My Cohort – Anna Gillen

Interdisciplinary work is crucial to gaining an all-encompassing perspective when approaching a research project. Throughout this fellowship, I will have the opportunity to interact with students who are conducting research in a wide variety of disciplines. This week we met with our cohorts, which consist of smaller groups of students with varying projects. Hearing about the different research goals of the members of my group was very interesting, because they are working on projects that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought about before. Hearing about what others are interested in is a great way to learn about what different topics and what is still unknown. During this summer, I hope to learn more about the different approaches that my cohort members, as well as other fellows, are taking in their research. Being in a STEM field, there are often very concrete methods to take when approaching research. However, learning about research in the humanities, social sciences, and arts can provide me with alternative approaches to try when looking at my project. Oftentimes when one gets to a stand-still in their research, a new approach is necessary, which can come from learning about these other methods.

There are a decent amount of other neuroscience projects, so there is some overlap with my project. Neuroscience is a very large field that is growing exponentially right now, because there is still so much to learn about the brain, so all of our projects are still very different. Some of the projects of people in my cohort included, looking at trans-medicine, measuring pain, and using a compound to prevent the blockage of blood vessels. There is definitely some overlap with all of ours, since they all have some relation to healthcare. However, they are still vastly different. I will be interested in seeing if we can find more similarities and applications between our projects as they progress. I found all of their projects very interesting and I am looking forward to learning more about them!

Working with people across disciplines is very beneficial because of the opportunity to gain a more multifaceted understanding of the research field and all that it encompasses. While we have very specific topics that we deal with on a daily basis, there are always going to be situations in life, or in our future careers, that could require us to possess other knowledge, or where it would be helpful to be familiar with other concepts. In terms of my own project, mental health, physical health, and even society have so many connections interwoven that we don’t even think about. For example, one aspect of my project is looking at possible effects of the pandemic one mental health. While this can be really helpful as we support one another and combine results to address larger issues, there are also obstacles that accompany interdisciplinary work. Gaining research results is great, but if they are only communicated to people within the field, which is often the case, they cannot be applied to other areas. Additionally, there is a type of ‘language barrier’ that can make it difficult to communicate your research to those who are unfamiliar with the specific jargon used in your field. This is why it is important to learn how to effectively communicate your research to an audience who is not in your field, which we will have the opportunity to do throughout this fellowship.

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