Embracing Cross-Disciplinary Work

Although many summer research experiences cater to expertise within a single field, the Brackenridge Fellowship community is uniquely diverse. Throughout the past few weeks, our cohort has read and discussed different philosophies and methods of research and shared descriptions of our projects with one another during weekly seminars. Having students from the arts, humanities, and sciences all represented during these discussions has unearthed differing perspectives on how and why we conduct research. From building software to detect pollutants to tracing the neurobiological underpinnings of creativity, in a matter of a few weeks, I’ve been inspired by the scholarly undertakings of my peers. In the remaining weeks of the fellowship, I’m looking forward to learning more about how and why other recipients got involved in research, what motivated them to pursue their current project, and as challenges arise throughout the summer, how they overcome them.

Despite clear differences in terms of content, methods, and analyses, I’ve already begun to recognize some unifying themes of every Brackenridge project. For one, each and every project is motivated by a larger idea or cause. For me, it’s understanding economic inequality. For others, it might be curing cancer, creating a treatment for Alzheimer’s, strengthening electrical grid resilience, or slowing climate change to name just a few. While I have not had the opportunity to speak extensively with many of my peers about their projects, one that stood out was a student gathering a collection of works aimed at informing the next Black revolutionary. Having taken a course on American Literature last fall focused on the African-American literary canon, it was fascinating to see these works being synthesized and presented in a new way. Furthermore, hearing about this project led me to reflect on how my own work connects to racial issues.

Thus far, I’ve noticed, perhaps unsurprisingly, communicating across disciplines can be challenging. Everyone brings their own jargon, concepts, and field-specific expertise to the table, and I’ve found it difficult to explain my research projects in an accessible manner. However, working across disciplines has a number of benefits as well. In my experience, applying ways of thinking that may be uncharacteristic in your field can lead to interesting insights. So as the summer continues, I hope to speak more extensively with other fellows and hear their perspectives on my project with this in mind. Engaging with researchers outside my field also offers opportunities to gauge the accessibility of my research to a broader audience, a valuable contribution for someone like myself who hopes to impact public policy with my research.

Throughout the remainder of the summer and into the future, I look forward to fostering cross-disciplinary relationships while embracing the challenges and benefits of working outside my field.

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