my cohort pursuing studies in literature, public health, psychology, philosophy, and other combinations of these subjects, I was able to step out of my neuroscience bubble, and opened my eyes to how researchers procure and analyze data in fields other than medicine. A few of my peers were also pursuing projects in neuroscience, but had very different project goals and methods, so it was highly interesting to talk about the methods we had in common, but see how the outcomes of said methods changed when applied in a different experimental setup.
One project that really captured my interest was a fellow cohort member’s project that explored the philosophy of importance we give to our peers and the distinctions made when we prioritize between our “inner circle” of people and others that may fall outside of this circle or hierarchy of importance/love. This was a difficult concept to wrap my head around, as I was a little lost on how exactly this project was carried out, and how his thesis could be defended. I had to ask many questions despite his clear explanation, and understanding his research question was a bit of an obstacle for me, as there was no way to visualize a clear answer. There was no solid experiment that could either support or not support ideas, and exploration of the thesis wasn’t a clear cut binary approach. For someone so used to experimentation, the idea of “searching” through literature as research was only the primary step, and a more difficult one for me than the straightforwardness of following protocols. Sure, devising a series of experiments might be difficult and time-consuming, but it is always a relief to me to know that literature searches are an important, but only preliminary step of my research.
This change in approach showed me how truly different academic research could be, and made me appreciate the work that goes into literature searches a little more, because my peers were basing their entire projects off of simply literature searches and the conclusions they could make with their knowledge and database of primary and secondary sources. Additionally, explaining my project to peers from different fields allowed me to become a better communicator. Suddenly, I wasn’t in a lab setting where all of my peers knew the jargon I was using and studies I was referencing. Along with learning how to better understand projects outside of my field, I learned how to communicate mine by using analogies and metaphors (that my peers from other fields helped me create!) and by making quick diagrams and mini-presentations to make my research methods clear. Overall, navigating the research process with my cohort showed me that interdisciplinary approaches to research are invaluable and essential to the journey of becoming a better researcher, and I look forward to seeing all the projects develop even further over the course of the semester!