Field Journal, 2021 Scholars, Week 5

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  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?
  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Please answer BOTH of these questions by creating a post of your own! Remember that you also should read your colleagues’ posts and write a response to at least one of their posts. Both posts should be completed by the end of the week.

Ariella Lang

Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Director of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, Columbia University

I am a cultural historian by training, and I oversee undergraduate research and fellowships at Columbia. I also have the pleasure of serving as the coordinator of Columbia's Laidlaw program. Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions about coming to Columbia to pursue research and/or community engagement!

Comments

Go to the profile of Jeffrey Xiong
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

The primary challenge I have encountered is sorting through the diversity of experience in the trans/nonbinary Chinese-American community; realistically, it would be impossible to get a representative sample, especially during the pandemic. These challenges have shifted my project away from an attempt at an overarching picture of experiences towards a "case study"-esque approach, examining how these lived experiences challenge dominant narratives on an individual level.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Reaching out to community leaders and figures has been particularly useful. Especially in sociological research, there is so much knowledge available outside of academia in the voices of those who have worked or lived in particular conditions for years. Even if someone does not have formal academic training, they can provide valuable insight -- often more useful than plain academic literature, in my experience.

Go to the profile of Avi J Adler
17 days ago

Hey Jeffrey. In regards to resources, I am really intrigued by what sources have been useful to you. In my work, I have almost entirely focused on academic and peer reviewed work. I've been mostly searching through science databases and article directories to find what I am looking for. However, your sources seem much more engaging! Although I personally have not reached out to people outside of academia, from the way you describe it, it appears that it will be very fruitful. I am really curious to see what insites it yields for you.

Go to the profile of Avi J Adler
17 days ago

What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

One challenge I have faced over the past weeks is time constraints. My project requires protocols that can sometimes take three to four days to carry out. Considering the limited timeframe of the Summer A semester, fitting in all the data collection that needs to be accomplished has proven to be challenging. This has forced me to focus the scope of my project. In addition, it has forced me to be highly organized and forward thinking about when experiments will be started and carried out. In addition, taking clear and useful images of my samples has proven to be a challenge. By the nature of the samples (often only a few microns wide) generating intact samples with correct fluorescence and morphology is arduous.

These challenges, among others, only enhance the ambitions of my project. Thinking about the bigger picture, the time constraints and technical challenges have only furthered my conviction that more work is needed on this topic. Although this is not surprising to me, I am more convinced now of how crucial it is to keep learning, working and progressing. I hope to be a part of future studies of this nature.

What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Online databases and websites devoted to academic sources have been crucial to my research. Even though my work does focus on researching databases, they have proved to be an invaluable resource. These sites give me insight into what is known in my field, what work others have done, what techniques have proven successful, among many other things. Overall, probing these websites has provided a framework by which I can begin to ask questions.

Although I am working in the humanities and therefore free of arduous lab protocols and microphotography, I face the same issue of time constraints. There are always so many sources to read, issues to tackle, and perspectives to consider! Due to this, I have also narrowed the scope of my project significantly. I often find myself upset that I cannot fix/examine all of the problems that fascinate me, but your optimistic perspective on these questions left unanswered is incredibly inspiring. I also hope to continue learning, working, and progressing. 

Go to the profile of Eleanor Campbell
17 days ago

I'll second Jacqueline's agreement with your feeling time-constrained, Avi. It's hard to believe we're already 5 weeks in! I can see how the two main problems you're facing exacerbate one another. It's difficult to keep moving forward when images that you need to collect along the way don't turn out, and it's difficult to get exactly the images you need when you feel the pressure to keep moving. It's great to hear that you've been devising strategies to plan ahead, and I hope they've smoothed the somewhat hectic nature of research on a timeline. If you have any organizational and forward-thinking tips, I'd love to hear them sometime! 

Go to the profile of Hassan Javed
17 days ago

Hey Avi! I definitely feel you about the cruciality of online databases. My project surrounds foreign policy/history so all of my data has come from online databases, thus far. And, for that matter, CLIO seems like the most invaluable research. Even though I've had a chance to find data through other databases as well, it seems like CLIO takes the cake in guiding me to valuable foreign policy/history journals and data sets.

Go to the profile of Simon Ogundare
17 days ago

Avi,

I definitely agree with your comments on the time constraints of Summer A. Six weeks goes by quickly! I'm glad to hear that it has influenced your motivation for your project in the future. I'm sure you've already found great online databases that work well for your study, but I've recently been using Scopus and it's been a great alternative to Google Scholar, which I also use pretty frequently.

  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Throughout the past four weeks, I have definitely encountered many sources that have subtly or monumentally changed the way I look at my topic. My project has changed from how museums deal with unethically acquired early 20th century Chinese art to a comparative study of repatriation qualifications and, finally, to a look at complications for the nationalist rhetoric China uses regarding repatriation. My scope has narrowed and shifted slightly from my original intentions, but I believe my bigger picture is still trying to figure out the complex machinations of Chinese art repatriation. 

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I predominantly read scholarly articles and books that I find on CLIO, but I have recently found news media to be particularly important. Lesser-known incidents of repatriation to China are rarely discussed in scholarly articles, but news media, particularly sites devoted to China, are overflowing with this information. Although they are relatively untrustworthy, many articles can also give me a jumping-off point to do further research. Older news media is also a major asset, especially when analyzing western reception and justifications of looting. 

Go to the profile of Victor Jandres Rivera
17 days ago

I definitely want to look into more newsarticles just to get a better understanding of the topics I am researching. I definitely think that it's a good idea to look into them for a jumping off point or simply to have a more comprehensive understanding of the topic. Honestly, I think i've been tunnel-visioned just looking into scholarly article, but what you're doing sounds like something I should implement in my own research.  

Go to the profile of Nicole Wolff
17 days ago

I also primarily read peer-reviewed sources from CLIO for my research, and usually look more skeptically at news articles. I wonder if you've encountered/will encounter any news sources that are trustworthy, instead, or how you determine the trustworthiness of a source. In science, a few news sources are known to be pretty trustworthy, but it must be tricky if the news articles for your topic are naturally biased by nationalist rhetoric. Good luck with finding more sources!  

Go to the profile of Jeffrey Xiong
17 days ago

Hi Jacqueline! This is certainly a really interesting progression of ideas, and is one that I think makes a logical sense, especially given the relationship between nationalism, authoritarianism, and art (especially in China, given the origins of the CCP and its relationship with art). In my personal experience, news media has been very useful in looking at China through a critical lense, especially Chinese-language sources and social media, which can be very helpful as well. Good luck in your research, and I hope to learn more!

Go to the profile of Nicole Wolff
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

During the first few weeks, the biggest issue I grappled with was regarding how 'novel' my research truly was. Last summer, my advisor started out the project with a few older students, and they examined data from the Swift telescope from several gravitational wave signals and found no halos. When I joined the lab during the school year, we examined data from a different telescope. This summer, I am focusing on Swift data from one gravitational wave signal. It took awhile for me to learn how to search the archive of X-Ray data and to write code in Python for generating sky coordinates and regions of intersection. Initially, I worried that I was repeating the work done last summer and wouldn't get any new results. I decided narrow the scope of my project to more comprehensively search the credible region for a specific gravitational wave event, instead of searching one average coordinate for multiple gravitational wave signals. I also realized that, in the past year since they started the project, new images have been taken by the telescope that have not yet been inspected. 

At the start, I planned to use a technique for data analysis to detect circles in images, but was running into trouble executing the code. Then, my advisor suggested a new technique that he had read about but never used to detect other persistent shapes and gaps in images, which is much more promising and comprehensive than searching for only circles. I've shifted my focus onto this new technique, and plan to continue working on it this summer. 

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I've been able to write all my code by reading documentation online and searching up error messages. The biggest resources, though, have been my mentor and the students in my lab. I've learned to ask coding and data questions to one of the upperclassmen in my lab who ran into many similar issues last summer, and to ask my mentor all astrophysics/astronomy-related questions.  

Go to the profile of Angel Rose Latt
17 days ago

I was also having trouble writing my code in Python to analyze the data from my pilot study, but like you, I was actually finally able to decipher my way through coding with online resources and the help of one of the post-docs in my lab. I think the concern you raise about the novelty of the research we are conducting is a fair concern that I have also had. It's more about taking what we already know and trying to see what else there is left to discover, even if that means doing seemingly non-novel work that comes with research.  

Go to the profile of Evan Li
17 days ago

The past couple weeks, I have also been struggling with the question of how useful/novel my research is. When I joined Prof Yu's NLP lab in the school year as an assistant, my tasks were a lot more structured and I did not have to think too much about the bigger picture. This summer, I need to think of my own improvements to make to existing methods so that my work is actually useful for the NLP community and does not regurgitate research done in the past. Luckily, my research advisor sends weekly updates on the newest developments in NLP. Many of these updates are applicable to my research problem, so I have been able to build off those research papers for my project. 

It's hard in the sciences to be completely "novel." I absolutely relate to that! A lot of times, even if when you start a study, the work you are doing is novel, people may conduct a very similar study before you finish. It sounds like focusing on developing this new technique will help your research stand out!  

Go to the profile of Victor Jandres Rivera
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

An issue I encountered is that I had to realize that qualitative research is not as cut and dry as quantitative research. I would  struggle coding the transcripts using qualitative data programs because I kept wanting all of the specific codes and quotes to fit perfectly under a certain category. However, I quickly realized that there has to be a balance between creating  an amount of categories that would represent the data in a meaningful and presentable way. Creating too many categories and subcategories for coding would muddy the data and make it difficult to understand. However, I also wanted to make sure that each quote accurately represented the category I was putting it under. We wanted to make the data as objective as we could, but inevitably some such subjectivity would be needed in order to decide how to categorize certain quotes and codes. I found this frustrating because all of the data I had done before were in research labs within institutions such as a medical school. This made it obvious and very easy to find measurements and create categories for data. For example, if I had to measure neurons or microglial cells, as long as I was following the correct  procedures I was confident that my measurement in my data were correct. With qualitative research, I don't have the same level of confidence. There's almost more pressure to be very tedious end cautious when using my own discretion

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I have found using Columbia's database for research papers, articles, and other forms of media very helpful.  I was faced with the task of finding many sources that analyzed how immigrants develop a sense of belonging, how migration patterns have been altered due to the pandemic, and other topics that were difficult to Google and find relevant answers for. However, Columbia's database was very useful in creating a conglomeration of related documents that all aided in giving me a lot of content to report to my primary investigator. I love how there were filters to play with and other mechanisms that allowed me to narrow my search or widen it in order to fit my own needs. It has become my go-to website any time I need to do further research or any more literature reviews.

Go to the profile of Angel Rose Latt
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Some new challenges that I am encountering recently is thinking of ways to generalize the method of loci technique in a more practical nature. As we wrapped up analyzing the last bits of data from the ongoing pilot study, I am now hoping to add one final study of my own that will be conducted soon in hopes of seeing how well the method of loci can be in learning more useful information. There have been studies in the past that were conducted on medical students who learned the MoL which have been proven to be successful in learning information and retaining it better for future examination. We would like to see this done with our own pilot subjects. I am currently tasked with coming up with ideas for what would be reasonable to ask our pilot subjects that will truly exhibit the full extent of the capabilities of MoL in more practical nature rather than using it to memorize arbitrary word lists. 

As I entered the Laidlaw program, I came in with expectations that I would be analyzing fMRI data for memory experts. However, it appears that that will be done later this year instead. Therefore, my focus of the topic shifted more towards analyzing the data from the pilot study that has been ongoing for the past month.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

My mentor and post-doc have been my main resources so far, as they have helped me focus my goals for each week and answer all of my questions regarding the project and the topic in general. I'm also surprised to find out that the internet has helped me a lot with working my way around with bugs in my code or learning different ways to create visualization of the data.

Go to the profile of Joanne Park
17 days ago

Hi Angel! I also went through a similar shift: I thought I'd be doing more rigorous analysis during the six weeks, but am now realizing that will be done later this year, and I'll be instead focusing on an initial case study for my work. I think it's really interesting that you'll be incorporating a study of your own! The opportunity to work directly with the people you're researching sounds really exciting, and I wish you luck as you start that project.

  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Issues that come with scavenging media coverage for over 1800 subsidy cases are naturally abound to arise. Currently, one of my biggest problems is: how do I optimize my search within the LexisNexis database in order to ensure that I don't accidentally mis-label subsidy cases that may actually have media coverage as "no coverage"? I'm countering this problem through a common searching procedure that makes me narrow all search categories under "jobs" to the parent company, the state, and when applicable, the name of the subsidy program. This has been extremely effective for me.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Goodjobsfirst.org offers a database of subsidies and allows me to double check whether I'm searching for the right subsidy. Sometimes, I may have the exact same subsidy program under the same state for a company but the subsidy may occur in a different county, so this website is very useful for me to double check.

Go to the profile of Joanne Park
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

I've run into a lot more pushback on the value of teaching philosophy than I expected I would. Initially, I was thinking that the majority of those opposed to philosophical pedagogy would be so because of its lack of direct applicability to a particular career (e.g. those working in technical fields who think philosophy is less portable). However, I realized many critiques were much more nuances—such as Charles Mills's critique of ideal theory as under-analyzing (especially racial) structures of oppression. As such, my project has shifted to be less of a defense of "how" to teach philosophy, and more of an exploration of why it might still be valuable to teach ideal theory, despite its shortcomings in considering systems of oppression. In a way, the scope of my project has narrowed down, especially as I observe the teaching of philosophy in my work transcribing Prof. Mercer's lectures.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I've mostly relied on CLIO's research tools and peer-reviewed papers to do research. I've found that it's useful to take some of the basic papers available on CLIO to narrow down search terms, and, if I don't see the precise thing I'm looking for on that database, using other databases or search engines like Google Scholar. I've also gotten a lot of insight on what bodies of literature may be helpful to me from both my graduate mentor and my professor. 

Go to the profile of Adina Cazacu-De Luca
17 days ago

Joanne, the idea of under-analyzing stuck out to me. My lit hum professor this past year (Dennis can confirm) would always push back whenever we tried to "define" a character's traits or a trend in the novel. He believed that trying to hold anything (an idea, a person, etc) within the scope of a definition intrinsically removed nuance from it. In a way, philosophical theories are extended definitions...I'd love to hear more about why you think ideal theory is valuable regardless. Additionally, as someone outside the discipline, I'm curious of what counts as ideal theory. How do authors who identify more as activists than theorists (Davis, Spillers, etc) fit in relation to this term?

Go to the profile of Mia Richmond
17 days ago

Hi Joanne! Your post was really interesting to read because as a prospective philosophy major I also tend to assume that people raise concerns over its lack of direct applicability to a particular career or the "real world." I will definitely read into Charles Mills' work on philosophy and racial structures of oppression -- it sounds very relevant! I also agree that in my personal experience, CLIO and Google Scholar have been very useful resources for finding papers. Thanks, Mia

Go to the profile of Eleanor Campbell
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?
  • At first I was really looking at the market for gap years: what educational experts had to say about them, what students had to say about them, what a gap year looked like. Now, however, I'm looking at broader educational transformation and changemaking, so I've been reading pieces by spiritual leaders and activists, as well. At first this transition in research was tough because I got caught up on researching the specific age group and only focused on university-level reform. But this meant that I started reading more about logistical problems with academia rather than systemic ones. Now I've started thinking more about the big picture again and am not so caught in the weeds of the university environment.
  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?
  • Google Scholar has proven particularly useful to me. Although at first I found myself struggling to find scholars who were talking about exactly the sort of educational transformation I was interested in, once I found even just a couple, Google Scholar made it easy to find many more who had similar messages by showing whom they'd cited and who was citing them. 
Go to the profile of Adina Cazacu-De Luca
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Challenge: the samples I work with are small. As in, pack 20 milligrams of a lead compound into a 1 inch tube with a 1.6 millimeter diameter. My mom and I joke that although my name means "the delicate one" in Hebrew, I am painfully clumsy. So, having both the fine motor skills and patience to prepare samples has been challenging for me. I am practicing breath-work and affirmations. In all seriousness, I am developing a level of focus that a year on zoom deteriorated. 

Idea: In preparing for our discussion with Professor Spivak tomorrow, I have questioned why it is we are motivated to learn, and how our desire to "do good," if not critically examined, can perpetuate colonial ideas about aid and philanthropy. While this may appear disjointed from my work in chemistry, the end goal of the project is to understand lead exposure and help the communities most affected by contamination. To take action, one must understand; to understand, one must measure. I found Spivak's words on education and philanthropy applicable to this goal, despite her own efforts being focused on the other side of the globe (https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/342588). 

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

The other researchers around me! I greatly appreciate Kirk, the grad student who has spent hours explaining NMR theory to me (a sophomore who has yet to take a college physics class). I am also grateful for Ben, the Earth Institute PI who explained why lead contamination and heavy metals work matters to him and gave more suggestions for project ideas and paths of analysis than I can pursue in a summer (or a PhD). 

Go to the profile of Rizwan Kazi
9 days ago

Hey Adina! I completely agree; I think the near-peers that we've had access to were so approachable and really provided a lot of insight.

Go to the profile of Mia Richmond
17 days ago

What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Since almost all of the lab’s work is virtual due to the pandemic, one of the challenges I have faced with regards to running participants over Zoom is having kids get easily distracted and bored given how young they are. I have mostly been working on the RELCU study, which is around 30 to 40 minutes long and the kids involved are aged 5-8, so sometimes they can get impatient or inattentive. I have learned different strategies that help keep them engaged, and it is really rewarding when the participants enjoy the study too! The scope and focus of my topic has changed significantly since my original Laidlaw proposal. I had originally intended to focus on incarceration and criminal justice, but since all of the participants I have been running over zoom have been for RELCU and most of the recruitment/data entry I have been doing is for RELCU I will be focusing on religious curiosity.

What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

My mentor, lab manager, and other research assistants have been amazing resources thus far and have been able to provide a lot of insight and advice with regards to my research. So far, I have been primarily using Qualtrics for collecting demographic information, the REDcap database for scheduling and recruitment, and psychological journals.

Go to the profile of Dennis Zhang
17 days ago

Hi Mia! It's really interesting to hear about the interpersonal/social aspect of research (albeit in a Zoom context) that you're describing. Often, when I'm reading papers in the social sciences, I don't really hear much about the little tips and tricks that are used to maintain participant engagement. I'm curious if this aspect of the research you're involved in was something you were aware of prior to the summer and if it surprised you at all. Regardless, I'm really glad to hear that the participants enjoyed the study; it seems to be one of those things that isn't really recognized or talked about much in academia when the focus is on data collection, analysis, and publishing/presenting results.

Go to the profile of Eva Brander Blackhawk
17 days ago

Just last week a report came out about a residential school in Canada and how the remains of 215 children were found at the school. It was devastating news especially considering how this was covered up and how this was also only at one school and there were probably a couple hundred just in Canada. I wasn't expecting something so relevant to my topic to come out during my research and it definitely hit me pretty hard. It just made me remember how tough the history is in terms of language loss. Also how truly genocidal these schools were and they only closed a couple decades ago. I guess it helped me remember just to stay kind on myself and others because it's easy to get discouraged in learning the language, especially with so few speakers. It also reminded me how necessary this work is and what a big part of healing it can be. Also by writing creative essays it's helped me process a lot of feelings and personal history on the topic and I think staying personal helps in terms of scale of the project. 

My top three resources have definitely been being able to talk to my grandfather, as well as two books on my topic. The first book is "talking Indian" and was everything I could have possibly wanted or imagined in terms of a reference book. Jenny Davis talks about her own experience, the history, and the very contemporary and economic shifts around language revitalization. Another book has been "walking the clouds" which is an anthology of Indigenous science fiction, especially short stories. I've been reading this as I write my own poems/prose and it's been helpful and inspiring. 

Eva, just wanted to say that your project is super inspiring to me. For one, that you are persisting in learning the language, amidst the tragic report that came out from Canada about these schools last week and all that it signified for the kind of work you are undertaking, as you mentioned, on top of of how challenging language-learning seems to be (while I have been working in a very different context this summer, the feeling of hitting a wall with a language barrier, especially when that barrier has been used to erase a particular group's ideas and contributions, is something that resonates a lot!). Beyond that, I find it really interesting how you've woven together so many different kinds of sources, and that you are working towards a creative written project to bring all of this together. Really looking forward to hearing more about your work in our upcoming Laidlaw sessions!

Go to the profile of Dennis Zhang
17 days ago

What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

My project centers around the question of how participation is encouraged and framed (particularly for underrepresented populations) in the promotional materials of the All of Us research program (a US precision medicine initiative). One really fascinating idea and rather significant body of work that I’ve identified in my literature review is that of “biocitizenship.” There is no consensus on a singular definition for what it means to be a good biocitizen, but some examples (of arguments put forth by other scholars) include that one has a moral duty to learn about and act upon their genetic health risks, one has an altruistic duty to participate in genomics research as an act of solidarity, etc. As I’m parsing through this dense literature and trying to bridge what I’m seeing empirically with what I’m seeing theoretically, I think this larger body of work is definitely shaping how I understand the promotional materials and messages of the All of Us research program. It’s helped me see broader trends (as opposed to the individual nuances in rhetoric I’d been largely focused on earlier in the data collection process).

What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

In addition to the invaluable advice and feedback that I’ve received from my research team, CLIO has been absolutely crucial for my research efforts. The ability to access so many different papers/resources (as well as customize searches) not only expedited my workflow but also increased the range of materials available to me. It’s really an incredible resource.

Go to the profile of Alisha Arshad
17 days ago

I agree, Dennis. CLIO is an amazing resource. It's helped me find so many databases that have been extremely useful in research!

Go to the profile of Alisha Arshad
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

One significant challenge I faced was data collection of bills regarding LGBTQ+ rights, both negative and positive. Unlike other topics, this one is harder to narrow down, since many terms can be used to refer to the LGBTQ+ community, and because a large amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is obscure. For example, a bill whose primary title and summary only describe an act for further defining what constitutes a charity can have a clause in small print indicating that contributions to LGBTQ+ organizations are not considered charitable donations. This situation is difficult, but it has directed me to other useful resources, like the Congressional Record, and it has made research much more rewarding.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Proquest Congressional is a LIFESAVER. I've used it to access Congressional Journals and the Congressional Record, which have been super helpful. Also, I've used Congress.gov to cross-check bills in certain years. It's an awesome tool and I definitely recommend it to anyone needing to search through federal legislation.

Go to the profile of Suan Lee
13 days ago

Hi Alisha! The example you gave about the fine print of a bill delineating the qualifications for charity status is absolutely fascinating. I can see why it would be difficult to come up with reliable search terms for your research. I'm curious to know— have you developed any useful strategies besides reading everything carefully and hoping you strike gold?

Go to the profile of Hassan Javed
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?
  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

One of the biggest challenges I have faced for my project was the availability of information surrounding my original topic. I came into the program wanting to research the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and how it negatively impacts Pakistan with high interest rates, burgeoning debt, and unstable ownership. However, by the time I began researching, I could not find any data available on the topic. Most, if not all, information available was from media outlets rather than academic/government sources. So, this challenge shaped my research by changing the focus of my project. Now, I am studying how China's history of foreign policy has led to the Belt and Road Initiative (the program of which CPEC falls under the umbrella of) and what threats the problem creates. In this new topic, CLIO has helped me find numerous sources from the Chinese and other foreign governments that allow me to source necessary data.

Hi Hassan!

I relate with the challenge of finding information availability on my research—it is often difficult to find coverage on every single subsidy case. Consequently, I also took a similar mitigating approach by broadening my focus and searching for the parent company instead of the specific company name.

Best of luck with your research :)

Go to the profile of Roberta Hannah
14 days ago

Hi!! My formal research project doesn't relate, but I started looking into one of a random research topic recently and there's very little "academic" pieces on it. It's super frustrating, but I think it's kind of cool that if we were to pursue these topics further, we would be the initial resources for it. I'm glad you were able to adapt your project though (I know it'll still be amazing if not more).

Go to the profile of Evan Li
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

A challenge that I have encountered is with NLP research is that there is a lot of waiting. Training NLP models may take hours, and sometimes a part of the code may break halfway through training. Furthermore, even if an NLP model has excellent accuracy rates, it may fail to make the correct predictions for the most obvious inputs. In general, NLP models are extremely fragile. In the last couple of weeks I have shifted focus researching methods to develop more robust and sustainable NLP models in low-data settings.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I find Github really useful. Github is a website where developers can share code. Most research papers in NLP have a corresponding Github repository that contains the relevant code for the paper. This makes it easy to replicate/build off results from other research since i can just re-use the code that they already released.

Go to the profile of Roberta Hannah
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

   I think one new challenge is that the use of archives can add so much to a project, but not keeping them all together can create entirely new issues. The entirety of my interview transcripts were not given to me in the place that we normally share things and it resulted in me thinking I had about 5 hours of work left instead of the actual 12+. This definitely taught me to make sure I create a clear plan for organization because not everything is easily implied.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

   My biggest resource so far has been my advisor, the graduate student that works under her, and my GSM. They have all given me really valuable advice and it's nice to know that some of the aspects I struggle with are not a me problem. 

Go to the profile of Bryley Williams
14 days ago

Hi Roberta!

The archive issue sure sounds frustrating—I feel like it's often the case that the most helpful resources come with the most challenges. Organization is something I'm constantly working on being better at, and it seems like this challenge helped you in that regard, so that's good! I'm also glad to hear that your advisor and grad student mentor have been great resources. Mine have also been wonderful, and I've really learned that even (or especially) in independent/semi-independent research, communicating with others is SO beneficial.

Go to the profile of Simon Ogundare
17 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Even though I've worked with my supervisor to develop an experiment which produces consistent and reliable results, the time it takes for each trial (around an hour and a half per trial) is much longer than I originally imagined. Even though the time constraints which developed as a result has proved a challenge, it's helped me focus on the true nature of my project (demonstrating the functionality of the beads) rather than many of the other tests I had hoped to run in the first few weeks.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I recently reached out to the librarian assigned to me (Will Vanti), and he introduced me to Scopus, which Columbia is subscribed to. Usually I use Google Scholar when I'm searching for relevant articles, but this resource is has a much more advanced search function, which I'm extremely grateful for (given that my project is quite niche).

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
16 days ago

I'm glad to hear that you were able to find some resources that you could use to find articles through Columbia libraries. I totally understand that doing a research project takes much longer than expected, and it's usually important to think about what to prioritize.

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
16 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

I’m doing a theoretical research under the professor who I took a PhD level course from, but the research to me is very challenging. I have previous experience in lab based research, but compared to it, this research project requires me to learn so many things, and I’m sometimes exhausted with the amount of knowledge that I have to know. But at the same time, the professor is really kind to me, and I’m enjoying learning new materials all the time.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Honestly, I find the PhD level textbooks to be the most useful to me. Even though I did cover them before in classes, I always make new findings if I read them again, and I make it as a routine to read it every single day.

  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Nothing particularly new - I have been quite focused on collecting my data, which is time-intensive given the sample size. I anticipate I'll have more to report when that part of the process is finished. Next week, I'll be learning how to analyze the data. I only have 4 more specimens to endocast for the first part of my study, the majority of which are juveniles, which take less time to segment. I'll then be able to move on to ostriches. 

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I have found that Researchgate and library books are good sources of perspective for my resource project. 

Go to the profile of Bryley Williams
16 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

For me, the main challenge during this research process has been the fact that the focus keeps evolving as I read and learn more. New ideas make me so excited, but I've definitely had to adapt more of a go-with-the-flow attitude over the last five weeks because of the challenge that comes with having to shift around my thoughts and plans. As for the scope of my project, I think that I entered the research period with quite a specific aim, had to back up a lot in order to develop foundational knowledge, and am now at the point where I can see avenues to narrow the scope down again that are more viable than my original intentions, which is really exciting moving forward.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

The research resources that have been the most useful to me are the bibliographies of books about my topic! I collected my own list of sources by exploring bibliographies of scholars in the field I am studying, and I have appreciated the ability to see clearly how different works interact with each other. In addition, my advisor has been an invaluable resource and guide. I was also able to chat with an anthropologist who works on Cambodian culture and memory studies, which was a wonderful opportunity to get some specific feedback about what I am working on and what the scholarly conversation currently looks like.

  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

The scope of my topic has narrowed significantly since I began this project! I began the Laidlaw program knowing I wanted to study the intersection of women's rights and anti-colonialism in India, through the lens of female Indian poet-activists. Since then, my project has narrowed significantly, now examining the writings of one such activist, Mahadevi Varma, on a specific women's rights/anti-colonial issue, the status of women in Hindu marriages. I think a number of the secondary texts I was reading prompted me to narrow the topic further, particularly Karine Schomer's Mahadevi Varma and The Chhayavad Age of Modern Hindi Poetry, Anita Anantharam's introduction to (and translations of) Mahadevi's essays on women's rights issues, and Mrinalini Sinha's Specters of Mother India. My initial focus had been to consider a topic that was specifically political in nature—such as the campaign for Indian women's suffrage—rather than a religious/cultural topic such as women's status in Hindu marriages. I remain incredibly interested these questions of Indian women's political rights (and hope to learn more about this through a future research project!), the secondary source readings I mentioned did expose me to the breadth and intensity of the many socio-cultural debates taking place during these final decades of British India, particularly those among Hindu society, and how viscerally these affected Indian women—as reflected in Mahadevi's own essays and poetry. These findings really spoke to me, and caused me to re-orient and narrow my project to where it is now.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I am incredibly thankful for the help of Columbia librarians throughout this process! Gary Hausman, the South Asia Librarian, was able to provide invaluable guidance to me both in January when I was originally trying to propose this research, and more recently, in trying to track down archives of Chand (a women's journal Mahadevi edited and wrote editorials for) and find other online archives and resources to delve into South Asia. I also just found that the workshops we had at the start of the program, delivered by librarians from so many different fields, were so enriching, and appreciated the chance to be able to follow-up with Michelle Williams and Madiha Choksi, who worked in the sphere of digital humanities, to explore how my project could later translate into something more public-facing.

I also think that the advice of faculty has been so helpful! My faculty mentor provided me with some very valuable direction throughout, especially when I was just beginning this project and trying to orient myself in Mahadevi's body of work; additionally, Professor Anantharam offered some very useful advice in which secondary sources to seek out, and how to approach some of the questions her translations had been raising for me about Mahadevi's nationalist and Western influences.

Go to the profile of Suan Lee
13 days ago

1. My research has definitely gained a lot of ground in these past few weeks. As opposed to singularly interrogating the intellectual genealogy between B.R. Ambedkar and his professor John Dewey, I am now interested in creating a more expansive ideological roadmap around the figure of Ambedkar. I have been flagging specific figures such as Dewey, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Friedrich Engels, as well as specific terminology like "surplus women," used not only by Ambedkar in the context of castes but also contemporaneously in post-WWII England, in American cities where unwed women presented "an unmitigated disaster," and even by a Japanese political leader calling for the U.S. to accept more immigrants. I will continue this research for the rest of the summer and hope to someday present my work in a digital humanities initiative of sorts—perhaps an interactive online exhibit—that future researchers at the Ambedkar Initiative can continue adding to. 

2. I have relied primarily on RBML collections, newspaper archives including The Spectator's and The New York Times', databases listed in the Columbia research guides, and books/academic articles available on CLIO. 

Go to the profile of Rizwan Kazi
9 days ago
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

My project centers around the (possible) contradiction between the common standpoint on China's role in international trade and the actual data. I think the challenge between the two is a constant driving force in reaching the most thorough analysis. It also bears big implications against the current narrative. Since the beginning of my project, I was simply looking at the different types of multilateral cases China has been involved in for the relevant chapter for Professor Wei's project; that has grown into a comprehensive qualitative analysis of both bilateral and multilateral cases involving 8 globally significant economies and a quantitative analysis on trade significance and involvement in disputes.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Both Bea and Professor Wei have been incredibly helpful resources, constantly providing actual applicable information as mentors. Without them, my analysis would be really elementary and fail to go as far as it does.