Field Journal, 2024 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.

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Go to the profile of Tatum Hubble
about 1 month ago

The prevalence of genetic variants classified as “Variants of Unknown Significance” (VUS) among patients in the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital Program for Cardiomyopathy, Heart Failure, and Transplantation is remarkable. While it is expected that children are born with genetic variants due to the inherent nature of physiology, it is astonishing that, despite the advanced technology available today, our understanding of these genetic mutations and their impacts remains limited. Genetic testing on children presenting with various subcategories of cardiovascular diseases often cannot determine whether the genetic variant they possess is the cause of the disease. This uncertainty complicates treatment, as it is more challenging compared to treating children whose genetic variants are identified as either pathogenic or benign. When a genetic variant is classified as pathogenic or benign, physicians can more accurately determine whether the child's symptoms are due to their genetic sequence or an underlying condition, thereby facilitating more targeted and effective treatment strategies. My work has underscored the significant prevalence of "Variants of Unknown Significance" still present in clinical practice, emphasizing the critical need to enhance genetic research and expand our knowledge base. Such advancements are essential for improving diagnostic accuracy, developing targeted therapies, and ultimately enhancing patient care.

As I delve deeper into the fields of genomics and pediatric cardiology through my work, I have increasingly relied on resources such as Google Scholar and PubMed. These platforms have proven invaluable in providing extensive information, allowing me to understand the complexities of these disciplines without needing to consult my mentor too frequently. The wealth of research articles, case studies, and reviews available on these databases has significantly enhanced my knowledge of more subtle aspects of the fields. This continuous learning process not only enriches my experience but also empowers me to contribute more effectively, particularly as I prepare to begin publishing my own research.

Go to the profile of Liam Stiles
about 1 month ago

I totally agree with your second point. There is such a wealth of data sets and information that are freely available online that can provide such meaningful insight into any topics, but they are often not taken advantage of as much as they maybe should be. My lab also holds journal club where we read a paper that is not necessarily connected to our individual projects, and I've found that experience in trying to critique and understand literature that isn't inherently in your field of expertise to be a great exercise.   

Go to the profile of Liam Stiles
about 1 month ago

One of the experiments that I've been running to assess the migratory potential of cells has been quite challenging to set up. Based on literature I had read prior, I was expecting a certain concentration of Zn not to be cytotoxic to the cells, however, I kept getting results where the cells would all be dead by the end of the experimental period. I've had to remedy this by doing toxicity assays and reducing the overall concentration of Zn. That is to say, even in science where there is an expectation of reproducible results, sometimes data will contradict the published information and then is it is your job to assess what the best course of action is from there. 

I have found my peers in the lab to be the most useful resource for my project. While reading experimental procedures is good so you know what you're doing generally, having someone who can give you the practical tricks and reasoning behind the procedures has been really helpful for understanding and gaining proficiency in a number of techniques. Just recently, I learned a new technique that I'm planning to use in another project that I'm undertaking, and I was able to gain a strong understanding of it through peer mentorship. I've always found that that type of learning has been really conducive to my ability to absorb information, so it has been very good to maintain that environment while doing research this summer. 

Go to the profile of Lucia Dec-Prat
about 1 month ago

This is very interesting! Why do you think the Zn was cytotoxic in your case? Is there a difference in chemical formula between chemical manufacturers? It is great that you are able to understand what is going on and that you can make these adjustments on your own, with the support of your peers.

Go to the profile of Liam Stiles
about 1 month ago

My current hypothesis is that the nutrient deprived environment that you need to examine migratory behavior results in increased Zn sensitivity, and that is why the concentration is more cytotoxic to the cells. I'm planning to rerun the experiment at in a slightly higher nutrient environment and then just normalize the data with a proliferation experiment

Go to the profile of Lucia Dec-Prat
about 1 month 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?

Starting this project, I was aware of the common understanding that history is created by historians. Scholars impose different frameworks on past events and we accept these frameworks as the truth. In high school, for example, I learned history that was completely different from what I have been learning at Columbia, even though technically I was studying the same events then as I am now. But because this project also incorporates scientific knowledge about immunology and medicine, I am learning to expand my understanding of what is inherent and what is constructed knowledge. The scholars I'm reading make the argument that biomedicine itself is a field that, like history, is always political and subjective. The simplest example is the idea that our view of immunity as an attack/defense mechanism is not a real dynamic that exists, but an idea loosely based on biological facts and heavily infused with western social norms. It's been very difficult to accept this claim and similar arguments since they goes against my belief in and admiration for the objectivity of scientific fields, and especially human biology. So this struggle to understand whether my instinctual disagreement with the idea of socially constructed science is valid or is a product of my education has been at the core of my recent experience of reading and writing.

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

CLIO is super useful because I can find any books and texts I need. The personal librarian Dr. Hausman helped me find some resources online too. Reading bibliographies is helpful because I am able to find more readings and develop a larger understanding of the field.

Go to the profile of Kate Jang
about 1 month ago

Your insight that biomedicine is essentially political and subjective is quite eye-opening, as much of school curriculum teaches science as an objective field. Within my project, I discovered how each country has vastly different nuclear contamination thresholds, which made me realize how political the scientific field of nuclear science is. I am excited to see your final project and best of luck as we enter the final week of research!

Go to the profile of Tara Isabel Dee Lago
about 1 month 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 am currently facing the challenge of analyzing the data for one of the behavioral tasks in my experiment. I am using my problem-solving skills to think outside of the box with my code and how to accurately quantify the effects I visually see. My initial focus in this project was to quantify exploratory movement but I am actually focusing on memory, which I am especially intrigued by considering there are few studies that test ELS and social memory. Learning the analysis side of things has been a grueling yet rewarding process as well! 

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

The two postdoc mentors at my lab have been particularly useful in helping me understand the purpose of the behavioral tasks and in the troubleshooting of my analysis. SCOPUS has also been beneficial in my exploration of the literature available for these social memory tasks. I will definitely continue to use SCOPUS as I start working on the SLR task, short for spontaneous location recognition task.

Go to the profile of Hanna Partovi
about 1 month ago

Hi Tara! Your research seems so interesting and I'm excited to see where it goes! I also have found my mentors at the lab to be very helpful in guiding me and the project. 

Go to the profile of Hanna Partovi
about 1 month ago

In reviewing transcripts of previous interviews conducted by my Justice Lab colleagues, I noticed they included interviewees from the more conservative southern part of the United States as well as interviewees from more democratic states. I was surprised to see that even individuals with conservative ideals and closer ties to southern culture in which criminal law standards are generally significantly stricter, talked about the issues they noticed in the criminal justice system through their own work. Specifically, wanting to try more restorative methods of justice rather than punitive or wanting to put a stop against harsher punishments such as the death penalty. Before studying these interviews, I held assumptions about law enforcement and lawyers working in specific environments that they would have a harder time changing their opinions and going against the ideology propagated by their surroundings.

Through the Justice Lab, I was able to attend conferences on Criminal Justice and also have the opportunity to talk to previously incarcerated individuals to learn about their personal experience with the justice system. I found these resources particularly useful because it enabled us to gather quantitative data from real people needed to truly understand the shortcomings of the system.

Go to the profile of Laila Abed
about 1 month ago

Your research sounds incredibly interesting and I think it's great that you're staying open-minded! I definitely think getting insights from different perspectives is an amazing way to go. How were the conferences??

Sounds super cool!

Go to the profile of Shreya Karnik
about 1 month ago

Hanna this is so interesting, I'm glad that you were able to interview formerly incarcerated individuals. This anecdotal evidence is incredibly helpful and I'm interested to read about your work later!

Go to the profile of Laila Abed
about 1 month ago

1. In the course of working on the Mapping Historical New York project, I encountered several new ideas and challenges, especially regarding data collection and digitization processes. One significant challenge was the accuracy and completeness of historical data. For instance, inconsistencies and gaps in the original census records required creative solutions such as cross-referencing city directories and non-digitized maps to confirm or infer data. This sometimes contradicted our initial assumptions about urban development patterns and required adaptations in our methodology. As the scope of my project has narrowed down to 1880 Queens, I am also currently working to find additional Enumeration District maps for areas that we don't have little to no maps for (i.e. The Rockaways). I have applied the skills I learned to street validation, street naming, as well as geometry edits. In the project, we now entered the phase of Quality Assurance & Quality Checks so we can move to a different GIS method.

Overall, these challenges and new knowledge has enriched my understanding of historical urban studies and emphasized the need for meticulous source verification and innovative data integration techniques. I have also expanded my search for understanding the demographic and industrial transformation of Queens to include the street and world grid, and deepen my research into cultural and economic impacts on urban development.

2. Research resources like physical books, oral narratives, and mostly maps themselves have been instrumental. Also, field visits to sites and collaborating with the Queens Historical Society have provided real-world insights and primary source materials, enhancing the project's depth and authenticity. I am looking forward to continuing my search during the school year, possibly adding in the NYPL. These resources have proven to be important in tracing and interpreting the spatial and demographic transformations of the boroughs over time.

Go to the profile of Tara Isabel Dee Lago
about 1 month ago

The NYPL!! I have been a patron of the NYPL since my childhood, and they have immense resources and archives that could definitely help with your project, like this one https://spacetime.nypl.org/. I'd be curious to learn more of how you find data of neighborhoods with little maps or how you reconcile changing names/districts over the 1880s! 

Go to the profile of Laila Abed
about 1 month ago

Thank you so much, Tara! This is awesome, I will check it out. Looks promising already :)

Also as of right now, for neighborhoods with little maps, it mostly affects street naming but a lot of the time what we do for 1880, for example, is check 1910 maps and use those street names because it is unlikely (although still a probability!) they were different in an earlier year if there was no name recorded. We also take into account that when there is an unopened street (meaning it was never developed) so there was never a recorded name until construction occurred, if any. Can't wait to share more!

Go to the profile of Kate Jang
about 1 month ago

During the first week of the program, I spent much time looking into the history of Kiritimati Island. I discovered testimonies of elders who had seen the bombings first-hand, revealing the horrors and consequences of nuclear testing. The focus of my research has been and remains the people of Kiritimati Island, making sure that their food is not contaminated and safe to consume.

My faculty mentor is helpful as I continue my research, as he has prior experience analyzing nuclear levels in the Marshall Islands. His knowledge of the analysis process and procedure is helpful in defining the objectives of this Kiritimati Island project. Additionally, as my research involved coding a data framework to analyze levels of nuclear contamination, I have found coding tutorial websites and my coding files from previous data analysis projects extremely helpful.

Go to the profile of Tatum Hubble
about 1 month ago

I truly appreciate how you took the time to understand the culture and people within the region you are researching, Kate. This approach is crucial in research, as it provides a deeper understanding of the context in which your study is situated. By immersing yourself in the local culture, you gain valuable insights that can significantly enhance the relevance and impact of your findings. This level of engagement not only enriches your research but also demonstrates respect for the subjects of your study, which is an essential aspect of conducting ethical and comprehensive research.

Go to the profile of Priyanka Mathews
about 1 month ago

My biggest challenge over the past couple of weeks has been coming to terms with how slow and (sometimes painfully) tedious biological research can be. Since I am starting a new protocol for the lab, me and my lab partners have done countless trials that we have had to scrap in pursuit of a consistent protocol. In fact, I would go so far as to say my project centered more on the development of protocol than collection of the data that the protocol will (eventually) garner. While I initially felt this was pretty bleak, I’m beginning to see that this is also an important part of the research process that is to be expected.

I think my most helpful resource have been the discussions me and partners have had with my PI. Over the course of our project, one of us will often come to a question that leads us to him. We will then talk through how this may impact our research. I have loved working with my partners, as they have questions that I myself would never have thought of that improves our science.

Go to the profile of Liza Paudel
about 1 month ago

Priyanka, it sounds wonderful that you have your partners in lab that excite your curiosity and foster an environment for you to learn more. I understand the struggles of developing a protocol, but with time, it will all begin to come more naturally and make more sense. I am excited for your next step of collecting data, and I can't wait to see where this project takes you! Good luck with everything! 

Go to the profile of Liza Paudel
about 1 month 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?

We had encountered various different obstacles when designing the experiment, and shortly before finalizing the experimental design prior to recruiting participants. The most primary concern for us was to ensure that the sound decibels for the noise cues were at a safe and comfortable volume decibel. We also had to ensure that the same was true for the Gaussian White Noise, while still masking the natural sound playing underneath it. What we learned, after much trial and error, was that it was Psychopy itself (and not the sound files) that was increasing the volume level. While we tried many different methods to reduce sound volume levels, we learned it was simply a matter of changing the settings in the application. My biggest takeaway from this experience was that, sometimes, the problem seems larger than it is, and the solution is simpler than expected. 

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

Having support, patience, and kindness from the lab itself has been incredibly useful for me as I continue to learn more. The workshops we did on how to find research papers (such as on CLIO, and how to use Zotero, etc.) has also proven to be helpful as I continue reading more papers on topics related to this research project. 

Go to the profile of Sebastian Verrelli
about 1 month ago

It is great to hear about the community of your lab and how it has supported your work! It is also refreshing to hear about the way that you and your lab have resolved some of the issues you have encountered. Even when a problem is more-than-meets-the-eye, the solution may very well be less-than-meets-the-eye.

Go to the profile of Sebastian Verrelli
about 1 month ago

Narrowing the scope of my research question has been the biggest challenge I have encountered so far. The field of virtue ethics that I am looking into is incredibly vast; countless individuals spanning thousands of years have dedicated their lives to contributing to the base of knowledge. Some of my background readings led me to a large number of areas that I found myself interested in. Despite my commitment to a well-reasoned, logical approach, I have taken a leap of faith to explore just one or two of those avenues.  Philosophy, by etymology, is all about the big picture; I have found it to be quite different from work done in other disciplines within the humanities or STEM. With some guidance from my faculty advisor and graduate student mentor, I have been able to focus my work with greater precision.

The most useful resource is my faculty advisor. Without his knowledge, direction, and support it would be remarkably difficult for me to engage with my task as I am. Meeting with him regularly provides a litmus test for my ideas such that I can proceed with the ones that we find to be most worthy. I am incredibly grateful to have witnessed his intellectual fervor and voracity firsthand; it has inspired me to read and examine problems beyond the immediate scope of my work.

Go to the profile of Hannah Smith
about 1 month ago

Sebastian, I had a similar issue with narrowing the scope of my research, and continually finding more things I was interested in. I think what you mentioned about talking with others such as your faculty/graduate student mentor was super important for me as well!

Go to the profile of Hannah Smith
about 1 month 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 of the big challenges I encountered during my project was determining a proper scope for my research. I started off with a very broad focus, which was the relationship between Chinese immigration and literature and film. I was not able to find a lot of resources in terms of film and literature for the time period I was looking at, so I decided to change it to a later and longer period. Another change I made was that I was originally planning to look at multiple films and literature, but in the end I decided to do a more in depth analysis of a single film and bring in the ideas from my readings. Overall, the scope of my project changed in that the time period became longer but the bodies of work studied became less.

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

Reading bibliographies was a very helpful research tool for me. I highlighted many things I found interesting in books and articles that I read, and going back through and reading the sources where the information came from helped me figure out the similarities between things I highlighted. This ultimately helped me to narrow focus of my project and find what I was particularly interested in.

Go to the profile of Priyanka Mathews
about 1 month ago

Using bibliographies as a sort of guide for relevant research is a great tactic, one that I need to start using more during literature reviews. It’s interesting that your project shifted in scope and timeline while remaining focused on the same core idea, and I’m sure that brings a new level of understanding of the topic at hand.

Go to the profile of Shreya Karnik
about 1 month ago

    With my project I have struggled with narrowing my focus on specific scholars and pieces of evidence. I want to conduct a literature review so it is important to me to make sure that my sources are able to hold steady in conversation with one another. The scope of my project has thus narrowed down when considering political theory aspects that inform my writing. I found JSTOR and CLIO to be particularly helpful when looking for sources for my writing. I also have been able to find statistical data on rates of incarceration from the government.

    Go to the profile of Mukudzeiishe Madzivire
    about 1 month ago

    Shreya, I totally relate to the challenge of putting sources in conversation with each other. I think this is especially difficult when sources are in different disciplines and seem to be talking in parallel to each other because of the limits of their methodologies. Trying to find ways to nudge sources into conversation has definitely been a challenging but very intriguing experience for me too!

    Go to the profile of Mukudzeiishe Madzivire
    about 1 month ago

    It's often difficult to historicize social trends. This is because often, there isn't a clearly defined point in time where a trend becomes a trend - there may be tipping points and pivotal moments, but it is very rare to be able to immediately point to and identify such trends. Part of my research has involved constructing a timeline of the expansion of civil society organizations such as NGOs and philanthropic trusts. A new idea I've encountered, reached while developing my literature review, is that of the turn of the century being a pivotal point for politics across the world, with implications not only for how governments are structured, but also for the rationales with which we give and donate our money, time, and energy. 

    The libraries have proved to be a particularly useful resource for me. Before, I'd never had to physically enter the stacks in search of literature on my research topics -- often, I could get away with making a quick Google search and clicking the links nearest to the top. The libraries - both their physical contents and the people in them - have proven to be an especially useful resource in helping me identify crucial literature that I would otherwise not have paid attention to.

    Go to the profile of Justin Chen
    about 1 month ago

    Muku! The new idea you have encountered is fascinating I often contemplate the way our governments choose to handle their money, time, and energy, particularly the certain people they are concerned with. I also agree with you that the libraries have been a great physical and digital resource for continuing this research. I am excited to see where your research goes and to understand more about NGOs and philanthropic trusts. Great job! 

    Go to the profile of Justin Chen
    about 1 month ago

    In understanding and conceptualizing forgiveness I have encountered challenges with contradicting definitions and several studies that do not specify the Asian American demographics they are researching. These issues lead to difficulties in focusing on the Korean American population, as I am unsure if these studies include East, Southeast, and South Asians all under the same categories. Also, taking into account the number of years these people have lived in the United States is crucial. However, beyond the challenges, I have discovered intriguing sources discussing the prevalence of Christianity in Korean Americans that correspond to the significance of forgiveness in these communities. These ideas have continued to shift and shape my research as I acknowledge these limitations and recognize concepts such as religion, and gender may play a role in forgiveness. I have now narrowed the scope of my project to center on health in all aspects concerning acculturation, religion, and forgiveness.

    I have found the Columbia Library databases, and my librarian (Kae) extremely useful as I have continued my research. Filtering through countless sources along with searching for academic papers on a topic as broad as forgiveness through both Kae and the library's resources has continued to foster my passion for this topic in newfound ways.

    Go to the profile of Erica Kokor
    about 1 month ago

    Justin, this sounds so interesting! I'm glad you've able to find something you're passionate in -- I feel as though passion makes the work a lot more fun. It's impressive how you took the uncertainties in your research phase and turned it into fuel to reevaluate your path of research. I am excited to see where this project ends up!

    Go to the profile of Erica Kokor
    about 1 month ago

    In regards to any issues I've been facing with my project (telescope), it's mainly technical issues and the weather. I've been having a few problems with the software and telescope communication, though both work fine independently. Along with that, determining what extra equipment we may need and how to tune each piece to work harmoniously with one another is another problem I'm having. However, to truly test all the equipment, it has to be on a clear, dark night -- it's been the opposite this past week. In this upcoming week, I'll hopefully be able to work one or two nights and make sure everything is working smoothly. 

    A research resource I've found really useful are online forums of experienced astrophotographers who have been working in the field and testing out hundreds of different combinations of equipment. I've been using these to sort out which equipment works best/is the most efficient route of astroimaging while not being too dependent on field knowledge. 

    Go to the profile of Valeriya Zherebtsova
    about 1 month ago

    Erica, I really hope the conditions will be much better for telescope this week, and I am excited to see the results of your project!

    I totally agree with you about the online forums resource. What strikes me is how willingly people are helping each other online, how eagerly they share the resources and their experience. And such help often turns out to be much more useful than the one from official websites!

    Go to the profile of Valeriya Zherebtsova
    about 1 month ago
    • While conducting my research, me and my groupmates met and collaborated with other researchers who are studying areas relative to our project, such as coral studies, social studies on Kiritimati island (the island we are planning to travel next summer), etc. All the discussions were highly fruitful: we learnt many important information for our future research, and even ended up creating several side projects. What strikes me is how eagerly other researchers are sharing about their research and area of interest, how willingly they meet with us and invite us to come to their laboratory. It is very inspiring to see passionate researchers, and there is nothing else that can motivate me more to carry on doing research and stay in academia than meeting with such people. Another idea that I truly believe in after having such experience is the importance of collaboration. It seems that every project, every research, every idea is possible once you meet the right people who are willing to help. As I mentioned above, such discussions and meetings inspired us to conduct additional research and to make various measurements as well as made us confident in the fact that we can do it. 
    • Besides various databases that we learnt about during our workshops, I found it particularly useful to reach out to different people. For example, I needed to find information about the drones and additional systems that I will need for my project next summer. Before reaching out to drone providers, we were only considering buying the equipment, which is very expensive. However, last week I met with an engineer from one of the companies, and she suggested that we rent a drone. This is a much cheaper and a much more convenient solution. Thus, only after meeting with different professionals we were able to come up with a much more effective idea than our initial one. Thus, communication and collaboration turned out to be a really powerful resource for me.
    Go to the profile of Anna Chen
    27 days ago

    I didn't really change the scope of the research much, except for being limited on what variables I can perform data analysis on - for example, neither my mentor nor I could find great data for marine carbon dioxide / dissolved inorganic carbon concentration, so we had to cut that part of the study. This changed my understanding of climate/earth science and environmental research in general, as I previously assumed that the scientific data are all already present and the only thing lacking is policy enactment. However, all the data I used are still from models, meaning they do not reflect real-world physical ocean conditions and growth.

    The data I used are from my mentor, as he has the most experience with oceanography data. An underestimated resource is textbooks, since I'm fairly new into the hard sciences it's always helpful to have something as basic as a textbook to refer to. The one I used was "Marine geochemistry: ocean circulation, carbon cycle and climate change". I also used Codeacademy and other online R language manuals for my coding.