Field Journal, 2021 Scholars, Week 2

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  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?
  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

Please answer these questions by creating a post of your own! You should also respond to another student’s post that you find interesting. Scroll down to the bottom of the entry and hit “Leave a comment”. Leave your reply in the box provided.

Remember: you should post your own responses by Thursday. You should respond to another student’s response by Friday.

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 Joachim Jose Mendoza Rillo
about 1 month ago
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

I think that the interdisciplinary nature of Laidlaw is helpful as different research projects will require different methodologies; for example, humanities will most likely be more qualitative than the quantitative nature of STEM research. Consequently, as someone who is researching economics—which settles in the awkward in-between of humanities and STEM— I can learn methods from my humanities-oriented peers as well as methods from my STEM-oriented peers and possibly apply it to my future economics research projects.

  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

My main job under my faculty is to work on scavenging for media coverage in Lexis Nexis. Thus, I anticipate one of my main challenges to be how to efficiently find media coverage on each individual subsidy case. Another challenge may be efficiently executing one of my other main tasks, which is identifying the type of media coverage; nowadays, journalism and political coverage get conflated so it may be hard for me to distinguish between the two.

Go to the profile of Evan Li
about 1 month ago

I resonate with Joachim's point on conducting research in the in-between of humanities and STEM. When conducting such research projects, I often find it hard to balance both qualitative and quantitative analysis. 

Go to the profile of Alisha Arshad
about 1 month ago

Joachim, 

I think it's great that you'll be learning from both humanities and STEM perspectives! I hope to do the same as my research project takes a both qualitative and quantitative approach. 

Go to the profile of Rizwan Kazi
about 1 month ago

I completely agree with your point on interdisciplinarity! All of our projects are beautifully niche, but all of us have so much to learn from each other.

Go to the profile of Evan Li
about 1 month ago
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

My research project involves mathematical and computational tools to model informal logical fallacies in language. This requires well-annotated data on informal logical fallacies, so I also need to be knowledgeable on certain linguistic and philosophical concepts. Because my project involves "teaching" computers how to recognize fallacies, I am very interested in other scholar's projects involving education and philosophical reasoning. 

  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

I am having trouble finding the best point to transition from surveying the literature to conducting experiments. If I start experiments too early, then there might be algorithms/methods that I missed. At the same time, I do not want to push off experiments indefinitely.

Go to the profile of Adina Cazacu-De Luca
about 1 month ago

Evan, I'm also hesitant to start experiments too early/afraid of pushing too late. Luckily, my mentor has laid out deadlines for literature review and scheduled time to use the instrumentation necessary for the experiment. What has your mentor suggested in terms of timeline? 

Go to the profile of Suan Lee
about 1 month ago

1. It was a privilege to hear about everyone's vastly different projects and learn about a variety of research methods from last week's workshops. They've encouraged me to think bigger and more creatively about the way I might present my own work and make it widely accessible. For example, I am now considering how digital initiatives such as podcasting or creating an online exhibit might be a more compelling final product, as opposed to the traditional academic paper that often culminates from historical/archival research. 

2. I've already had a bit of a setback with the microfilms I was relying on for my research not arriving at Butler in time. I have had to identify other preparatory research to do in the meantime which, thankfully, was not at all difficult, but it's been a disappointment nonetheless. Lesson one of doing research, learned: plan ahead for the things you can't control going a bit off course!

Go to the profile of Simon Ogundare
about 1 month ago

Hey Suan!

I'm really curious about whether you end up podcasting or making a digital exhibit – please keep us updated on your progress! I agree in that the digital media we saw during the workshop last week were quite compelling, and I'm wondering whether you can still present the work you conduct (perhaps by blending aspects of the traditional research paper and some kind of website).

Also good luck with the microfilms; it does sound like a setback that they didn't arrive in time but I'm glad you had more time to do more preliminary research!

Go to the profile of Mia Richmond
about 1 month ago

Hi Suan! I also really enjoyed the digital scholarship services workshop and am thinking of engaging ways to present research. Let me know if you want to discuss podcasting, I know Luiza is also thinking of that so maybe we can share tips and collaborate. I agree that these initiatives require more creativity so it would be nice to have people to discuss ideas with. Best of luck with the microfilms!

Go to the profile of Ariella Lang
about 1 month ago

Setbacks like the one you describe can be frustrating, Suan, but I hope the preparatory research you turned to will enrich and expand your research!

Go to the profile of Alisha Arshad
about 1 month ago

Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

Participating in an interdisciplinary program allows me to expand beyond the typical boundaries of both my research project and academic interests. I am not only focusing on specific subjects but I am exposed to others, which creates a powerful learning experience, broadening my worldview. For example, when thinking of Political Science from an interdisciplinary point of view, I not only take into account one dimension of it (political institutions and actors, etc.), but other factors such as economy, psychology, and more. This multidimensional view for subjects allows for more innovative, critical, and creative thinking and problem-solving, which could aid me in both my research project and academic pursuits.

As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

I have already begun my research! I did anticipate a challenge in finding House and Senate journals last week, but that was resolved over the weekend!

Go to the profile of Suan Lee
about 1 month ago

Hi Alisha! I definitely agree with you that the interdisciplinary nature of this program has broadened my insight in my own field of research—history, in my case. Economic, political, and scientific developments are all major impetuses that shape the course of human history and I'm excited to see how my conversations with other Laidlaw scholars will give me a more holistic understanding of my own research subject. I would love to learn more about the progress you make with those House and Senate journals at some point!

Go to the profile of Simon Ogundare
about 1 month ago
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

Even though the majority of my project is based in STEM, many of the implications I'm interested in are based in anthropology. While I was originally thinking about my project just encompassing the lab research, I'm also curious about the human impacts and the unsettlingly prevalent resistance to environmental phenomena such as global warming. After this summer session, I'd like to hear more about my peers' methods, as I'm curious about what worked (or didn't work) for them.

  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

Generally, the work I hope to carry out involves the bridging of two quite unrelated fields, so most of what I've been doing in the lab right now has been based on finding the strings which connect the two. Even though I'm relatively comfortable with spherification, the big question is whether the product (the alginate-MEA scrubbing beads) will actually be functional. It's an uncomfortable position because there is no literature I've found which has tried this before, but I'm happy that I have a pretty large support network in the lab and peers I can ask for feedback and/or suggestions.

Go to the profile of Jeffrey Xiong
about 1 month ago

Hi Simon! I think the combination of anthropological concerns with STEM research (in particular climate change) is something that doesn't get considered enough and I definitely agree that your approach sounds very useful in looking at the question from a new angle, and I'm looking forward to learning more about how you integrated the two!

Go to the profile of Roberta Hannah
about 1 month ago

Hey Simon! It's so interesting seeing how we all approach being interdisciplinary based on our goals. We both are interested in STEM's impact on humans, but we took almost opposite approach (relating science to anthropology vs relating social sciences and history to science). I'm glad there's other people who ground their research in both so it's really cool seeing how our different starting points will get us to similar outcomes of well-rounded projects!

Go to the profile of Eleanor Campbell
about 1 month ago

Hi Simon,

I was really interested when you started talking about relating your STEM work to climate change skepticism during one of the introductions last week. That's such an important topic in society writ large today, and I really hope you can make some headway on dispelling climate myths. Keep me posted on any useful methods you find!

Go to the profile of Jeffrey Xiong
about 1 month ago
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

The interdisciplinary nature of the discussions and the diverse range of projects has been really useful in allowing me to direct my project into a more nuanced, complex endeavor. In particular, the combination of different methods and goals from the different projects has given me inspiration on how to conduct my project in more interesting ways and has helped me solidfy my methodology much more quickly.

  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

I think one of the primary challenges for me in getting started is data collection. Since I'm doing sociological work, the pandemic has made it challenging to conduct field research. The first step (getting people to respond to my email requests) will likely be the most difficult, so I plan on writing the framework of my paper up in the meantime.

Go to the profile of Eva Brander Blackhawk
about 1 month ago

Hey Jeffery! I totally agree seeing the different methodologies used in different disciplines gave me a lot of inspiration. A big part of my project relies on the spoken language so I can also relate to the awkward waiting for email responses. I'm excited to see what you find once you really get going though!

Go to the profile of Victor Jandres Rivera
about 1 month ago

I relate so much to the struggles you have in fieldwork because of the pandemic. It is difficult to track down students that are not in school and do not have a stable home environment. It is nearly impossible to find them outside of school when they are possibly bouncing from home to home. 

Go to the profile of Eva Brander Blackhawk
about 1 month ago

I think it's interesting to see the ways in which even across very different topics I can still see similarities between other people's projects and my own. I think there are some things such as identity, community, and ethics that seem to be general enough that they can relate to most people's project. I also think it's interesting to see the ways in which different disciplines approach these topics and questions differently and then be able to put the conclusions in conversation with one another. 

One thing I've started to struggle with is balancing the insider/outsider perspective when it comes to Native American topics but especially around specific cultural practices. People tend to be private and for good reason when it comes to sharing things. Because of my connection to the community it hasn't been difficult for me to do my research but I'm thinking a lot about what's appropriate in terms of sharing to a broader community and how to go about doing that. Specifically there's a lot of tension around whether people who are non native should be allowed to learn the language and how to go about doing this. I guess I hadn't really anticipated all the complicated tribal and identity politics and am struggling in thinking about where I stand on the issues. 

Go to the profile of Avi J Adler
about 1 month ago

Hi Eva!

I really like you idea about seeing the similarities across different disciplines. In writing my post I went perhaps the exact opposite way (learning because of differences). Rethinking it now, I think there is so much truth to both. Learning from the differences and the similarities that run through our projects.

I also couldn't agree with you more in regards to how different disciplines approach questions and ideas. What I have really come to love about the Laidlaw program is exactly this: putting our diverse collection of ideas, thoughts, and projects in conversation with each other.

Go to the profile of Mia Richmond
about 1 month ago

Field Journal 2021 Scholars - Week 2

Last week the training and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the Laidlaw workshops; it was fascinating to hear about everyone's projects and I think they are extremely interconnected even though they may initially seem to be vastly different. For example, Luiza and I were discussing how we might use the digital scholarship services for podcasting, and Joanne and I are both working on projects related to philosophy. Even if our topics don’t overlap, I often find it valuable to work with and exchange ideas with other students in the Laidlaw program as they provide insight into alternative approaches, or can provide tips on how to use Zotero and other features. 

 As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

Some of the challenges in getting started involve figuring out the best way to communicate with my lab given that everything is online. We have lab meetings every Friday, but other than that we primarily communicate via email or text. I was just added to the Slack channel, which should be helpful in getting started because sometimes it can be difficult to know what I should be prioritizing. Additionally, I reached out to one of the other new RAs so that we could practice conducting studies on each other and familiarize ourselves with the procedure. So far, I have primarily been reading a lot of papers, navigating databases and reviewing the RA Lab Manual.

Go to the profile of Dennis Zhang
about 1 month ago

Hi Mia!

I really resonated with the challenge of communicating with your research team. What I've found over the past couple of days is that while text-based communication (email, text, etc.) is very useful for receiving in-depth instructions (since there is less room for misinterpretation due to your own note-taking), scheduling calls makes asking questions ten-times easier. I've used both text- and call-based methods to clarify what I should be prioritizing, but hopefully you'll be able to find what works best for you!

Go to the profile of Dennis Zhang
about 1 month ago

Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

My research this summer (on how diversity is conceptualized and operationalized in precision medicine) is sociological and largely based in qualitative methodologies. However, my interests more broadly lie in medicine and healthcare as a whole. As I'll be spending the second half of my summer in a biological wet lab, where our research methods will be entirely quantitative, I really found the interdisciplinary nature of the Laidlaw program to be enriching. Having exposure to a diverse set of approaches to "knowledge" generation helps open my mind to the possible ways that I can explore questions that interest me in the inherently interdisciplinary world of healthcare.

As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

My current challenge is getting accustomed to my overall workflow. Since I'm a member of a research team that spans across universities, I have roles that span from my own individual "discrete" research project to interview cleaning for the other projects going on (within our larger study). Being able to prioritize and better manage my time will be invaluable. Luckily, through time and sheer repetition, I'm definitely getting more efficient and effective.

Go to the profile of Angel Rose Latt
about 1 month ago

Hi Dennis~

I can definitely relate to how having a diverse set of skills and being open to approaching things through an interdisciplinary perspective will make us become better leaders and thinkers in our community and our field. Reading your post also made me realize that we are going through extremely similar experiences! I am also working in a wet-lab for the second half of summer after doing mostly data-analysis and conducting remote studies for Summer A, so it will be an interesting shift and hopefully enriching one like you said. I have also been adjusting to productively manage my time in terms of my workload and research, since I have always been more of a deadline-oriented person. Excited to hear more and best of luck with your research!

Go to the profile of Chloe Gong
about 1 month ago

Hi Dennis, I really resonated with what you said about healthcare being inherently interdisciplinary! Health is related to so many different factors, like race, gender, class, education, and so on. I am currently working in a wet lab, so it can sometimes be difficult to see the tangible, real-life impacts of my research. While working on my project, I hope to learn more about the implementation of novel medical therapies and how accessible they are to different groups of people, so as to not lose sight of the larger goals of my research!

Go to the profile of Roberta Hannah
about 1 month ago
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

For my project, we are looking at the various aspect of the respondents' lives, so this includes economics, health, social pressures, etc. This forces me to use my background in these areas to have a better analysis of the impact that the world had on Black LGBTQ+ women. When looking at the reasoning behind their job choices, I have to use my background knowledge about economic pressures and the Great Migration to be get the full picture. This also applies heavily to looking at their health issues and my own interest in medical inequality. Overall, I think that in order to understand people and their lives, you must view their words through an interdisciplinary lens to see the full picture.

  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

I began my project early last week, so I have been able to get good footing, but I still struggle with timing my work. Whether this is over or underestimating the time it makes for a specific task, I am trying to still figure out a fix for that.

Go to the profile of Joanne Park
about 1 month ago

Hi Roberta! I definitely agree with the last thing you said on the first prompt: that to really analyze people's lives, you need an interdisciplinary lens. Your project sounds really interesting because of how interdisciplinary it intrinsically is, and I'm excited to see how it turns out! I also relate to the point you made about timing; I've found that making a large list of tasks for the whole week, partitioning those across the different days, and modifying this schedule (depending on how long different tasks take in the beginning of the week) has been helpful.

Go to the profile of Angel Rose Latt
about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    I have always found interdisciplinary projects and implications to be more resounding and practical when looking at the big picture. Stepping outside of the bubble that is your realm of interest and expertise not only brings more nuance to your research, but it also creates room for more research and food for thought. In my own research, I am currently working with psychological ideas and concepts of memory through a data analysis approach, learning Python in order to create data visualization tools and accelerate the process of analyzing incoming test subject data by multifold. Before this summer, I had never seen the two natures of computer science and psychology/neuroscience together from a firsthand perspective, so it has definitely been an exhilarating learning experience so far. 

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    One of the biggest challenges I have faced so far is the steep learning curve that comes with Python. I have never done any coding or programming ever, so it is all extremely new and foreign to me. I am fortunate to have a great mentor along the way who I can go to for any coding questions or concerns as well as a ton of resources that he has provided and that I have learned about through the workshops from last week. Additionally, the extremely flexible nature of my schedule has also been a challenge as I started my research this week. I have been blocking out chunks of time each day to sit down and work on some data analysis or practice some more coding, which, on the positive side, has also led me to explore new places on campus to work. 

    Go to the profile of Ariella Lang
    about 1 month ago

    Having a flexible schedule has its advantages and disadvantages! Spending a whole day in the lab or the library can be wonderfully enriching, but sometimes it can be hard to motivate oneself or get used to being in control of your own schedule to this degree. If you're looking for some ways to help structure your time, you might want to check out the "pomodoro method" which I still find to be a useful time management tool if I have too much on my mind, or if I find myself procrastinating. Google it!

    Go to the profile of Joanne Park
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    I believe that philosophy is intrinsically interdisciplinary, as it seeks to explain phenomena that happen in the natural world. For instance, my specific project regarding the philosophy of education relies on questions of education theory, history, psychology, and other social science areas; seeing my peers work on research in these areas is helpful, because I can get a better grasp on where that information is coming from. Though my project itself is intensely humanities-centered—especially given that I'm drawing education theory from older texts—the application and stakes of the project do not have to be. 

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    I think that the biggest challenge for me currently is properly tailoring my research question. Though I spoke rather extensively with my grad student mentor about this roadblock, I'm not entirely familiar with how to guide research that is so text-heavy—along with how to keep myself from attempting too broad of a research task. My current plan is to start by reading a lot of entry-level texts into the discipline such that I can figure out what to put in / take out of my research question, but I think that figuring this out is the most pressing job I have.

    Go to the profile of Jacqueline Yu (she/her)
    about 1 month ago

    Hi Joanne! I definitely agree with you about how interdisciplinary philosophy is. My art history research project is pretty rooted in philosophical texts, and I even read some Foucault this week. I share the same anxieties about how broad my research topic is, and I am also starting with some preliminary, fundamental texts in order to, hopefully, figure out my question more. 

    Go to the profile of Victor Jandres Rivera
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    The interdisciplinary nature of the program allows me to think more broadly about how my interests could be more compatible with certain research topics I never would have considered. Such as the research considering how to win an election in Brazil. I would have never considered how this intersected with the research I am doing on immigrant students in New York. However, after attending classes and analyzing the interviews I realized how these students and their families were heavily influenced by the political climate of their countries. After hearing testimonials from families claiming they escaped by the shifting political climate of the nations, I realized how analyzing the mechanisms behind political campaigns and their influence can impact families and migration. Not only that but, I have realized that so many different factors impact migration and that research in this area is expanding everyday. 

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    I am doing research analyzing how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting English Learner students in NYC Internationals Network schools. My main fear is that it will be difficult consolidating such a heterogeneous variety of interviews and literature into a cohesive set of data. It is hard to find similarities in texts that are from people of varying backgrounds and mindsets. 

    Go to the profile of Jacqueline Yu (she/her)
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    I am very passionate about the humanities, and my research project is already interdisciplinary in that sense. I am exploring art history, philosophy/ethics, and a little bit of law/economics/political science. However, hearing everyone's diverse research projects last week has inspired me to incorporate more STEM into my academic interests. I want to look more deeply at the intersection of science and art history. I have actually read some articles this week that explored how, during the Renaissance, wealthy individuals collected both art and natural science specimens. This long-held conversation between these seemingly disparate fields is definitely something I want to continue considering in my work. 

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    One of my major concerns working on my research project is being able to tackle the immense amount of resources available during such a short period. There are so many intricate aspects of my project that I can easily get caught up in which, although interesting, would not be ideal for accomplishing my main goals. I am also concerned about my level of expertise (this plays into my anxiety about the abundance of sources). I want to propose a well-informed argument, but I don't have a lot of experience or background knowledge. 

    Go to the profile of Bryley Williams
    about 1 month ago

    Hey Jacqueline!

    I so relate to your answer to the second question. I am also engaging in a really resource-heavy project, and narrowing down how many books/articles I can tackle has been a challenge. I've been feeling similarly worried about my lack of expertise, which has only made me want to read more, too. I'm also fascinated by the intersection between science and art history that you noted—very excited to hear more about your research!!

    Go to the profile of Avi J Adler
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    Research in every area of study requires one to think outside of their own domain. In every filed, from humanities to hardcore STEM, one must look too other fields and places to generate novel ideas. This, I believe, is the ultimate source of advancement. This reminds me of a now cliched Einstein quote that goes something like "you can't solve problems with the same kind of thinking you used to create them." Since one is bound to run into obstacles and roadblocks in all research, it the different type of thinking and looking to other disciplines, that is crucial to achieving something new. This is what I find so valuable about Laidlaw: by nature of the program, our cohort is bound to have an area of novel ideas, thoughts, and ways of thinking. As a scholar in this program, I feel it is of the utmost importance to capitalize on this asset.

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    Thinking about my research project in specific, I know I face numerous challenges. Beginning this week, I was immediately faced with the challenge of learning my way around a new, and often complex environment (the lab). This is exasperated by the jargon and complexity of the work being done in the lab. I am also faced with the challenge of the work and research itself. The new techniques and tools that I am learning are intriguing and challenging. In addition, starting out in an environment where I am surrounded by people who have a great expertise in a field I am just entering can, at times, be daunting.

    Go to the profile of Eleanor Campbell
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?
    • I really like the interdisciplinary nature of both my peers' work and our training. I was especially interested in hearing from Dennis and Simon about their work that focuses on STEM subjects but has a very important sociological impact, with Dennis thinking about representation in medicine and Simon about climate change myths. As far as our training, I loved getting to hear about quantitative methods and GIS, as although my project is more humanities based at the moment, I could see it requiring this type of training in the future as it progresses. Plus I might always use those topics next summer, depending on what I do!
    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?
    • Getting more involved in my project this week, I've come to realize that I need to improve my communication skills. My faculty mentor has been very helpful in coaching me both to use my time effectively and to tell him the key insights from what I've worked on during the week rather than just repeating everything I learned, regardless of its importance. This is such a useful skill! But I'm definitely still working on it, so I think that will be my greatest challenge moving forward. 
    Go to the profile of Bryley Williams
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    The interdisciplinary nature of this program is what drew me to it initially, and I have so enjoyed learning about my peers' topics over the past couple of weeks. This might sound rather cliché, but it has really reminded me how much there is to explore in the world. I also appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of the program because it has pushed me to think about my project beyond the discipline of history: I am studying people, and people are affected by climate, politics, psychology, etc. 

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    The main challenge I have faced this week is narrowing my research question and really figuring out how I want to focus my topic this summer. Another challenge I am still working on is self-directing my research and being confident that I, even as a first-year undergrad, am able to join a conversation about a topic I find interesting.

    Go to the profile of Mrinalini Sisodia Wadhwa
    about 1 month ago

    Hi Bryley! 

    I loved your observations about how the interdisciplinary nature of this program can serve as a way to think beyond solely history, as a discipline, and recall the larger social context and implications of one's research topic. Especially as we all delved into independent work this week, it feels so easy to get caught up in the intricacies of history as a field and start thinking narrowly, through certain historians' frameworks. In this context, the reminders to think more broadly and interdisciplinary have been super valuable to me as well, helping to re-focus and think about structuring an approach to the next few weeks of research.

    I'm excited to hear more about your project, and see what path(s) your research leads you to over the next few weeks—especially with this interdisciplinary lens!

    Go to the profile of Nicole Wolff
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    Hearing about my peers' research fascinates me each time they introduce their topics, and I'm confident that it will continue to fascinate me as we all start getting results. Initially, I sometimes questioned my own research project after hearing someone else's project that was just as interesting. But now, I've become secure in my academic interests after seeing how secure other students are in theirs, and after hearing their interest in my topic. It has been very refreshing bringing together a group of very different students with the same excitement to learn about a wide range of topics, and I'm glad it hasn't led me astray from my own topic, but instead made me more immersed in it.  

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    So far, my challenges have been entirely based in computer programming. Luckily, I have plenty of resources, including a friend who has seen similar errors and the other undergraduate members of my lab. Another challenge was getting too caught up in the methods of my research and forgetting about the broad question, a.k.a. why I'm writing code in the first place. To overcome this, I made a broader five week plan, wrote down my broad research question, and took a break from a computer debugging issue to instead read literature in my field. 

    Go to the profile of Mrinalini Sisodia Wadhwa
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    I think one of my most valuable experiences from this week was being exposed to the different research questions—and broader disciplines—that members of our graduate student cohort, and our graduate student advisor herself, were exploring. Something our graduate student mentor encouraged us to do, while formulating our research question(s), was to think critically about the nature of our audience—and how that audience could span more than one discipline, making it necessary for us to clarify our use of discipline-specific terminology and research methods. To me, thinking this way has been incredibly valuable in clarifying my next steps. As I read more about Mahadevi Varma, the poet-activist whose work I would like to focus on, this week, I found that my paper would likely include the disciplines of history and literature, as I am trying to present a historical analysis of women’s activism through a close-reading of the literary qualities of Mahadevi Varma’s poetry. More broadly, while my academic interests lie most directly in the field of history, this makes me realize the scope for interdisciplinary work that exists between history and other fields, given that literary works—like Varma’s poetry—can be treated as “evidence” to support a historical claim.

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    One challenge I have found while getting started has just been trying to situate myself in the existing scholarship on Varma, her role in Indian literature, and on Indian women’s rights activism more broadly. Despite having historical context on the South Asia region more broadly in the early 20th Century, I feel like I have not been exposed to many readings on these specific topics in my history coursework, in part because Indian women’s roles are so often excluded from these historical narratives. To address this, I have been trying to identify and parse through secondary sources on Varma alongside reading her essays and poetry, and also am working to reach out to a history professor at the University of Florida (and a CC alum) who published the first major English translation of Varma’s collected works, to see if she can point out any resources I may not currently be aware of.

    Go to the profile of Nicole Wolff
    about 1 month ago

    Hi Mrinalini! Our projects are very different, but I've had similar trouble joining the discussion about a topic where I have the least experience out of others in my lab. It sounds great that you're reaching out to a professor who can help you find resources, and that you've been doing so much background reading. Your research sounds interesting and I can't wait to hear more! 

    Go to the profile of Adina Cazacu-De Luca
    about 1 month ago

    Hi y'all, my first submission didn't go through: 

    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    After hearing about other archival projects and working with librarians, I began thinking more on how more humanities-based, archival work could help inform hypotheses on my more traditional STEM project. For example, I was looking through databases with park properties to see the date of park construction and found that important contextual information with regards to possible lead contamination sources was missing: what buildings used to be where the park now stands? What is the park's proximity to an older major roadway, and when the park was created, what measures were put into place to prevent lead/other heavy metals exposure? I've found myself doing a bit of history work, right now solely for the sake of better understanding the research system. 

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    I've been fighting a non-COVID head cold, so staying focused has been tough. If I can catch-up on time spent resting the past few days over this weekend, we should still be able to start experiments next week. At the same time (and I was talking to Sarika about this), I want to develop a consistent 9-5 ish schedule. I have trouble putting work away at times, which can be problematic since there's always more research to do. I want to grow a healthier mindset around work which I can carry throughout my academic career in order to (as Sarika put it) "keep me from falling out of love with my work/academia." 

    Go to the profile of Chloe Gong
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    For my research project, I am studying Type I Diabetes and immunotherapy, so it's very STEM-focused. However, hearing and reading about other scholars' research projects has definitely provided new insight into my own research and interests. I hope to look at medicine and health through a more interdisciplinary lens and learn more about the social determinants that inform disease risk and access to treatments. 

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    I have been doing research in this lab for a semester now, so I've luckily had the chance to familiarize myself with various experimental techniques before starting the project. However, I still anticipate challenges in managing my schedule and balancing different aspects of the project, making sure I'm analyzing data every week so I don't get overwhelmed at the end of the six weeks. 

    Go to the profile of Hassan Javed
    about 1 month ago

    Hi Chloe,
    I also foresee the same challenge. While my research field is different from yours, humanities versus STEM, I am also struggling with developing an adequate research schedule. With the rough one I have outlined thus far, it seems that some weeks will definitely be heavier than others. And, in that regard, some weeks may be more productive than others - so my biggest goal right now is to make sure I don't fall behind, such that I have to play catch-up in one week for what I missed last week. Good luck to us both!

    Go to the profile of Ava Sanjabi
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    Hearing about all the other research projects in the trainings last week helped remind me to look at the bigger picture, and evaluate all possible perspectives. Though not every training was STEM-related, they were all still applicable. Our training on mapping made me think of the different locations where lava tube samples were collected, and how it would be useful to homogenize the samples from the same area. 

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    It has been challenging to compile a procedure for running my samples in a way that can provide reliable and useful data. It has been hard to find literature that can translate to the specific tests I want to run; so I have been trying to use things that are somewhat similar, and reach out to others in my lab to get their recommendations. 

    Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
    about 1 month ago

    Hi Ava: I relate to how difficult it is to learn what proper methodology to apply when beginning an experiment! There is a huge replicability crisis in the sciences, because materials and methods sections are rarely written the way they are allegedly supposed to be (perhaps owing to spatial constraints for publications). I know in molecular biology and even cladistics research, a lot of the methods people use are passed down through the lab or their PI's rather than through papers. Have you considered emailing the authors of a paper which is performing the type of experiment you would like to complete as an option with questions that will clarify how to perform the experiment? This may be a good option if your lab mates do not know what to do!

    Go to the profile of Hassan Javed
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?
    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    As I learn more about my colleagues' research, coming from a diverse range of subjects, I begin to see more interdisciplinary connections between my project and theirs. I initially considered my project to be in a void, with whatever connections it had being limited to the field of economics. And, it stayed this way until the first breakout session, where - as my partner and I were discussing our projects - I began seeing so many various avenues where my research, both this year and the next year, could lead. As my project covered how developing nations could construct their infrastructure without relying on debt-trap mechanisms like China's BRI, her project discussed black women who were marginalized because of their sexual identities and the role they played in their communities.

    One of these roles included an economic impact: the professions they served in. This made me think about the women who lose their professions as Chinese investments in their region seize their way of life. Per the Asian Development Bank, just 25% of Pakistani women contribute to the workforce participation rate. And when Chinese investments start in their region, their handicrafts, fresh produce, and other goods produced from local, female-led industries suffer in light of cheaper imports. This realization inspired me to consider next year's research taking a social lens, somewhere along the lines of: as countries suffer economically from debt-trap diplomacy, what other impact to their societies feel?

    A challenge I foresee as I begin this week is finding existing literature on my topic. While I have come across great articles discussing debt-trap diplomacy, I have not seen any articles that relate this problem to Pakistan specifically. So, one way I can overcome this problem is to standardize the metrics used in other literature to Pakistan's context, and calculate for those economic differences myself. 

    Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
    about 1 month ago
    • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

    The interdisciplinary nature of this program helps me focus on my academic interests more broadly because it is impossible to separate knowledge from different fields without missing out on important bigger picture ideas. For example, although I study evolution, I cannot do so without having a well-informed knowledge of the history of evolutionary research (which often intersects with colonialism, sexism, and racism). This matters because a lot of early research was built with that framework in mind (which has misinformed evolutionary research for a century and a half), so I need to always be on the lookout for ways to deconstruct this framework and challenge it. The fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects helps me think about my project and academic interests more broadly because it gives me the opportunity to communicate with people who have different areas of expertise than I do. Often, nobody wants to reinvent the wheel, which stops innovation in fields where a standard methodology has already been fleshed out. However, people from other fields may stop and ask, "Why are you doing things this way?" This is because they know from their experience that similar tasks can be accomplished more effectively. Beyond this, being interested in many different things makes us better leaders, because we can appreciate different perspectives and different approaches to the same questions. 

    • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

    One challenge I have run up with is that the task I am working on is slow. I need to examine 800 images for 50 specimens, which totals roughly 40,000 images to process manually. I am trying to find a way to automate this process using machine learning, but do not have the technological background to do this. I've found a few papers online, but they are not specifically designed for the program or task I am using. I've been trying to reach out to other colleagues to see how to do this. It is a challenge for sure, but I think I am close to figuring out a solution. 

    Go to the profile of Rizwan Kazi
    about 1 month ago

    The diversity in study amongst our Laidlaw cohort is incredibly stimulating to take part in, especially while pursuing interdisciplinary research. My research is nestled between economics and political science, but I don't only learn new skills from my peers studying these as well; from chemistry to philosophy, I can see myself picking up an analytical mindset and a rigorous pursuit of knowledge. Economics (and most other fields) should be interdisciplinary; the combination of what we know from multiple fields only accentuates our analysis.

    As I begin my research project, I'm hitting the incredible block of lack of ability. With this week, it's been a difficulty in digesting legal lexicon in more than 200 WTO trade dispute cases. From there, I'm engaging in qualitative data analysis, looking for nothing in particular but trends that I find independently. It feels like improvisation, but it's not: it's taking what we're given and seeing the underlying relationships. The problem is that this method of analysis is completely unfamiliar.