CURF 2: Building Bridges in Research

As a high-schooler passionate about science and pursuing a pre-medical pathway, the University of Pittsburgh seemed like a natural next step in my educational journey. With Pittsburgh’s sprawling healthcare industry, rigorous graduate programs, and growing Honors College, there are abundant opportunities for research. As I had dreamed of before coming to Pitt, I have since engaged in biomedical research, investigating neonatal infectious disease last year and now working on both auditory systems neuroscience and neurosurgery residency curriculum projects. However, throughout the past year and specifically through this semester’s CURF, I have also explored a different field of research–bioethics. Integrating philosophy, healthcare policy, and legal scholarship, I appreciate the ways in which my CURF research allows me to connect my STEM experiences with Politics & Philosophy coursework.

A wonderful feature of the Politics & Philosophy (P&P) program is its flexibility. Requiring seven political science courses, seven philosophy courses, and three economics courses, the P&P major is undoubtedly a rigorous program. However, these required courses do not need to fall within the Political Science or Philosophy departments. Many Honors, graduate, and writing-intensive courses across a wide variety of departments and schools may be approved as P&P course substitutes. Thus, during my time in the major, I have taken courses in the Schools of Law, Public Health, and Public and International Affairs. In all of these courses, I have gotten to interact with undergraduates, graduate students, and professors engaged in fascinating research across a wide variety of disciplines. In Fall 2021, I enrolled in BIOETH 1660: Philosophy of Medicine. Taught by Michael Deem, Ph.D., this five-student graduate seminar explored the development of philosophy of medicine as an independent discipline and the unique status of the medical context within broader philosophy of science inquiries. During this course, I produced a final paper about evidence-based medicine (EBM) and its suboptimal implementation in various clinical settings–including the neonatal intensive care unit, the rural clinic, and the telehealth environment. I found that I could integrate my neonatology laboratory research and rural healthcare policy interests in bioethics research, and I was hooked. I also forged a meaningful connection with Dr. Deem, who has since helped me in countless ways–including as my CURF research mentor.

Students across all departments at Pitt have countless opportunities to avail themselves of research experiences. After your first classes of the semester, explore your professors’ research websites to see if any of their work interests you. Use office hours and recitation sections to build relationships with professors and discuss opportunities to get involved in their research in greater detail. Talk to your peers to learn about their research as well. In the spring semester, many departments host student research fairs for upperclassmen to share their work; these are wonderful opportunities to survey the level of work directly performed by undergraduates in their respective projects. Feel free to “cold email” professors across the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC system, and even other Pittsburgh universities and institutes. The worst thing that can happen is receiving no response, and, in many cases, you’ll receive a warm, favorable response. Be your own best advocate, and don’t be afraid to take the initiative to make connections.

Immediately after my undergraduate education, I hope to head to the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), serving as an educator in an underserved school while earning an M.Ed. I hope to bring my research background to the classroom, encouraging students to learn through self-directed projects, presentations, and community involvement. Regardless of my career path following the ACE program, the skills of creativity, organization, and perseverance that I have honed throughout my research experiences at Pitt will be tremendously valuable in future pursuits.

Pittsburgh is the City of Bridges. Don’t be afraid to build bridges with peers and professors in pursuit of research opportunities!

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