Second Summer Laidlaw Scholars, Summer 2021

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Below you will find a series of questions that correspond to the weeks of your research or community engagement. Please plan to respond to one question each week for the six weeks of your Laidlaw project. During that period, please also reply to the summer post of another Laidlaw Scholar as well. Photos, video and multimedia are always welcome, and are a required component of your post for Week Three! 

Week One:
As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to ignore those insecurities or, better yet, use them to our advantage?

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how?  If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

Week Two:
Does your research incorporate any outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation? If so, how do you plan on approaching research participants or spaces in an effective and, most importantly, ethical manner?  If you are not conducting ethnographic research, what communities do you engage in your research, and how have they informed your project?

How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?

If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?

Week Three:
What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

Week Four:
What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you?   How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

Week Five:
What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

Week Six:
For your final post, upload a video presentation to our site. In your presentation, please discuss your project: why did you become interested in it, what was the goal of the project, what was its significance or impact (real or potential). Finally, please consider how your understanding of leadership (curiosity, empathy, teamwork, resilience, etc.) has informed your work or been deepened by your work.

Things to keep in mind while recording: do not speak too quickly! Try to record in a quiet space with minimum background noise. While you should not read from a sheet of paper, practice your speech a few times before recording. Also, be sure that you describe your project in a way that is accessible to viewers who are not experts in your field. Your video should be relatively short–2-5 minutes is ideal!

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 Diogene Artiles
over 1 year ago

My project this summer, like many others, took a sharp turn after the pandemic: I was originally planning on interning at the Instituto de Moreira Salles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, working with residents of the comunidades -- Comunidade is alternate word for favela, which is now used less and less by activists due to its negative connotation. Comunidade emphasises the cultural importance and vibrancy of these informal settlements that comprise almost 10% of the Brazilian population -- of Rocinha and Maré, helping with the documentation of musical oral histories from local artists. As a huge fan of funk carioca, which was a genre birthed in the comunidades I was going to be working at, I was very excited! Luckily, I am able to continue my research on music and cultural markers of nationhood from home. This summer my adviser is Ana Paulina Lee, a professor in the Latin American and Iberian Cultures. We began researching Brazilian abolitionists movements in the 19th century, and I am focusing my research on race, sexuality, and performance study. I am interested in the evolution of national mythologies and symbols, such as a musical genre belonging to a certain group of people, such as funk from the comunidades of Rio, becoming an emblem for Brazil as a whole. Along the same vein, I am interested in the development of national imaginations, such as the theory of mestizaje in Latin America (the idea that all Latin Americans are of mixed Black, Native and white ancestry), which is far from fact. 

I began by looking at the Sabinada, a revolution in early 19th century Bahia that was a culmination of decades of regional neglect coupled with racial and economic animosity fueled by slavery. The leader of the revolution, Francisco Sabinó Álvares da Rocha Vieira, is an interesting and eccentric character, even having been caught in bed with a man at a certain point. I was shocked to see the pro-police agenda of the new constitution of the temporarily independent Bahia, and how many enslaved people rebelled against their masters during this time, prompting many to either be forced back to Africa or other parts of Brazil. The Sabinada was not an isolated event, as the early to mid-nineteenth century Brazil was marked by regional rebellions. I was interested in Bahia because it is home to the largest Black population in Brazil. 

To answer the prompt, my project this year does differ from last year’s project, but it follows a trend in my interest in critical race, gender and sexuality studies. Although I am generally interested in the development of pervasive ideas of sexual and racial stereotypes and how they impact interpersonal relationships today (which I began by looking at large moments of racial tension in Latin America,) I am working on honing in on scope and time period as my interests as large and spread throughout the continent. I even looked at queer poets in what is now Canada, as I am interested in cross-temporal trends. Last summer definitely helped me build the discipline and resources I needed to perform well this summer, which includes knowing how to build a bibliography, how to read in a disciplined manner, and where to find resources. I look forward to seeing how my research expands and grows in the next couple of weeks.

Go to the profile of Beatrice Shlansky
over 1 year ago

Hey Dio! I am so impressed by your research! I'm sorry that you are unable to actually travel to Brazil to complete your internship, but your project for this summer sounds really engaging. I'm impressed with the depth of your knowledge and how your research touches so many facets, whether it be Brazilian and Latin American music, history, race, language, or nationhood. It's incredible that you are able to dive so in-depth into this area, and I'm excited to see your project develop and hear more about the different pieces of history and culture you encounter. Good luck researching and I'm excited to learn more! 

Go to the profile of Beatrice Shlansky
over 1 year ago

This summer, I am working as the Community and Government Relations intern for the American Red Cross Greater New York Region chapter. The internship has been interesting so far, with the entire internship being completed virtually. 

My recent work centers around reaching out to New York City community boards and compiling information on their meeting times and elected officials. I am then working to get Red Cross volunteers up to speed on Red Cross programs so they can discuss them at community board meetings and elsewhere. The Red Cross is focused on COVID-19 relief currently, and one of their main programs currently is the NYS Fatality program, which provides assistance to families who have lost a family member to COVID-19. Through the program, the Red Cross helps direct families to mental health resources (i.e. grief counselors, spiritual support, etc.), legal support, and provides support for the family navigating hospitals, funeral homes, and the like. While this work is not exactly the most upbeat thing, I believe it is really essential and can directly aid New Yorkers. 

I feel a lot of insecurity in terms of the general situation surrounding the pandemic and the fact that I am not actually in New York City to complete this work though. The work is very centered and built up around the New York community board system and Red Cross volunteer systems, but as a non-native New Yorker (and someone working from hundreds of miles away) the work feels distant and foreign. I have not met my supervisor or co-workers in-person, so I feel an additional layer of anxiety that I am not fully understanding the task or project they need me to do. I mostly feel insecure that I am making a misstep or not understanding the needs of a community since I am not actually there. However, I think being aware of this is an important step, and I am working to ensure that I listen and work with my supervisors, volunteers, and co-workers so as to never make incorrect decisions or assumptions about the projects and people I am working with. I seek to be aware of my position and my ability to provide help, but with the understanding that those actually in the community can speak better on their issues and projects than I can. 

This project is much different than my previous project; this project is an internship versus an academic research project. I really enjoyed academic research and it is something I still wish to pursue! However, the past few months of isolation, politics, and racial issues in the United States have made me feel powerless, and I felt that pursuing a purely academic project might feel unfulfilling or self-centered. I don’t mean this as an affront to anyone pursuing academic research this summer, these are just my own thoughts and feelings about the past few months and how I have reflected on my own interests and abilities. I believe my talents and interests would best be used this summer in taking on some larger, more direct form of action instead of focusing only on an academic/historical issue. Last year’s project was influential for my own academic career and helped me discern my own academic interests, but I see this summer as an inquiry into how I can embrace leadership and the skills I’ve learned to meet greater community needs and affect change in our current mess of a world.

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
over 1 year ago

Hi Beatrice! I can definitely imagine how working on a project that was supposed to be so personal, like community work, is exponentially harder when you are neither a New Yorker nor physically in the city to meet the people you are working with. I am hoping that you are able to continue this work on-campus in the fall in the near future to supplement your online work. I am also excited to hear that you are working on taking this summer as a chance to expand your leadership. Best of luck continuing virtually! 

Go to the profile of Jake Fisher
over 1 year ago

This summer, I am interning for the Special Policy Advisor on K-12 Education in the Colorado Governor’s Office. As a native Coloradan and K-12 graduate of the Denver Public Schools, it has been especially rewarding to work on issues that matter greatly to me.

One of the most important projects that I am assisting with is the development of statewide guidance for reopening Colorado’s schools in preparation for the 2020-2021 academic year. The coronavirus pandemic has only intensified existing disparities in the state’s education system. Studies show that some students could backslide as far as an entire grade level in certain skills before schools reopen. To make things even more complicated, Colorado is home to three unique types of communities (rural, urban, and mountain) which each have distinct issues.

A surprising fact that I learned is that, even before the pandemic, over two-thirds of school districts in Colorado were operating on a four-day school week, all of which are rural and mountain schools. While Colorado’s economy ranks near the top of almost every measure, the state ranks in the bottom ten when it comes to statewide education funding. A recent study found that over sixty thousand students lack access to broadband in rural and mountain communities. In the absence of broadband service providers, the only way to access virtual learning at-home would be to purchase costly LTE hotspot technology. In urban school districts, over seventy thousand Coloradan students lack access to devices and the coronavirus pandemic has widened the achievement gap between both classes and races. Equity issues have long plagued Colorado’s schools, but the coronavirus crisis has illuminated the misfortunate ways in which only certain students are being adequately supported.

The stakes are high and Coloradans rightfully demand that every child has access to a great neighborhood public school. After all, what is more important to a community than their children? As I noted earlier, equity issues are nothing new in Colorado, but the circumstances demand that the government respond effectively and efficiently. I have certainly felt preoccupied that if these issues were solvable, they would have been fixed years ago. My supervisor has helped me realize that every problem exists in a unique context. While the outlook appears quite grim, several factors might actually make certain issues more approachable. For example, some federal CARES Act funding is earmarked for rural school districts to expand broadband access in their community. This is an issue that would normally receive little political attention and may now result in the expansion of broadband that will serve rural and mountain communities for years to come.

It is quite unfortunate that some Coloradan students will ultimately end up losing as a result of this pandemic. I am proud to be serving on the team that will seek to minimize the amount of losses that the state will endure through the development of new and bold ideas.

Go to the profile of Jake Fisher
about 1 year ago

Week 2

After a mad dash to include new coronavirus relief and law enforcement accountability reforms, the Colorado state legislative session came to a close two weeks ago. The session came with its highs and lows. A sweeping law enforcement reform bill, hailed as one of the first in the entire nation, was signed into law along with a tobacco tax to fund preschool programs. Unfortunately, state legislators lacked the political support needed to extend the eviction moratorium, meaning that many Coloradans who have lost their job due to the pandemic may soon lose their housing, too.

As an education policy intern, my supervisor relayed her disappointment that there was no legislation on the subject of equitable school discipline. In the past week, my work has shifted from assisting with the creation of statewide K-12 reopening guidance to researching potential statewide policy approaches to reforming school discipline and slowing the school to prison pipeline. Study after study shows that suspension and expulsion are disproportionately used to punish students of color and that they don’t appear to have any sizable impact on discouraging misbehavior. In other words, they are racially biased and ineffective. Moreover, schools often rely on school resource officers and other law enforcement officers to enforce school disciplinary codes, which increases the number of students who are relegated to the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

I have learned a few surprising facts over the past week. In Colorado, corporal punishment (physical punishment) is explicitly allowed in public schools by state law. Courts may send children to juvenile detention solely for attendance issues. Studies show that juvenile detention, expulsion, and out-of-school suspension each drastically diminish the likelihood that a student will graduate from high school and make future imprisonment and criminal activity more likely. Inequitable school discipline is a major contributor to the school to prison pipeline.

These discoveries have made it abundantly clear to the Governor’s Office, that there needs to be legislation passed to reform school discipline. We are now in the process of soliciting feedback from the community. This week, my supervisor and I have met with community representatives from Human Services, Stand for Children, Americorps, Padres & Jovénes Unidos, and Democrats for Education Reform.

I look forward to seeing a bill that will increase discipline reporting, mandate equitable discipline reforms, ban corporal punishment, and prohibit imprisonment of truant students pass in the next Colorado legislative session. This couldn’t happen without the support and constant interaction with the community.

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Hi all, my apologies, I posted on the first year's channel a few times so I am a little late to posting here! 

I feel as though it is a common concern in research to find a way to contribute to the conversation that has been going on in a meaningful way, so there are worries about saying something already said. I feel as though last summer taught me to acknowledge these worries but not obsess over them, and instead put trust in your own ability to have a critical eye when interacting with other media. It helps when you come at a project with an attitude of questioning most material you read, and being almost contentious to allow space for new thought generation.

My project this summer is on the female body in medical literature in ancient Greece, so it is quite different from last summer! I think that the tools I've developed to work on this project are an increased confidence in my critical eye and ability to see nuance in the literature, which helps when broader challenges of the research process arise. I do feel as though the two summers are related in my interests more broadly in conversations around the problematic appropriation of Classics to support racist/sexist agendas and thinking about Classics as an intellectual space to critique society and think through systemic injustices (that Classics perpetuates). I am looking into how Greek culture (and female inferiority) was supported by subjective interpretations of "biological facts," but specifically researching women's reproductive agency (and lack thereof). 

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Week Two:

I am not conducting ethnographic research, but I have engaged with certain communities around my project, one of which is a graduate student mentor and group of first year Laidlaws. Another is family and friends, who have been incredibly helpful in asking about my project and allowing me space to (attempt to) articulate the place at which my thinking is for that day. For example, one time I was telling my grandmother about this section of a gynecology I am reading, in which the author says that during rape, conception can be obscured by mental resolve (i.e. a woman can "control" if she get's pregnant from rape), and my grandma told me about a recent politician Todd Atkin who said something similar. This helped me consider the stakes of my project. 

The question of visibility/invisibility of the researcher is interesting. I feel like we often have a sense that research should be this almost sterile practice in which we seek critical analysis and try and not "bias" our work. While I definitely agree that excessive biases in many forms of research should be avoided, it is not the case that personal assumptions or beliefs will not impact research in any way. As such, I feel like it sometimes is interesting and insightful when the researcher is present in the work itself. For Classics in particular, when a researcher is expected to write their race/class/gender out of their work it can be interpreted as classist/racist, etc. For me, given my identity as a woman, I think that I am personally interested in the conclusions and interpretations I am drawing about the history of reproductive agency. I feel as though the project could benefit from my presence as a person who has stakes in what an embodied experience of the "female body" is/was. 

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
about 1 year ago

Hi Helen! I think it's awesome that you framed your answer to the question by stating that you are interacting with communities as close as the ones in your own home. I think it is important to keep our loved ones engaged with the work we do, especially when they are able to contribute additional insight as your grandma did in the example you gave. It can give you the additional boost of inspiration you need to know that your work is able to permeate past just academic circles. Well done and good luck with your research!

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
about 1 year ago

My research this summer is not directly ethnographic, however, as my summer project develops into future projects, I will definitely be engaging with particular communities. I want a solid historical foundation of the ways in which sexuality and race have interacted in the colonial period and continue to interact today. I have begun to delve further into Gilberto Freyre’s 1933 work, “Casa Grande e Senzala,” which is one of the most formative historical books on the formation of Brazilian society. (Fun fact: Freyre worked under Franz Boas at Columbia). It is interesting to see Freyre construct a historical timeline that paints the colonization of what is now Brazil as a natural historical progression of the Portuguese’s historical interaction with the Jewish and Moorish people of the Iberian Peninsula. He argues that because of this historical “mixture” of both blood and culture, the Portuguese were more adept colonizers. This is rooted in sexual history, as Freyre has elaborate descriptions of the seductress North African woman bathing in a spring inviting an Iberian man, which translated to the sexualization of the Native American women of what is now Brazil. This historical fantasy reads as a sexual fanfiction from the white gaze, which informed the way many Brazilians, and to an extent, Latin Americans generally, interact with race and sex. 

As an extension of my historical work, I want to delve into ethnographic work by interviewing racialized people, particularly Black and Indigenous people, and their experience with sexual stereotyping and racism. I am interested to see how these colonial mythologies impact modern day interpersonal relationships, which can be translated to sexual stereotyping to the popular exclamation of having a race preference for dating (certain dating apps have race filters), and the historical weight that proclamation may carry.

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
about 1 year ago

Go to the profile of Beatrice Shlansky
about 1 year ago

Week 2 Post 

Hi all! I realize that I am a bit late for my second post and I apologize for that. I have been sick (not COVID-19 though, luckily!) so I have been stymied in my work and internship. I am getting back into the swing of things and have been working on updating the Red Cross's list of community volunteers these past two weeks. 

The Red Cross maintains a list of volunteers who perform various functions related to community outreach. There are "community engagement volunteers" who specifically focus on tabling events and communicating Red Cross messaging in their community. There are also community relations ambassadors who attend local NYC community board and community organization meetings as representatives of the Red Cross. We are dependent on these volunteers' ability to attend events and participate in their community to ensure community awareness and participation with Red Cross initiatives. We are working to ensure we have updated lists of these volunteers that want to remain in their roles. This project has involved a lot of emailing and calling.

In my outreach, I am finding that many of our volunteers are older, senior individuals and frankly, they are less technologically literate. Reaching out via email for the past two weeks has been unsuccessful in dozens of cases, so my supervisor had me start calling unresponsive volunteers this week. I have made more contact with people through this and it is easy to forget that email is not necessarily everyone's favorite mode of communication. 

This lack of access to and comfort with technology is also pushing me to have conversations with many of our volunteers about their engagement during the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, nearly all community board meetings, events, and gatherings are held online. I'm finding that many volunteers are not comfortable with this, and feel either intimidated or unsure of how to use these new meeting formats to participate on the Red Cross's behalf. Many have asked for additional training or information regarding these programs (like Zoom, WebEx, Skype) or how their community organizations are adapting to the pandemic. 

These conversations are pushing me to connect more with our volunteers and to ask for their feedback and ideas, as these are issues we did not necessarily predict. I'm unsure of how to conduct a training on these meetings since every community board or organization is using a different platform or has set-up online meetings differently. Further, since many are uncomfortable with online video platforms and I cannot complete an in-person training, I also need to think about how we can best even present a training in the first place. I am trying to be receptive to what our volunteers would find as best, and I am working with my supervisor to develop solutions and make sure our volunteers are ready and comfortable to help the organization. It will be a challenge, but I hope that through community feedback and conversations, we can develop solutions.

Go to the profile of Beatrice Shlansky
about 1 year ago

Week 3 

Working a remote internship means lots of time spent on my computer, and I've tried to create focused space for me to do so. Every member of my family is also working from home, so I've been working in my room lately in an attempt to create some privacy. Here's a time lapse of me working on a mapping project a few weeks ago! Peep the New York City themed candle gifted to me by my last internship. It's a nice reminder that the remote work I'm doing has direct affects and connections to a now distant place!

I'm not quite sure how to post this but here is my attempt:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1S7VFGBmY_fd9fzhDJl6F0oJXZnwSLVG8/view?usp=sharing

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Hi! Hope you're doing well - loved seeing the time lapse of yourself working - seems like a lot of detailed and thorough research. I definitely can relate to the fact that my room seems to be a place of work now; and I love that you have an NYC candle to remember campus! 

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Hi everyone! A typical day of research usually entails waking up and running (to beat the summer heat!) before starting my day of research at my computer. I take most of my notes on Word, and read articles/literature through CLIO, so the majority of my time is spent taking notes or writing through my argumentative thoughts or reactions to primary sources. I try and take breaks whenever I feel as though the computer screen is too much, but for most of the day I have been using Word to narrow down my thoughts. At the end of the day, I like to write down some research goals/tasks for the next day and specifically what is immediate priority. Here is a picture of my desk! https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qyZDKd9YslWF-QdTnBcG3SM6tJ94fLp5/view?usp=sharing 

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
about 1 year ago

I hear you on getting tired of the computer screen! I definitely have to allow myself some space to take a break and maybe read a traditional book or condense my thoughts away from my computer screen. I miss the library!

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

You use Word to organize your writing!? That's brilliant. I could never figure out how to make that work for me, and I had to switch to OneNote. What's your system?

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
about 1 year ago

What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia! 

Researching from home has been a double-edged sword: I am able to work around a flexible schedule and plan according to my energy levels, but can be difficult because of space (nothing beats Milstein) and resources that a library can provide. I’ve worked around this by creating a routine that reinforces my research and my self-care this summer. This is what it usually looks like:

8:00-8:30AM - Wake up (sometimes snoozing)

8:30-9:15AM - Breakfast 

9:15-9:45 - Check emails and set up work station 

10:00AM-12:00PM - Active article reading

12:00-12:30PM - Lunch

12:30-1:30 PM - Work on bibliographies, annotation, and internalizing what I’ve read

1:30-3:30 - A combination of active article reading and looking through newspaper archives for key words and themes

I allow myself to be flexible even with the schedule that I’ve created above, as I know if I’m deep into reading an article and can hold off on creating a bibliography, or if I want to do more newspaper reading than academic article reading that day, I allow myself that flexibility. I track my progress not in terms of journals or articles I have gotten through (although the more you can read the more you will internalize), but instead measure my progress in the development of my research questions and ideas. Attached is picture of my desk! You can see things that are essential to my mornings: my oil diffuser, coffee, and my notebook.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/10Fb35sVY13dpZyUDRyGoWVJBdd4Q9962/view?usp=sharing

Go to the profile of Jake Fisher
about 1 year ago

Hi Dio, hope you are well! It sounds like you have a great schedule set up for research. Your work is always so fascinating and I can't wait to hear more about it in the coming weeks and months :)

Go to the profile of Jake Fisher
about 1 year ago

Week 3

In true bureaucratic fashion (haha!) I intern daily from 9am-5pm. My supervisor generally checks in with me each morning in order to let me know of any particular tasks that she has for the day. Usually, I spend my days researching a particular issue or topic and preparing a memorandum to send to her by the end of the day. On top of this, my supervisor invites me to attend about 5-10 of her (virtual) meetings each week that she thinks will be interesting. Last week, I got to join a meeting with the governor and my advisor to discuss ongoing efforts to reform school discipline!!!

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to write the governor’s talking points for the bill signing ceremony for the creation of a statewide Dolly Parton Imagination Library program in Colorado. It was surreal to see him speak the words I had written, which you can watch here: https://www.facebook.com/53481427529/videos/981440475621403/

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Hi Jake! I also try to set a 9-5 type of schedule for myself and it seems nice that your supervisor lets you know of any tasks for the day so that you have a focused day. I'm also glad you get to attend some of her meetings because it's always great to listen/hear from others and have some variety in your day as well. So cool that you are working so closely with these important education initiatives in CO! 

Go to the profile of Beatrice Shlansky
about 1 year ago

Jake!! This is incredible! I think that it is so great that your supervisor is giving you the chance to be so directly involved in your government's work. I feel that such an opportunity is so rare as an intern and I'm so glad to hear that you are getting so much about of this program during this difficult time of COVID-19. I hope your program continues to be just as rewarding! 

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Week 4: 

This is a great question because I think that so much of research consists of responding to difficulties that arise and working to adapt your initial image of the research process or reading materials. Some challenges that I have felt this summer are: working in my home and managing relationships with those in my house and my own research; finding the appropriate literature online, without access to a library; trying to find an argumentative angle on the topic I've chosen (i.e. what can I contribute to this ongoing conversation); managing the mental fatigue of intense research; and seeking clarity in my thoughts when I have a lot of reactions to literature.  I also think that the conditions this summer posed a unique challenge in my working/living environment and have allowed me to think more about the relationship between myself and my work, how I best think through ideas, and how to manage feeling overwhelmed. One specific challenge I encountered was not being able to access/find a particular text I needed that my mentor recommended (Plutarch's Advice about Living Well). I looked carefully on CLIO and on Google but still could not find it, so I finally reached out the the Classics librarian I was paired with last year. I am grateful that the Laidlaw program provided this connection and that the librarian was willing to help this summer as well.  

Yes, I would say that my research has introduced me to new fields of interest. Before this project I did not know anything about ancient medicine or reproductive rights in the ancient world. I have come to realize so much more how forces of natural philosophy, patriarchy, social imperatives, etc. intersect within medical literature. Medicine is a fascinating field through which to see social systems contingently implicated, particularly for an object like the female body (who is controlling her, how does her reproducing body interact with her healthy body, is there any possibility for agency). My work has narrowed greatly from the beginning of the project. For one, I began with a broad focus on women's bodies in Greek medicine in the classical period, but now am focusing more on Soranus' Gynecology (a specific text) which is a few centuries after the classical period of 4th/5th century BCE. Further, I initially was interested in broad concepts like "nature" "subjectivity" and how the female body is constructed by medicine with a particular social agenda. Now, I have a narrower focus on the female psyche in Soranus and the manner in which the mental interacts with the social. I am looking at psychic impact on the reproductive process and the terms with which female agency exists or is constrained in this text. 

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

Helen, I love how introspective you are and how aware you are of your process as it happens. That's something I've done less consciously so far, but it hasn't resulted in any sort of schematization like you seem to be doing. You've inspired me to watch myself work this summer! I'm also interested in the way that your self-reflection mirrors the focus of your research re: "the manner in which the mental interacts with the social." Do you think that your contemplation of your own situation, your αὐτομετενθύμησις, if you'll forgive the neologism, has affected the direction your research is going?  

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Week 5: 

I have gained so many skills and new knowledge from this experience. Firstly, I have gained a much broader conceptual understanding of my subject matter and Greek history in general - the relationship between philosophy, medicine, and patients. I have broadened my understanding of forces of conflict that come together in a society, both in the past and in our time as well, namely issues of biological imperatives meeting social imperatives, how to question what is seen as objective, and how intersectional any investigation of a human should be. More specifically, I have learned more about the technique of “reading against the grain” because I am looking at the Greek language and asking questions about terms (like “sexism”) that are not as clear in the literature, so one cannot be anachronistic but still needs to be clear in one’s strategy and use of terms. I have developed more appreciation for the overall process of research and learned to manage my daily/weekly perspective on what is “productive,” and part of that has been me learning how to work through lines of complexity and seek clarity rather than seek a teleological end goal. 

The person who has shaped my project the most is my mentor, who has been immensely helpful with her guidance during this complicated project. She has challenged me to think in a new discourse and push my thoughts beyond a two-dimensional line of argument. I have learned from her that leadership is often about the words that are dropped in a conversation that are perhaps not intended to be the main point: you can lead as much with what is said in the “parentheses” of dialogue as you can with the first or last sentence. I will take forward from this project a new inspiration to challenge binary arguments in existing scholarship and seek complexity and nuance in my work, particularly around issues of gender. 

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
about 1 year ago

Helen, I am so glad you have been able to keep a strong connection with your mentor during the second summer of Laidlaw. Having someone to chat with about your ideas really makes your research worthwhile, so I hope to hear more about how your relationship with your research has been impacted by them!

Go to the profile of Jake Fisher
about 1 year ago

Hi Helen! It sounds like you have learned quite a bit from your project this summer. I especially appreciate the point you made about recognizing leadership in the "parentheses." This is an important point to make as we begin to acknowledge leaders who have not previously met the stereotypes that society has constructed for generations. Wishing you well!!

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
about 1 year ago

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you?   How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

My research was originally very historical and literary, but I have recently delved into psychology. I am very interested in the way history informs interpersonal relationships, so I have been able to look at books such as The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., to be able to learn more about the brain and trauma. I am excited to see my research go into the trauma of different power structures within our society, such as racism, homophobia and transphobia. Thus, my work has narrowed to be more focused on the way history and psychology are interconnected.

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Hey Dio! Yes, interdisciplinary work! It's so interesting to hear about your progression in research. I recall from last summer that your work then was also more historical/literary so it's exciting to branch into broader questions and themes. Something that your research is probably yielding is that while researching the human experience, and especially these themes of racism, homophobia, etc, you can use so many different tools and disciplines (like literature; psychology) to gain a fuller understanding of the picture. More layers of complexity and ways of coming at the problem will yield fascinating results. 

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

Week 1

My research project this summer focuses attempts to identify and interpret the means by which the Hasmonean "king" John Hyrcanus (ruled ca. 134-104 BCE) incorporated the neighboring state of Idumea into his native Judean state after conquering the former.

To take the second question first, my experience last summer taught me that history research takes a lot of reading up front. I spent more of the research period than I would have liked last year reading and vetting my sources. This year, I spent the first half of my summer doing that reading and began my official research period in the second half in order to get the most out of my time with my advisor. My plan worked, and I was able to start discussing ideas right away rather than just looking for sources. I couldn't have used this plan, however, unless I had developed the source criticism skills last summer that I would need to find, vet, and annotate the scattered sources on my own. 

I often feel insecure about whether I will say anything new with my research. Bigger brains than mine have tried to untangle the contradictory and, by turns confusing and taciturn, sources on the events in question. Moreover, many of the best historians on the subject of this time and place are still working today. It's intimidating that the giants still walk among us, and I'm not sure I'll be able to fill the footprints they leave behind. But, as philosopher and historian R.G. Collingwood observed, no historical action can ever be exhausted for investigation. My hope is that I can look at the questions that scholars have already answered to figure out what questions these answers raise, and then answer these new questions instead of treading the same ground as those who came before. In this spirit, I spent this week retooling my research question based on the reading I've done and am moving toward a draft of my argument that I will discuss and revise over the next five weeks.

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
about 1 year ago

Herb, I can attest to the fact that your brain is just as big as the "big-brained" people you describe! It's awesome that you're already tackling these big ideas as early as your undergraduate years, and I can't wait to see how they develop as your years in academia grow. The fact that you're getting to join this conversation with a fresh lens makes it even more impressive.

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Hey Herbie, 

I love what you said in your reflection about how no historical action can ever be fully exhausted. I also relate to the fact that it's intimidating to follow and contribute to scholarship that has existed for so many decades prior to you, but I think it's important to keep in mind that the beauty of human interpretation is that each individual's perspective will and can add to an ongoing scholarly debate. I am confident in your ability to observe complexity and tension within sources and synthesize an argument that moves the existing conversation along. I also think it's great how you learned from your time last summer and are able to devote more time to questions that motivate thought rather than sources. 

Go to the profile of Diogene Artiles
about 1 year ago

This summer I’ve had the privilege of working with Professor Ana Paulina Lee. She has been instrumental in shaping the direction of my research this summer. Earlier this summer, I got to learn about her own research interests, which informed my interests. I got to take a look at Brazilian revolutions from the early 19th century to see the ways gender, race, sexuality and music (and even magic) interacted to form a more cohesive interpretation of contemporary Brazilian racial politics. I got to learn about the Brazilian’s separationist movement from Portugal and the consequent rebellions of different regions of the country, like the Male Rebellion in Bahia which was a revolt planned by African-born Muslim enslaved people, or the separationist movements of the South of Brazil. Not only did Professor Lee shape the content I looked at, but also the way I approached research: she gave me the idea of writing down what my motivation for doing research was at the beginning of the six weeks, and she told me to periodically return to this mission statement whenever the research process got tedious or repetitive. 

Also, Professor Lee shared some awesome resources provided by the National Library of Brazil, so I got to read a bunch of primary sources from the 19th century! In the future, I hope to diversify the media I consume and incorporate more video, film and art in the mix. In addition, I like the idea of keeping a motivational piece of writing at my side.

Go to the profile of Helen Ruger
about 1 year ago

Hi Dio, 

I'm so glad that you've established such a meaningful connection with your mentor! I relate to what you said about your mentor shaping not only the content but also your approach - I found that in my work as well, that it was often the subtle suggestions of contextualizing thoughts or methodological points that helped a lot. I love the idea of a mission statement to turn to at tedious moments - did you find that helpful/did your mission stay pretty consistent throughout? 

Go to the profile of Beatrice Shlansky
about 1 year ago

Week 4 

This question about challenges and difficulties really speaks to me right now as last week I had a real set-back in my work. I had been working to call hundreds of volunteers over the past few weeks to do check-ins and see if they wanted to continue their involvement with the Red Cross. I had been tracking the status of their involvement and responses in a large Excel document on my laptop. Last Wednesday though, my computer completely died and I lost pretty much everything on my laptop. This was a devastating loss of dozens of hours of work for my internship, on top of losing everything else from my photography to notes on my laptop.

There were lots of tears shed, and many calls made to the Red Cross's IT department and Apple support. I was able to recover an early version of the document, but unfortunately, I still need to restart the process of calling most of the volunteers again. Yesterday I underwent oral surgery though, so I have been in no position to speak well or talk over the phone to anyone. I have this week off to recover and rest, but the idea of re-calling all these volunteers next week feels daunting, and frankly, somewhat embarrassing. Many of the volunteers work during the day, so bothering them at work and/or leaving many voicemail messages already felt like I was burdening them. I feel even more bad that I will need to restart that process and that I wasted their time and energy.

The experience definitely has taught my the importance of investing in cloud backup services though! I am sure that the mishap will give me new opportunities to learn from my mistakes and develop resilience, and with the week off to recover from my surgery, I hope to take a step back and reflect on solutions and ways to get over this challenge.  

Go to the profile of Jake Fisher
about 1 year ago

Bea!! I am so sorry to hear about your laptop, that sounds so stressful. I’m hoping that if this pandemic has taught people anything it would be to be more empathetic. Sending you the best of luck as you work to recover your lost work.

Go to the profile of Jake Fisher
about 1 year ago

Week 4

One of my long-term projects for the summer has been researching and proposing potential solutions for the lack of diversity among Colorado’s teachers. This issue is a topic that was relatively new to me, but has been extremely surprising to research. While over half of students in the state are students of color, 87% of teachers are white. Of the state’s 178 school districts, 130 don’t have a single Black educator, and a third do not have a single Hispanic educator.

Strong research suggests that increased teacher diversity is not only beneficial for students of color, but actually improves student achievement across the board. One study found that having a Black teacher in third, fourth, or fifth grade increases a low-income Black student’s likelihood of graduating high school by 39%. In the education world, statistics like these make improving teacher diversity in Colorado a necessity.

The lack of teacher diversity in the state is simultaneously accompanied by a teacher shortage across Colorado, particularly in rural communities. I have found that there are a variety of proposals that can potentially make significant progress in solving both issues. Perhaps most intriguing are programs which work to transition paraprofessionals, who are far more likely to reflect student demographics, into becoming teachers through partnerships between rural community colleges and four-year universities.

I’m certainly looking forward into pursuing the issue of teacher diversity further!

Go to the profile of Jake Fisher
about 1 year ago

Week 5

My internship supervisor for this summer has greatly impacted me. At just 30 years old, Allie is by far the youngest of the governor’s senior policy advisors. Her portfolio of legislative responsibilities includes education, child welfare, as well as serving as the state’s lobbyist. Needless to say, she holds an important job in the Colorado political world that requires a depth of knowledge on a broad variety of topics.

Like many people in government, she works extremely hard. It isn’t uncommon to receive an email from her late at night, early in the morning, or over the weekend. She’s developed a wide network of connections across the Colorado political landscape which includes nonprofit advocates, retired policymakers, and government officials which she can leverage as new ideas and issues arise.

Having Allie as a mentor and supervisor has shown me that although she does bring her work home with her, it doesn’t really seem like work because she loves her job so much. Not to mention, that her work is meaningful and has the potential to impact thousands of kids every day.  Allie and this experience have solidified my hope to pursue a career in government.

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

Jake, it's so cool that your internship supervisor has reinforced your passions! I'm glad that you are seeing the breadth and depth of your field this summer. I don't know much about state government, but I'm not surprised that it's such a complex operation. Have you learned how Allie became so knowledgeable and connected at such a young age? I'd be excited to hear what sort of impact policy advisors have on the legislative process and how their work differs from that of an elected official. With such a wide range of issues to know and keep track of this summer, have you changed your social opinions in light of seeing the moving parts of society come together? 

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

Week 2

I got so caught up in my work last week that I forgot to make a post at the end of it. I'll post my second week's response now and do my third week's response later. 

My research is an ancient history project, so it doesn't engage with any living people directly. However, the sources are quite scattered across the field because the thing I'm investigating, while a somewhat popular topic of inquiry, sits at the intersection of at least two traditional sub-disciplines within the history of the ancient world. I've thus had to contact scholars across the globe to access resources, such as a review of household objects from the Galilee and an article on ancient practices of body modification that was not publicly available. All the researchers whom I've spoken to are really helpful with the information they offer, but my adviser gave me a quick primer on the etiquette of speaking to professional colleagues. There's a funny way that ancient historians have of speaking to each other that is simultaneously extremely polite and disarmingly informal, and I had to learn it rather quickly this summer in order to communicate effectively in the tightly knit community. The only ethical components to this work I can think of are that you shouldn't share the sources that a scholar sends you because they may not have been published in the form that you have them, and that you shouldn't plagiarize anyone's work. History, unlike archaeology, is slightly removed from the thing it studies, so there isn't a risk of disturbing a site of cultural heritage. I think the most you could do is write an offensive or poorly researched work, which will probably not be well-received in the scholarly community or even published. 

The question of whether a historian should come through in their research has been a question of debate for a long time in philosophy and historiography. It sort of depends on what you think "history" is. I subscribe most to R.G. Collingwood's theory, where "history" is the whole of past social human existence, more or less, and "History" is the scientific attempt to render the past intelligible ("science" here follows the Latin sense of the word and means any systematic means of inquiry with rules, conventions, and consistent internal logic). Archaeologists and some linguists also count as historians under this definition, which I think is great. One of the conventions of history as a science, much like philosophy, is that arguments rely on the evaluation of facts. Different people can look at the same set of facts and reach two different conclusions because the systems are not replicable, unlike natural science, so personal interpretations are a necessary driving force of history if you like Collingwood's appraisal. In this sense, I see myself coming through in my research because my argument is based on the conclusions that I draw, the way I piece together the information into a coherent and defensible narrative. I have to speak in some kind of first person in my work because it is so synthetic and methodologically focused, even though  many historians try to disappear from their accounts in order to make the conclusions they reach seem like unassailable facts. This is also a good way of writing history, but it doesn't work for my project.

Go to the profile of Devyani Goel
about 1 year ago

Oops, I didn't realise we had a channel all to ourselves and posted on the first years' channel last week! Will start with week two here :)

As someone who routinely looks at her research through the lens of policy, I think I benefit most from my work when I am free and able to engage with it in a personal manner. Though it's difficult to bring "myself" into research that is happening at a lab, now that I've been at my current lab for over a year, I've started feeling comfortable taking on more responsibility. I was also recently accepted into the Psychology Honors Program and will be working on my thesis for the next two years, which is another great way for me to bring a little bit more of me into the work I do at the lab.

I do think that the most effective way I have of engaging with my work is when I consider the implications of it, especially since it relates so much to incarceration and the stigma associated with it. So while I have to be relatively invisible when conducting data, my presence definitely improves the project when it comes to analysing data and fitting it into broader channels of Social Psychology.

Go to the profile of Beatrice Shlansky
about 1 year ago

Week 5 

I've gained a lot of knowledge about non-profit work, but as I approach the end, I am finding that my remote internship has been somewhat unfulfilling and disappointing. I find it difficult to answer these questions since I have not really worked with many individuals beyond my supervisor or the quick emails and calls sent to volunteers. I am greatly appreciative of the opportunity to work with such a large organization like the Red Cross, but since the internship has been completely remote, my projects have been smaller as the summer has progressed, and it feels as if my supervisor is struggling to find things for me to do. It's shown me how much the Red Cross's government and community relations work has struggled under COVID-19, and how volunteer organization is a complicated and difficult process. However, I will be quite honest to say that I feel as if I have not learned as much as I would have in-person. Working remotely on government and community relations projects is obviously not ideal, but it's even harder when it's in communities that are so rooted in in-person interactions and the work is so distant and different from my life in rural Vermont. 

I'm greatly appreciative of my supervisor, Denise, in putting together projects for me though. I don't blame her for the lack of new work over the past few weeks, but I wish that there were greater opportunities to interact with other folks at the Red Cross or to hear about the work happening in other departments. In some ways, I feel burnt-out; not from too much work, but more so from the lack of new projects and lack of diversity in the work. I've pushed Denise for more work, and I hope that some new projects or things may come through in this last month. It feels at times that my position has been in a vacuum, and I complete my few tasks for the week without any/much interaction with anyone, even Denise at times. 

Regardless, I can say that I have learned a lot about what working remotely entails, as well as general knowledge and understanding of NYC political systems, community boards, and how to organize volunteer work. I envision that this might be helpful if I continue to pursue nonprofit work within NYC communities. 

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

I'm sorry to hear that you didn't gain as much knowledge or experience as you might have in person. It's quite interesting that volunteer involvement has dropped off so much during the pandemic, when it seems like there is such a need for labor in healthcare right now. Do you think that Denise has taught you anything about leadership through this time of strange and uncomfortable adjustment?

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

Week 3

My daily routine is shockingly boring to look at, now that I've documented it. I spend basically the whole day at my desk, reading, writing, and listening to lo-fi hip hop. I would like to go outside, but it's so hot where I am that I can't spend more than a few minutes in the open air without getting uncomfortable. 

I like to break my day into sections of a few hours at a time, during which I'll work in one language at a time. It's too difficult for me to switch back and forth between German, English, Greek, and Aramaic very frequently, so I'll do my German reading first, since it's the hardest, then the ancient languages, and finish the day with English when my language brain is tired. I find that I do my best synthetic, historical-type work when I don't think too hard about it and just let my brain wander, so I leave my writing to the very end of the day. I don't have a real 9-5 like some of y'all, probably because I'm so distractible. I'll get sidetracked reading about something interesting but not very relevant to my research and lose half an hour, so I'm often up late trying to finish my work for the day. 

Yesterday my best mask broke, so I sewed it back together. 

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Muad9nTg2_2pyuFtnfmK8k45SiKfyOC9?usp=sharing

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

Week 4

The biggest challenge I have faced on this research project was accessing resources. It honestly wasn't that hard once I knew how. The work of my research is pretty tough, of course, but so is everyone else's. There's really only one trick to accessing resources that Columbia doesn't have, and that's asking the authors of the relevant papers to share their work with me. Classicists and archaeologists are very generous with sharing their knowledge, so I've gotten everything I needed once I asked. Primary sources are a little harder to find because they may not have been published in many years. I had to hunt through the bibliographies of secondary sources in order to locate the work of this guy, Ptolemy the Historian. His work is commonly misattributed to other writers, so it was pretty difficult to find. After a lot of searching, though, I was able to find it.

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

Week 5

I've gained lots of research skills from my experience this summer, most importantly extracting the relevant information from a source as quickly as possible because there are a lot of sources to go through. I've also learned how to develop a philosophy of history and apply it in my investigation of sources. My advisor has been very influential in shaping my project because he gave me lots of methodological reading that has shaped my philosophy of history and helped me direct my argument. His leadership style is very interesting, at least as a research advisor, because he basically met with me to draw new roads on my map and suggest new avenues I could pursue or to act as a sounding board. An overwhelmingly positive leader, he basically never told me no or that something wouldn't work, but rather laid out the potential benefits and challenges I could face going down a given road. I found this style of leadership very helpful because it allowed me to make more informed decisions than I would have even if he had passed a judgment on my ideas or questions. That type of open and inquisitive leadership is something I would like to emulate.

Go to the profile of Beatrice Shlansky
about 1 year ago

Week 6 

Hi all! Here's my final video presentation: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eww3N5lRZNAZEl7C8A1pffT_DY-NBWG_/view?usp=sharing :) 

Go to the profile of Herbert Rimerman
about 1 year ago

Bea, I've really enjoyed following your posts this summer! It's been cool to see you confront your frustration and disappointment with your internship to turn it into a positive thing. You've paved new avenues for Laidlaw scholars by pursuing this internship, and even though it didn't give you the kind of immersive involvement that you were looking for, I'm glad that you were able to cement your leadership skills by putting them into action.

Week 1

For my second Laidlaw summer, I’m doing a research project with a public-facing component focused on the “decolonization” of art history. Over the next month and a half I’ll be looking into Western-centered art historical narratives from the late 19th and early 20th centuries from a decolonial perspective and how ideas of modernity in art are inherently tied to colonialism. Conversations around the decolonization of art history are relatively recent and it’s an ongoing dialogue that is just starting to take flight, so there are a lot of knowledge gaps to fill and space for new ideas on what a decolonized art history would look like. Because of this, I would say that more than worried about saying something that has already been said, I’m worried about saying something that’s superficial and not convincing enough for a discipline that has relied on the same methods and narratives for a long time.

My project is completely different from the research work that I was doing last summer. I don’t really think my research project from last summer really influenced my project this year. I think over the past year I’ve become much more aware of the problem areas of art history as an Eurocentric knowledge-producing discipline and I’ve developed a sort of critical lense through which I think about art historical narratives now.

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
4 months ago

This is a super cool project! As I learn more and more about art history, I think is is an incredibly topical issue, particularly because we have to examine the very language we use to discuss "art." 

I totally understand the worry about writing something that is surface level and that has already been said, but that's always the fear we have going into projects. The more you read and see, the more you'll come to understand where the gaps lie and where you can fill them! At the very worst, you can pose a new question to help us think about these issues in a different light--not all research need be answers.

Go to the profile of Anna Mishchenko
5 months ago

This Summer, I am investigating the gender gap in financial literacy, particularly among low-income college students. I began my first week by doing an overview of the already existing literature that has been published on this topic, and I was quite interested to discover the many studies investigating the gendered socio-psychological dynamics in financial decision making. Something that surprised me was that there is a persisting difference between men and women in financial literacy, where women get lower scores on financial literacy assessments across all age groups, socioeconomic classes, races, etc., but this gendered difference isn't necessarily a result of objective knowledge. Rather, it could be attributed to subjective knowledge, or the way women perceive their skills and their openness to taking on complex problems. I plan to continue research in this particular aspect of financial literacy to hopefully get closer to answering the following questions: What are other factors that contribute to less wealth accumulation for women? What are other factors that explain the persistence of the gender gap? I believe that spending some more time looking into why women, especially female college students, seem to shy away from learning more financial skills may help me direct the second component of my project, community engagement. 

This is a hot topic among financial literacy researchers today, and I've come across many studies that have been published within the last few months. I do worry that because of my limited econometrics skills, which are necessarily to performing many of the statistical analyses the researches use to measure the differences among gender groups, I may not be able to make as great of a contribution with my research. However, I think last summer's project taught me that contributing to the research community could take on many forms. I could study a factor that hasn't previously been correlated to gendered differences or I could apply a previously done study to the Columbia community to either reaffirm or refute those study's findings. I think these types of insecurities could be beneficial because they challenge researchers to be more pointed and innovative with their research questions.

Last summer, my project was quite different. I investigated the impact of artificial intelligence on bias in judicial decision-making. The greatest takeaway that i'm carrying on with me this summer is to not get discouraged if I have to shift my research question. Some tools I've developed are the ability to critically synthesize resources to answer a question as well as the ability to teach myself skills such as R-programming or some statistical analyses.

Go to the profile of Astrid Liden
5 months ago

Week 1: For my second summer Laidlaw Project, I have begun an internship with VIANYC (Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid), a non-profit organization here in New York that works with Venezuelan migrants in the area. My research and internship topics have to do with Venezuela migration and the impacts it has had both in Latin America and other regions of the world, specifically in the United States this summer. VIA works to help connect Venezuelan forced migrants with resources in the US, most specifically NYC. Due to the pandemic, however, their resources have been able to spread wider, and the online platform has been expanded to migrants in the United States but also in Spain, Argentina, and other countries. This week, I spent time meeting with the team and sitting in on various aspects of their programming: specifically two tutoring programs for Venezuelan migrant adult and kids, and I will continue to begin my work this week. This is similar to my work last year, which focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on Venezuelan migrants, but this year I am focusing more on the community-based response to a migration crisis. In order to more fully understand the complexities of the crisis, I am really desiring to put the people first. Listening to their stories, understanding their needs, and knowing their desires. In the United States, the recent development of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans has made legal status a possibility, yet it is not the end. I am excited to get to work with VIA in learning more about immediate response to a migration crisis and the US immigration system as a whole!

Go to the profile of Astrid Liden
4 months ago

Week 2: Continuing my work with VIA this week, I was able to see much more into the personalized and human-centered approach that is needed in response to a humanitarian crisis. I was able to help to interpret for Soporte Entre Pares, an initiative that connects Venezuelans to resources in community. I was not just translating but was truly learning from the needs and experiences of these migrants, many of whom are forced migrants. Being able to see the effects of forced migration, not just in the moment, but even years later, shows just how much of an impact the work of VIA has in the lives of migrants and how much of a community-based response is needed. A conversation I had with the co-founders of VIA and my supervisors is the emphasis put on the PERSON of the migrant, beyond just a statistic. Coming into this summer, I wanted to move beyond just the study of migration or academic discussions that see what the future of migration holds. Rather, I wanted to SEE it. I wanted to meet migrants and see their realities. Just in these conversations, I see how even big successes for the Venezuela community, like Temporary Protected Status (TPS), is still not enough because so many either don’t qualify, don’t know how to apply, still live in a limbo, or realize this is only temporary and can be revoked. Seeing this personal impact of legislative decisions is extremely important, not just to my project this summer, but also to my long-term goals.

This week, I also worked more on the bazaar initiative for the end of the summer. VIA is looking to expand from last year’s event. I am using my own knowledge, personal connections and experiences, and language skills to be able to communicate and help plan this amazing event that will both educate the general population about the Venezuelan migration crisis and also support migrants directly. I have been reaching out to the Mayor’s Office, local NGOs, and other possible partners to make this a strong community and educational event for Venezuelans. I have had a great time working with VIA, meeting the community, and learning more about the realities of a situation that is often glossed over.

Go to the profile of Anna Mishchenko
4 months ago

Week 2: This past week, I began to incorporate outside participation in the form of interviews with professors whose expertise in finance, sociology, and gender studies helped me hone in my research point of entry. I hope my community engagement will contribute to delivering financial education effectively to female college students, so I've begun to extend my research beyond understanding the factors that initially contribute to the gender gap. Now i'm beginning to look into ways in which financial literacy can be presented to my target audience. Many organizations exist that use workshops, programming, and newsletters to educate women about budgeting, saving, investments, and credit; however, these methods aren't necessarily tailored for college students, and as I continue conversing with my peers, I've discovered that many students prefer more modern platforms, such as social media, to get their information. I found in my research that women may tend to perform lower on financial literacy exams because of their lower self-confidence and lack of motivation, so I hypothesize that creating virtual resources on a platform that my community already engages with extensively may help motivate women to access educational financial resources. 

Go to the profile of Darwin Arias
4 months ago

Week One:

This summer, I will do a research project with the same research team I worked with for my first Laidlaw summer in 2019. This research team, the Sleep, Mind, & Health Research Program at the Columbia School of Social Work, focuses on the social determinants of health and understanding its relationship with sleep, mental, and cardiovascular health among racial/ethnic and immigrant communities. My first summer, I read a lot of the literature on the social determinants of health and did a research project on the relationship between acculturation stress and comorbidity in a sample of NYC Latinx adults, and how this differed among foreign-born and U.S. born Latinxs. I have since been working as a research assistant and learned so much about research methods in public health, social work, and clinical intervention research. Our most recent project involves the development of a cognitive behavioral therapeutic mobile application for insomnia for Latinx immigrants, of which is at last complete and will undergo a randomized control trial beginning this summer. I am excited to be able to finally pursue research questions that I have been interested in for a while. I hope to take this summer to develop my research question around the relationship between environmental (neighborhood safety, neighborhood walkability) and cultural (acculturation, discrimination, acculturation stress) factors with leisure time physical activity in a sample of NYC Latinxs, and how this is moderated by psychosocial factors such as social cohesion, self-efficacy, and/or social support. This is important because of previous research that finds low levels of leisure time physical activity among low-income racial/ethnic communities, and because of the role of physical activity in preventing heart conditions, diabetes, and obesity (diseases that are disproportionately affecting low-income communities of color). I am interested in this in particular because of my own interest in exercising, healthy diets, and cardiovascular health. I am a big advocate for physical activity among my own community due to my own experiences with physical activity among Latinx immigrant communities. I also hope to be able to further the literature on these outstanding questions surrounding the effects of psychosocial factors on physical activity, and to tie together my = interests in social determinants of health and medicine.

         To answer this week’s questions, I did not have as much concern about researching something that has already been looked into. I think because of my extensive work with my research team, they often make me think about research as how can I further the research that has already been done, or how can I build off of findings to come up with new questions. They often make me think about the “why?” aspect to findings that have already been published of which allows me to come up with good questions and potential hypotheses. I started off my literature search for physical activity & neighborhoods, and found that there are outstanding questions remaining surrounding how psychosocial factors moderate the relationship between environment/cultural factors and physical activity. Although there is research already published surrounding these relationships, I hope to now look into the remaining relationships that have yet to be looked into, as well as build off of other studies that have already been done and have remaining research to be done. To answer the second question, yes, this year’s project is different in that I am looking at physical activity rather than at comorbidity measures. I realized from my last project that this year I wanted to do something that was more applicable to public health and medicine, and something that included my own hobbies/interests. I hope to be able to use my research as a way to inform myself more on physical activity and the social determinants of health in Latinx immigrant communities, but also to motivate me to find ways to engage with the community and advocate for physical activity.

Go to the profile of Darwin Arias
4 months ago

Week Two:

My research question does not incorporate any outside participation directly as I will be working from a study data set that has finished with participant recruitment. However, I also plan on looking at focus group transcript data that includes qualitative information on the effects of the pandemic on Latinx participants from NYC, as well as engaging in community events with my research team that for right now consists of participating in presentations on sleep health for the Latinx community and for high school students. I plan to approach these spaces in an effective manner by making sure to be considerate of cultural values and ideas that may not align with my own. I am already conscious of this due to my own experiences, and hope that continuing interacting with the Latinx community and that by analyzing this qualitative data, I can be better at handling or thinking about interactions with an open mind.

I find myself to be very integrated into my research question(s) due to my own Latinx background and experiences. I think this project definitely benefits from me being more present as it allows me to think about my research in a way that is aided from my own knowledge on what kinds of factors, values, or behavioral patterns are present within these Latinx spaces. Of course, I am always conscious that some of my experiences cannot be applicable to everyone, and try to approach this research with a very open mind. Being a Spanish-speaker additionally helps in analyzing transcript data for focus groups that were conducted in Spanish as there are often connotations that are not captured accurately in translations from Spanish to English, which benefits the accuracy of captured data. Lastly, as I am also participating in some community engagement through my research team and hopefully at the conclusion of my research question, being Latinx and a Spanish-speaker helps a lot in connecting with community members as they are often prone to opening up and having a sense of trust when interacting with another Spanish-speaker. I hope that additionally this helps in the dissemination of resources and how applicable these resources are for people.  

Week 2

At this early stage of my project, my research hasn’t yet incorporated any interviews nor ethnographic research. However, I do think that community engagement is at the forefront of my mind when planning and working on my project (even if I’m not directly interacting with them, at least not yet). One of the main objectives of my project is to turn my academic research into a public-facing project that makes the conversation around “decolonizing” art history and the art world more accessible to people outside academia or elitist art spaces. If these dialogues stay exclusively within communities of people that have specialized art knowledge or who are part of high-class and predominantly-white circles in the arts, what’s the point of talking about decolonization? It defies the whole point.

I’d say the community I’m trying to engage with outside of academia and people in the arts, is the general public, whether that is museum-goers, art aficionados, or just regular folks who every so often run into art in their lives. I aim to start dialogue, make clear connections that are often ignored, and make the discourse of decolonization accessible to art-loving people who are excluded from the same elitist art world that perpetuates Eurocentric and othering art historical narratives.

Week 3

At this point in my research project, I’m still spending most of my time reading and reading and reading. The first couple weeks I was mostly reading on decolonial theory and art historians whose work problematizes Eurocentric art historical narratives. I was also looking into the Annenberg collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an art collection made up of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Impressionist and post-Impressionist works valued at roughly $1 billion and considered one of the largest and most important gifts to the Met. I’m now shifting to digging deeper into the Annenberg collection and the history of the reception of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism - I’m looking into when and how these movements became a favorite of critics and the general public and why it is valued as it is today. I’m trying to bring attention to what in art history is being pushed aside or ignored in glorifying “masterpieces” like those in the Annenberg collection.

Throughout the day I read, add to my annotated bibliography, scribble notes and ideas in my notebook and a few different Google Docs. If it’s Wednesday, I meet with Professor Gamer, my project supervisor, in the mid-afternoon and spend the rest of the day making sense of my meeting notes. She usually refers me to some useful sources or gives me some feedback, so I use that to redirect where my project is going.

Pictured here: the pile of books that sits next to my desk (and which I’m in the process of reading!) + my long collection of sources in Zotero.

Go to the profile of Isaac Pope
4 months ago

Week 1:

During my last summer of research, I worked with an experimental physics group building a dark matter detector. This summer I have switched to an astrophysical observation group. Both groups are in the field of high energy astrophysics and both are led by the same professor. As you can imagine, my previous research involved more hands on technical work. I was... building stuff. I am now spending all of my time in front of a computer thinking about physics problems and conducting data analysis. The switch from the one group to the other was naturally brought about by the pandemic. Without access to a lab, more could be done in the group that relied solely on computers even before the pandemic. Luckily, I also enjoy this type of research more. With many observed astrophysical sources to analyze, I am able to take on my own projects rather than work as an assistant.

I believe the greatest tool I have developed in taking on my own project is that of communication. I have a monopoly on all the information about my project; I cannot rely on anybody else to communicate the results or to reach out for help on certain problems. This also leads to some pressure however. I am fully responsible for my own analysis and the conclusions I make from it. It is somewhat frightening to think that not only could I say something in a group meeting that is incorrect, but I could possibly publish a paper that says something incorrect. I would think I share the opinion of most people here that that is more worrying than the thought of, as the prompt brings up, saying something that has already been said. However, that might just be because I am in STEM, where I can quite easily state something objectively wrong. For me, the worry of saying something that has already been said is nonexistent. There is no problem in coming to the same conclusion as somebody else, as long as you come to that conclusion in a different way. Because I have data privately owned by my group, it is impossible for me to say something truly unoriginal.

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
4 months ago

Week One:
--------------------

The very name of my project includes "leadership-in-action." At the onset, as I look to starting, I am nervous about applying the leadership skills I learned over the course of the last year in an environment that is wholly professional and not academic. I think it's definitely easier to use leadership training in a context where people are similar (i.e., college students), so I worry about attempting to be a leader within teams that are all more experienced than I am, and within my interactions with my target communities. Feeling like a small fish in a big pond is one way to describe this, but I think the nervousness extends further into a general worry of being given so much responsibility as a college junior. However, I recognize that there are simple ways to reinterpret my fear, most simply, as a learning experience. Though largely self-guided, I know that this is an open environment, and that I will have the chance to reach out to other people at the company for guidance, whether that is just a best-practice for sending an email or advice on navigating my future professional careers. So, while this is unexplored territory, I am excited to bushwhack my way through and learn as much as I possibly can.

Last year, I researched the socio-political effect of Napoleon and its prevalence within two works of fiction: War and Peace by Tolstoy and Le rouge et le noir by Stendhal. This year, though I am not a researcher anymore, I find that there are commonalities between my two projects. Tortoise Media is a media company dedicated to creating slow news and uplifting minority and marginalized voices. I will primarily be communicating and reaching out to communities and charities in an effort to bring them to the platform and give the issues they have concerns with a voice. My project last year and this year both center around the topics of political representation within written media or literature--Napoleon naturally appeared in so many works because he was largely influential, but also because he could dominate the cycle of news (let us not forget Le Moniteur Universel, the official government newspaper and propaganda spreader). Those in power tend to make the rules because they have this unfair influence, and Tortoise Media is a company that recognizes that and actively tries to work against it. In terms of working on this project, I think I've developed a keen eye for identifying overt or covert political sentiments in text, and I hope that will lead me to stringently examine news articles from other sources and determine what issues ought to be focused on, and how I can better target communities that are ignored.

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
4 months ago

Hi Paul,

It's really cool to hear about what you're doing this summer. I similarly have transitioned from a research space to a professional one, so I relate to the concern of adjusting to being a team member. I think it's so important to have experience with different roles in our academic lives and to not always be the loudest voice in the room. It can even feel weird and wrong sometimes and like you're not contributing enough, but I think that is accomplishing the goal of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.

I also think that's a really great point you made about identifying political sentiments in text, because that is definitely something you have to train yourself to do (and I think academic research is a great way to do so). It seems so important to keep in mind that agendas exist in every sphere of the word and workplace, so we should never lose that discerning eye.

I'm excited to hear about what you're doing throughout the summer!

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
4 months ago

Week One:

My project this summer is quite different from my project last summer, and anything I have ever done for that matter. This summer I'm taking an internship at Honeysuckle Media, a social justice-oriented digital magazine that produces articles about traditionally taboo topics such as drug use, sex workers, and the LGBT community. I certainly think my research last summer has influenced my thinking when it comes to this internship. Specifically, I think in Laidlaw Summer 1 I had to learn the value of editing and being patient in the process of a project (previously, I have tended to be a bit hasty when it comes to calling a work complete). Last summer I ended up creating my own deadlines for multiple drafts along the way rather than just one final deadline, which was helpful when it came to keeping myself on track.

While working at a magazine is very different from doing research in some sense, in another sense it is pretty similar. I'll also have to stick to multiple deadlines and understand that a first draft is never the best draft. Especially now that I'm working for a real established media company that has a larger goal of helping the community and publishes pieces on potentially sensitive topics, I want to be very thoughtful about what I write. I feel more motivated than ever to only write what is true, and to write it in such a way that will not be misinterpreted (I have come to believe now that it is the job of the writer to make herself clear). This will require fact-check myself, and perhaps most importantly being open to feedback and not getting attached to any one thing I say.  When it comes to the concern of "saying something that's already been said," I do worry about accidental plagiarism from time to time. I think the best way to get around this as researchers/interns is to consume a lot within the field we in which we are working. It is just as much our job to read and listen as it is our job to speak and write. I plan to familiarize myself with the articles of other team members and even other magazines to hopefully avoid this problem. Very excited to get started on my first piece.

Go to the profile of Arya Rao
4 months ago

Hi Malia! It's so cool that you've transitioned from a research role to a writing role-- writing is such an important skill for researchers! I'm excited to hear how your experience last summer compares to your experience this summer as we progress.

I'm curious about the difference in approach between writing on a topic as a researcher vs as an author in a magazine, specifically with respect to the role of opinion. As researchers, we tend to write mostly objectively, but I imagine that as a writer, you do not have the same constraints. As you present topics for an informative purpose, I'm interested to see how you balance opinion and objectivity. Looking forward to reading your articles this summer!

Go to the profile of Isaac Pope
4 months ago

Week 2:

Scientific expertise has many divisions. Even within the realm of high energy astrophysics (my current field), there are tens if not hundreds of subdivisions with respective experts. So as I study and analyze my astrophysical sources, I cannot hope to be all knowing even in respect to my own project. For this reason, my group and I continuously engage and collaborate with a network of astrophysicists with similar interests brought together from multiple universities and institutions. In this way we fill in the gaps any one of us has in our applicable knowledge. We help each other not just for the greater good of science, but also with the expectation that we will also receive help when needed. Not only does this method of collaboration act as a source for answers, the separation in each groups expertise fuels constructive feedback. Collaborators sometimes ask us questions we would not think to ask ourselves and I think that is the most valuable aspect of collaboration.

I definitely think my project, even my field, is more suited toward the invisibility of the researcher. If you look at any scientific research paper, "I" is forbidden and everything is written in the past tense, separating the information in the paper from the researcher. I think this is the case because science follows the maxim that the universe works the same for everybody; there is nothing to gain from including one's self in one's scientific research (unless one's self introduces some sort of bias, but that doesn't seem to happen in physics at least).

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
4 months ago

Hi Isaac,

It's interesting you bring up how first-person pronouns are typically forbidden in scientific research papers, and it totally makes sense that this is the case. Even though we know that we are all human beings and therefore no one can achieve objectivity, I think it is great to have as an ideal (and that seems to be a major pillar of science). I'm curious is you see more "subjective" layers to science behind the scenes. Since you are in communication with other astrophysicists, do you ever feel that they take personal/moral issue on scientific debates? Do you feel this is always harmful, or can it sometimes be valuable too?

Go to the profile of Arya Rao
4 months ago

Week One:

During my first summer and throughout my time at Columbia, I have worked on a project investigating the genetic basis of toxin resistance, using the case of parallel evolution across insect taxa of resistance to cardiac glycosides in the sodium potassium pump to extrapolate larger principles of adaptive evolution. Turning away from more traditional basic science research, I am now working in a more translational space, understanding adaptive evolution in the context of infectious diseases by investigating non-coding minor Ebolavirus (EBOV) variants. 

EBOV is notoriously difficult to study; given this, researchers are interested in devising in vitro methods to evaluate EBOV. One such model is a minigenome system: by introducing each of EBOV's components to a system individually, we can see how they each work without risk of infection. I am interested in using the minigenome system to characterize EBOV variants that arise during infection, but that do not occur at  >50% frequency (minor variants). I am specifically interested in those variants that differ from the reference sequence in non-coding regions-- differences do not occur in protein-coding regions, but instead occur in other regions with unspecified function. We suspect that these non-coding minor EBOV variants have an effect on host transcription and translation during infection. While working in person at the Broad Institute this summer, I hope to understand what, if any, effect these variants have on host transcription and translation.

While this work has some of the same basic principles as my previous work (adaptive evolution), I will use entirely different techniques. I will hone my wet lab skills, learning how to design and implement transcription, translation, and luciferase assays. This project integrates my interests in evolution and medicine; I'm looking forward to diving more deeply into this intersection this summer!

Go to the profile of Isaac Pope
4 months ago

Week 3:

I usually get to my office in Pupin between 9:00 and 10:00 am. I ready my desk by simply taking out my computer and my notebook. That's about all I need to conduct my research (occasionally I'll have to expand my thoughts out onto a blackboard). I have a few projects, so I usually don't have to think too hard about what I need to do at the start of the day.

My research seems to be divided into to three parts: 1) reading 2) analysis 3) communication. #1 consists of reading research papers, textbooks, online physics material (aka Wikipedia), programming tutorials, and GitHub pages. For #2 I am preparing my data and executing programming scripts on it to squeeze something meaningful out. I also try to write down the steps I have taken but I am not the most organized; that will probably come back to bite me later on. A lot of the scripts are already written for me, I just have to figure out the sequence of steps I need to take to run them in the correct order. For less general processes that haven't already been automated, I have to write my own code. Sometime you can find me in front of a blackboard scribbling out equations I don't fully understand and then turning them into code. Nothing makes you feel smarter than writing on a chalk board... While reading usually happens before analysis, #3 is happening throughout the day. Not only am I communicating my results when I have or I think I have gotten something useful out off my data, I am asking questions as well as answering questions when my research partners need my help. A lot of my communication happens in Slack, where we divide up all of the projects and topics to have organized discussions that we can also look back at whenever we need. And because I am in the office, I can always quickly get help from people who are also there. Luckily I have an amazing grad student who seems to know everything.

I get lunch around 1:30 pm and when I get back to the office I usually work until sometime between 5:00 and 6:30 pm.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1INqdJgjcZ06YLM4QwD1F5wL04mAoA1sT?usp=sharing 

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
4 months ago

Hi Issac, I enjoyed reading your daily routine at Pupin. I'm currently working remotely from Japan, so I don't have a fixed schedule at the moment, but I hope everything goes well with your research project. I look forward to hearing your stories once we return to campus!

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
4 months ago

Week Two:

My internship will involve a great deal of interviews and observation of people--I have been told I will have story assignments that involve going out and participating in community events with a journalistic eye/interviewing people. Figuring out how to engage with community events respectfully as a journalist can be a tricky thing to navigate. On one hand, you have the agenda of your story, and that is of course at the forefront of your mind. On the other hand, you don't want that hunger for a good story to disrupt from the naturalness or intimacy of an event. The last thing I would want was for people to feel put on the spot in vulnerable moments. Just as an example, I may be assigned to a story on Pride events, which I'm really excited about. But I want to be careful to get full enthusiastic consent from anyone I interview since the history of Pride can be a vulnerable topic for many.

In terms of the "invisibility" of myself as a journalist, this is something I think about a lot. How much is this "about me?" It seems clear that I wouldn't be so interested in this project if it weren't about me at all. On the other hand, as a matter of fact these are not my stories. They belong to the people who have lived them. I've come to the conclusion that at least in journalistic writing, your "voice" takes the form of structure and selective choices in a story. So rather than feeling the need to insert your own personal language etc.,  you can exercise creative choice by crafting the story in what you feel is the best, most compelling way.

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
3 months ago

Hi Malia!

I think you're definitely right--the agenda of journalism is always a hard one to juggle with wanting to report a truth. In all actuality, it is always the outrageous and over-the-top articles that do well, and we seldom see "news" that is unremarkable. Because of that, it is definitely easy to get into the habit of pushing a narrative, even if subconsciously!

Though, I think of writing news similarly to going on a lot of dates--you sort of try things out, and if it feels wrong in on the first date, it's probably not going to get better! There are obviously exceptions to this, but I think it's a fun comparison to think about. I'm excited to see how your internship pans out as the weeks progress!

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
4 months ago

Does your research incorporate any outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation? If so, how do you plan on approaching research participants or spaces in an effective and, most importantly, ethical manner?  If you are not conducting ethnographic research, what communities do you engage in your research, and how have they informed your project?

Since I’m doing a theoretical research, my research project does not incorporate outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation. However, our project requires a fast processing computing power, as our codes take extremely long time to run, so I am using the Columbia University’s HPC facilities.

How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?

I’m not sure if I answered this question correctly (I think I didn’t really understand this question in detail), but I think this project is more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher. It is important for everyone to be able to get the same results when we create and prove new theorems, so instead of trying to make myself being present in my research project, I’m trying to make myself be invisible from the project, so that the results can be applied to all people regardless of their background.

If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?

I’m working under a professor, and instead of working in a community, I’m in charge of all the things that I do to do my research. While I don’t have to interact with many people to corporate, I must think about the best resources that I can use to maximize the things that I can do in a limited amount of time.

Go to the profile of Darwin Arias
3 months ago

Week Three:

A typical day of research/community engagement for me looks like me sitting at my laptop reading a lot of research articles, learning about coding, participating in meetings, and completing remote research tasks for my research team. My schedule varies everyday due to the tasks and meetings I have for that day, but usually begins with me continuing with my research project where I last left off and working on the respective section of my research poster (background, hypotheses, methods, results, discussion). I meet with my graduate student mentor(s) about twice a week to discuss my research question, what I have found through my literature search, and what the next steps are in progressing with my project. I spend a lot of time looking through the literature as often I find new articles that change the trajectory of my research. Reading more articles often leads me to want to learn more about other studies, how these studies were conducted, with what populations were these questions looked into, and how I can use this to add on to my project. My team meetings are really interesting as I am learning more about clinical intervention research as my team begins its randomized-control trial for a digital therapeutic for insomnia in Latinx adults and as we finish up the pilot study for this mobile application. My internal team devotes time to work on professional development among ourselves and to partake in community engagement projects, of which our last involved giving a presentation to high schoolers on the importance of sleep health.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1IqjVBGst81CtnjIIStfVxfkAA2tAixin?usp=sharing

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
3 months ago

Hi Darwin,

It is cool to hear about how your research project is coming along on a day-to-day basis. I really relate to the feeling of reading sources and getting inspired in all different directions--sometimes to the point of it being a little overwhelming. How do you handle that feeling (if you have it as well) of wanting to include so much in your paper, yet knowing you need to stay on course?

Go to the profile of Arya Rao
3 months ago

Week 2:

How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?

Science, by nature, is objective, and therefore sometimes impersonal. It is therefore particularly rewarding for me to be working on a project that has a distinctly human impact. Ebolavirus impacts millions worldwide; to lend a hand in efforts to fight it reminds me of the place of the self in research. Research can remain objective while being motivated by empathy. 

In addition, my lab has >60 people. Most labs are far smaller; my Columbia lab has 4 people. Working in such a large and tight-knit community has taught me that though research is objective, the perspective of each individual researcher is unique and valuable. 

Go to the profile of Isaac Pope
3 months ago

That is crazy to think you are working in the same lab as >60 other researchers and that you still say it is tight-knit. I would be interested in knowing how you go about forming relationships with all of these people.

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
3 months ago

Week Two:

If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?

So far, I've been curating a list of effective nonprofits in New York City and Michigan (where I hail from!) in an effort to begin conversations with these communities. My conversations so far have been limited, but I have been crafting different ways to interact with these nonprofits to get in touch with marginalized communities. So far, we're trying to even out representation, ensuring that no single sector is more represented than the other, and ensuring that we have a variety of perspectives within each sector, crafting dialogues between those who are privileged and those who are less so. I find that communication is a careful line to tread--trying to navigate not seeming sketchy when you're trying to do good, but keeping it concise enough to pique the interest of very busy nonprofits. 

I am finding, however, that the cause is shared--many of these NGOs and Nonprofits are advocacy groups; they exist to give marginalized people a voice. Because of that, we share a common cause, and I am hopeful about future communication with them!

Go to the profile of Isaac Pope
3 months ago

Week 4:

My biggest challenge during my research this summer has been keeping a strict schedule. I do not have close supervision and I rarely have strict deadlines. If I wanted, I could do my work in bed instead of going to the office since almost everything I do is on the computer. In this lax environment, it is sometimes difficult to come to work at a set time and work for a set amount of hours. In order to resolve this issue, I sat down and wrote an hour by hour schedule for my day. It is nice to receive notifications reminding me of what to do; without it it is much easier to make excuses and put things off. I have not organized myself enough to the point where I schedule the actual research tasks I need to do each day, and I feel as though this is a much needed next step to become even more productive.

I think the most interesting topic I have encountered during my research is frequency analysis. Using a mathematical method known as Fourier transformation, we can separate out signals from data and conduct statistical tests on them. Although I am using this technique for specific astrophysical tasks, it seems I could find a use for it in any field. I am happy I have added it to my mathematical toolbox, and I can't wait to see where else I find a use for it.

It seems as though my work has widened rather than narrowed. As I have become more adept at my research, my supervisor has given me more tasks. I was recently asked to help with another project on a completely different astrophysical source, so I am gaining more exposure to the different types of sources.

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
3 months ago

Hi Isaac! I too am doing remote work and finding it hard to stick to deadlines, but something that has helped is weekly meetings and deadlines with my supervisor. I think implementing goals for each week has really helped me stay motivated. 

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
3 months ago

Week 1

As I start out on my project, I've been doing a literature review, guided by my internship director. I haven't as much been worried about saying something that's already been said as much as I've been interested in how the voices of people I'm researching do not seem to be in any of the articles. As someone who grew up in Texas and Louisiana, it is almost comical finding different contradictions in the literature I've been reviewing. For example, the very sterile depiction of how people in West Texas use wells instead of hooking up to a public water system was fascinating to read in an academic context, because I felt like it left out a lot of the reasons my grandparents have told me that they use a well on their property. 

This project is very different from my last summer's project. Instead of researching law and policy, I'm doing scientific research into water quality. While so far this summer has been a lot of reading, similar to my project from last summer, I have switched from dense legal review articles to dense scientific articles. I think it's been interesting seeing how both are hard in different ways. They use completely different jargon and techniques, and it's interesting to see how these completely different disciplines are very interested in a lot of the same questions. In my research, the question "how do we fairly distribute safe water?" has come up both summers. Last summer we tried to answer that question with laws and policy, and this summer it's the actual implementations of that policy: what water filtration systems are needed, where are they needed, and how expensive are they for the customer. I'm looking forward to exploring these nuances more.

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
3 months ago

Hi Kate! I am fascinated by your work at the intersection of environmental science and law, and how you are exploring these interdisciplinary connections between these two fields. Your background in law and last summer will definitely yield an interesting study and provide a new lens on policy implementation and design of water filtration systems.

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
3 months ago

Week Three:

A typical day of my internship starts with  logging onto the editor's meeting, where we talk pitches, current events, and SEO for about an hour and a half. Next, my primary editor will email me an assignment for the week, on which I'll try to start preliminary research. This involves looking through other publications, scanning what's already up on the Honeysuckle sight, and just a simple Google search. If the piece requires interviews, I'll research the interviewee extensively beforehand and make a plan of interview questions.

If this doesn't fill my day, I'll start writing the piece and email a draft to the editor. Typically, a piece undergoes three to four rounds of editing before the final draft is published to the website, and then further publicized on social media. For the multimedia element of this ost, I've included a link to my most recent article for Honeysuckle's Pride Issue:  https://honeysucklemag.com/7-lgbtq-comedians-snl-crashing/

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
about 2 months ago

Sounds like a fun day! I really enjoy when I have morning meetings to set the tempo of the day in front of me. It sounds like you have a lot of guidance at your job, which I've found essential to growing in a position. I look forward to reading your article! 

Go to the profile of Darwin Arias
3 months ago

Week Four:

Like many others, I have had a lot of difficulty trying to stay motivated at home and on top of my deadlines. At first, it was difficult to just sit down and work on my project because I didn’t know where to begin and the time pressure of having to complete this project in six weeks stressed me out. I began to tackle this by meeting with my PhD student mentor and setting up a timeline for my 6 weeks and the rest of summer, which did not do much but stress me out even more. I next began to not focus so much on the deadlines and instead work at my own pace. I found that research takes time, patience, and motivation, and that by stressing myself out or forcing myself to sit down and work, I was only burning myself out. I decided to take my project at a slower pace. Although I did have deadlines with my mentor, I decided to be more flexible with my timing. In many cases, this setback was because of the development of my research question, which for the first three weeks had to be tweaked because of new studies and findings that I found, or because of new background information I learned and influenced what questions I wanted to ask. I found that this in-depth background search was actually important for the development of the rest of my project, which in the end although was extended beyond the six weeks, was not so difficult to put together because of the extensive background that I had collected.

Through my research, I was introduced to literature on occupational vs leisure-time physical activity (LTPA), which was very interesting to me. Currently, there are mixed findings on the health benefits to both, but I have read a lot of articles that occupational activity does not suffice for required recommended physical activity levels, of which was really interesting to me in thinking about ways in which blue-collar workers can better access or make time for LTPA.

My work has narrowed substantially since the beginning. I had to choose a specific question pertaining to the effects of psychosocial factors on leisure-time physical activity levels among Latinx immigrants, which have been studied very little among these populations. Since then, I have narrowed it to focus on looking at how neighborhood social cohesion levels affect the relationship between acculturation and leisure-time physical activity, with a hypothesis that social cohesion serves as a method of social support for Latinx immigrants in which high levels of social cohesion matter less for the relationship that greater acculturation leads to greater reported levels of physical activity.

 

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
3 months ago

Hi Darwin,

I like how you talked about being flexible with deadlines. I know this can be a hard thing to figure out, since setting deadlines so often keeps us accountable with our work. But I definitely agree that rigidity in any form can seriously limit us when it comes to the quality of the final project. It seems like you have really figured out a way to keep your research interesting to you--which is what matters the most when it comes to motivation, in my opinion. Good stuff!

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
3 months ago

Week 1

As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to ignore those insecurities or, better yet, use them to our advantage?

As I begin conducting research in the lab this summer, I find being able to asking the right questions as an important skill for a researcher, which helps one overcome their worries/insecurities about repeating what has already been said. Asking questions helps increase our communication with our mentors and engage intellectually with our research topic at hand from understanding the specifics of a lab procedure to picturing the overall concept/purpose of an experiment. I believe these skills will help us lay the foundations as we pursue careers and become researchers and scientists ourselves by asking questions at the frontiers of the field and exploring the unknown.

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how?  If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

Last summer, I conducted research in the Environmental Biology department at Columbia, with a focus on applying computational models and methods to infer plant migration patterns and population sizes across island ecosystems. This summer serves as a continued exploration of my research interests in botany, evolution and genomics, where I will be studying plant hormone pathways and how these signaling mechanisms help coordinate plant growth/development in accordance with soil bacteria interactions. I will be applying my background in computational work from the previous summer and spending time in the lab to conduct microscopy studies in order to understand the evolutionary history of these signaling mechanisms and localize where signaling occurs on plants.

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
3 months ago

Hi Scarlet,

It is amazing that you have just started your first week of research in environmental science. Good luck with it, and I look forward to hearing more about your research in the Fall!

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
3 months ago

Week Three:
What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

I’m currently doing research remotely from my house, and I’m having weekly meetings with my advisor. Most of my works involve either programming or studying new materials through a textbook, so I’ve attached a picture of the textbooks that I’m currently using for my research. Doing research is really time consuming and mentally challenging, but my research advisor teaches me a lot of things during the meetings, so I’m really enjoying my research project.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Z2x56otvYBui7r45HKZfC_3ywl9xbtTe/view?usp=sharing

Hi Daiki,

Kudos to you for reading those textbooks-- they look super advanced! I'm happy to hear that your research advisor meets with you every week, because those are great times to check in and ask questions. Onward!

Beatrix

Go to the profile of Isaac Pope
3 months ago

Hi Daiki,

That's awesome that you are learning so much about statistics. It is so useful, no matter what you do! Do you have a favorite type of statistic yet?

Week One:

As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to ignore those insecurities or, better yet, use them to our advantage?

This is a common feeling that I have while doing research— I am always weary of simply piecing together research that has already been done. For researchers, I think that this insecurity should always be used to used to our advantage, motivating us to create something new, either by applying a new framework of analysis, finding and analyzing new data, or creating a composite piece of scholarship that has never been created before. For my project this summer, I am researching how the United States’ emergency and war-based national security policies have violated human rights and civil liberties, and have disproportionately targeted Muslim, black, and brown communities. This is a topic with rich scholarship in the past twenty years. However, we are aiming to create a comprehensive report that goes across many areas of the War on Terror national security policies: surveillance systems, indefinite detention, extrajudicial killings, torture, etc. I think what will (hopefully) be novel about this project is the breadth of the research areas and the legal analysis that with go along with it (combining social science sources with legal cases).

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how?  If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

My last Laidlaw Project was on the humanitarian effects of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, which really developed my skills at foreign policy-related research, writing, and quantitative analysis. I know that I will apply these skills to this summer’s project. 

Go to the profile of Sabrina Jade Shih
3 months ago

Hi Bea! 

I'm so excited to hear more as your project progresses this summer. I'd love to learn more about your process to design a comprehensive report that is both broad and specific through specific cases. What are your criteria for choosing appropriate legal cases (something I always struggle with!)?

Best,

Sabrina

Go to the profile of Sabrina Jade Shih
3 months ago

I am always worried about ensuring that my research contributes something novel and useful to the existing conversation. However, what I am slowly learning is that those insecurities are unfounded and they obscure the difference between novel and useful. Much of the research I have done in other internships have been of the literature review type, that is, analyzing the existing scholarship to extract key findings or understand what is prioritized in inquiries. As a research community, knowledge is often built on consensus across studies, so saying something that’s already been said isn't redundant but actually contributes to greater confidence in that idea. Not everything useful is novel, and everything novel is not necessarily useful.  

Especially as I am researching smart cities this summer, the dialogue surrounding surveillance capitalism and human rights in the digital age is a relatively new field. Findings that support existing arguments can be very powerful for building a useful normative framework by which to discuss these new ideas. This summer, I am working with a professor whose class about surveillance states and societies I took this spring. While the subject matter differs from my project from the first summer, the objectives of the last project still heavily influence the direction I would like to go this summer. Specifically, while smart cities often revolve around municipal or national governance and tech companies, studying these macro policy decisions are to understand how communities can be empowered to participate in this governance and to demand the type of community they would like to live in. From the last project, I have developed a strong framing toolbox that I believe will be useful this summer, such as connecting the ideas of FPIC to a resource-centric framing of data collection in an urban public space.

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
3 months ago

Hi Sabrina!

Your research sounds exciting and meaningful! I completely understand your worries as I too often have these concerns while doing research. I really like your point that useful knowledge doesn't always mean novel knowledge. Best of luck with your summer!

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
3 months ago

Week One:

As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to ignore those insecurities or, better yet, use them to our advantage?

For my community engagement project this summer, I am serving as a volunteer instructor at an NGO that promotes educational equality in central China. Being in the role of an instructor for volunteers who are later expected to instruct others, I constantly ask myself the question of whether I am meaningfully contributing to the the volunteers’ learning and to the existing conversation around education. I believe that such worry to be advantageous and perhaps even necessary. Being a non-expert in pedagogy, the constant reflection helps me avoid mindlessly repeating existing theories (often written by authors with privileged backgrounds  and do not understand the local environment our students face) and try my best to select the most suitable methods of teaching for the volunteers. It also helps me rethink the role our NGO may play in the current Chinese educational system, which hasn’t historically left much room for alternatives to test-oriented learning. 

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how?  If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

My project this summer differs from the research project last year, which involved working as a research assistant for a Columbia Psychology Lab. The most important skill I took from the research experience was how to engage in semi self-directed projects and how to engage with different resources when I need help. At the beginning of my community engagement project this year, I reached out to volunteers and volunteer instructors in the past and asked them about their experience, confusions, and advice from past-year trainings. This has been tremendously helpful to the planning of my work.

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
3 months ago

Hi Cindy!

I think there's definitely a challenge of trying to get to the bottom of pedagogical techniques, and it's not an easy one to overcome! When we suddenly look at everything we know critically and attempt to assess the underlying assumptions or problems underlying them, we not only reconstruct the work, concept, or idea, but also our own sense of self if we have internalized them! 

I think you'll definitely have an interesting time, especially as a student in college, attempting to figure out the ideal pedagogical techniques, and I suspect that sometimes our experience on the receiving end doesn't necessarily give us the expertise to know what we want to be done better, but rather an ability to simply identify that there is something wrong or something that could be improved upon. The hard work is figuring out what that is, and I wish you the best of luck! Excited to see where it takes you.

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
3 months ago

Week Four:

Working for a publication (much less anywhere) remotely presents some unprecedented complications. Possibly one of the best examples of these challenges for me is that meetings with the team are much harder to engage with: audio cuts out, some people's cameras aren't turned on, and screen sharing just isn't the same as looking at a physical image of something. I've needed to find ways to keep myself plugged in and contributing to the meeting even when my mind wanders and I have the urge to check my phone, etc. One thing that has been particularly helpful to me has been turning my phone on airplane mode for the duration of the meeting. This way, I won't even be tempted by notifications. Another thing that has been helpful is pinning the video of whoever is talking. This seems like a small thing, but it makes a huge difference in how much I am able to pay attention (my guess is that seeing their face large on the screen more closely simulates the feeling of being spoken to in real life, therefore making it feel more rude to look away). I would be interested to hear what others have been doing to stay engaged in remote meetings.

Malia, these are such helpful tips for staying connected and engaged in remote meetings! One thing I've noticed is that in big Google Meet meetings, the number of squares and faces sometimes overwhelms me and makes my head hurt-- as it's hard to concentrate on so many people at once. So I do something similar to you-- I change the layout on my screen so that there are only a few faces visible at once. This makes a big meeting feel more intimate and it helps me a lot with "Zoom fatigue" / screen headaches. Focus is very difficult when everything is virtual. But it seems that you are doing great and finding ways to cope! 

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
3 months ago

Week Three:
What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

It can get pretty intense! I'm usually juggling checking slack, attending meetings on a LOADED calendar, sending out emails, researching organizations, and then organizing meetings with nonprofits and community organizations. An average day will typically involve a check in with tasks that I sort of set myself--today, I managed to onboard an LGBTQI advocacy organization, giving their members in the US and internationally free subscriptions and integrating them within Tortoise events. It's very gratifying work so far, and being self-directed (except for the plethora meetings I must attend) is really quite liberating! Nobody is breathing down my neck, so whenever I present progress on a certain project, it's always well-received because I'm setting my own goals, hitting them, and conveying the entire process back to Tortoise.

Naturally, there is room for slacking, but I think at this rate, I've set a bar that's too high, and now I find myself perpetually stuck in trying to outdo myself. Otherwise, I'm also trying to find avenues I can explore where I try different things at the organization instead of just emailing nonprofits and onboarding them--ideally, I'd like to have some experience with the organization logistically, and see if I can integrate into aspects of the company that are not just front-facing!

My laptop at any given time.

Go to the profile of Sabrina Jade Shih
3 months ago

Hi Paul,

Wow! It is so amazing to hear how you are always trying to outdo yourself and how you have stayed so disciplined every day. And even more, I am so happy that you find your work gratifying and liberating. It sounds like you have developed so many useful skills across many different technological platforms and I commend you for the meeting grind! I also love that image of your computer screen--those four windows and the sheer number of tabs are both amazing and comical and my computer is huffing just thinking about it! I wish you all the best for the remainder of your time and can't wait to hear more!

Best,

Sabrina

Go to the profile of Isaac Pope
3 months ago

Week 5:

The nature of my work has led to much improvement in terms of my computer skills. Conducting data analysis on astrophysical data, I have become much better with the programming language Python. I have also of course learned quite a bit about the specialized software needed for this kind of work. I feel as though I have also become much better at giving presentations, as I have had to give many to my research group as well as to our larger collaboration group this summer. I am starting to feel more comfortable giving presentations without written aids, which I relied on previously.

My supervisor has been especially helpful with my project. He is able to lead me in the right direction without suffocating me. I believe this is a good leadership quality, you want those you are leading to learn for themselves and become capable team members; telling people exactly what they need to do step by step can hinder this. I seek to find a balance between being descriptive and being overly so, as my supervisor has done.

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
3 months ago

Hi Isaac, thank you for your comment on my previous post. I'm very glad to hear that you are improving your programming skills in Python. I'm currently using R and not Python at the moment, but I'm also feeling my improvement in programming through doing my research project. Good luck with your presentations, and I look forward to hearing more about your research when we return to campus!

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
3 months ago

Week Four:
What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you?   How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

- I think the largest difficulty that I have encountered is the fact that I don't have enough knowledge to tackle the proofs. If there are any difficulties, I always ask my advisor about the potential resources that I could read, and he always suggests some resources that I could use to learn the materials. He also occasionally teaches difficult concepts to me, as if I'm taking his course.

- At the beginning, my research project was only focusing on the mathematical concepts, and we were focusing on proving new theorems. However, after we were able to prove some main theorems which will be the backbone of the research paper, we are shifting into the coding element to verify the results of our theorem through simulation.

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
3 months ago

Hi Daiki, Very interesting to hear how you are incorporating theoretical aspects of your research with coding to implement simulations, I'm interested to learn more about your work in the fall!

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
3 months ago

Week Two:
Does your research incorporate any outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation? If so, how do you plan on approaching research participants or spaces in an effective and, most importantly, ethical manner?  If you are not conducting ethnographic research, what communities do you engage in your research, and how have they informed your project?

How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?

If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?

 

My research is mostly focused on lab work and incorporates less outside participation with interviews or ethnographic observation. However, working within a lab group has allowed me to become a part of the greater scientific community here on-campus and engage in conversations about all parts of the environmental science field through lab meetings and daily conversations. My current project is also a part of the lab’s collaboration with a university in Germany and I am excited to be a part of this international collaboration. Meeting peers who are also conducting research from different labs (ex. engineering, astrophysics) has also helped me broaden my perspective on research in general.

I believe being present as a researcher is important. In my case, this takes the form of actively asking new questions, looking into the literature, and being a part of the collaborative culture in the lab and the greater scientific community. Connecting with the campus community and the lab I am working in has helped me gain exposure to the infinite possibilities with scientific research and yielded fruitful conversations.

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
3 months ago

Hi Scarlet! I think you make a really good point about the importance of connecting with the greater field of researchers. Conversations with peers, more specifically, is looked over too often in the fields I'm interested in (urban planning, climate change, history). Too often, we look over the importance of peer collaboration and instead put "expert opinions" at the forefront of our theory rather than allowing for the more introductory level conversations to take us in new directions. I'm not sure if it's the same for scientific fields, but I really appreciated how your post acknowledged the importance of these conversations!

Week Two:

My research project is not ethnographic. But it still feels like I am engaging with a community nonetheless. As a national security lawyer, my research mentor Hina has represented many victims of the United States' War on Terror-- she has defended Guantanamo detainees who have been held indefinitely without being charged of crimes, as well as civilians targeted by extrajudicial drone strikes abroad. In our research project, which will be a "Twenty Years After 9/11" comprehensive report on emergency national security policies and their violations of civil liberties, we are engaging with many of Hina's past clients. In a way, this research project is advocating for them. We are advocating for a more sound national security policy, one that respects human rights and the U.S. constitution. Hina's personal encounters with her clients has informed our research project and added a more personal, *humanistic* element to our project. Because when you are researching and analyzing data and legal cases, it can be easy to forget that these are real lives at stake-- human beings.

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
3 months ago

I think that's always a difficult concept to navigate--the sort of reality of the written versus the humanity of the real. Like, how do we go about representing people properly? Obviously, it is important to consider the numbers, but it is also difficult to forgo them altogether. I'm sure there's something to be said about listening to case recordings (if you do that!) or other such representations of the people instead of solely the numbers that might be grounding. 

Though, I think that the way Hina is doing it is also maybe the most effective way! Knowing the person behind each number, and advocating for their stories. Being a sort of mouthpiece for the data, yes, but also for their lives and their personal experiences.

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
3 months ago

As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to ignore those insecurities or, better yet, use them to our advantage?

This summer I’m researching the cities of the future (or what I hope them to be): car-free cities with high accessibility. While this is a project dealing with the future, I am still definitely concerned about creating something of value, or as Dean Lang put it, adding to the conversation rather than just regurgitating other scholar’s research. That being said, I definitely think that my knowledge as a relatively new scholar in the field of sustainable cities can help in developing the perspective of the everyday person who will be a part of these cities in the future. What is my everyday life like? What needs and wants do I have as someone who doesn’t always consider the consequences of living in a less sustainably constructed city. I know for a fact I sometimes prefer an Uber to a subway ride, definitely at night even though I understand the basic environmental consequences of that “want”. But then I have to ask myself, why do I prefer that and how do I change that preference? I want it because a lot of times it’s safer for a woman to take an Uber from a stranger late at night rather than riding public transportation. This observation leads me to understand that safety in public transportation is a component I should pay attention to in my research of promoting car-free or car-limited cities. Thus, while the insecurities of being an entry-level urban planning scholar have their setbacks, I definitely think there are some advantages to my fresh perspective in developing a city for residents like myself (and those with even less knowledge). 

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how? If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

My project this summer has definitely changed due to COVID-19 but also due to my interests adapting personally over the course of the past one-two years. That being said, both of my projects dealt with 21st-century problems: aging populations and the future of cities. That has been a consistent interest for me. As for how my first research project experience has influenced this one, I definitely hope to use my voice more during this summer of research. During my first summer, I was so overwhelmed with understanding the existing literature that I forgot to input my voice (as amateur as it was) into the conversation. This is a change I hope to make during this summer of research and into developing this research into a possible thesis project in the fall. The methods for how I might do this aren’t fully developed yet, but off the top of my head, I’ve been considering doing more reflecting on the knowledge I gain than absorbing information. This might take the form of a reflective blog or journal. Either way, I want to remember how I first reacted to each idea and connected the field of knowledge in my head. I think this could be extremely useful in the future. 

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
3 months ago

Hey Lily! Your comments on the incorporation of your own voice into research really resonate with me. I know I can be perhaps over-reliant on existing literature and unwilling to voice my own opinions and thoughts, whether in writings or in meetings (as I certainly feel I've experienced in my first week onboarding at my internship). I really love the idea of some kind of reflective journal that could operate as a space for you to record your first impressions and reactions to an idea, especially to see how those impressions or thoughts might shift as more work is done, more literature is read, etc. I have been in the habit of keeping a Word doc open while I read through files and papers this week where I can write down my initial thoughts and questions, which seems similar to your idea, and it's been really helpful for me—so hopefully doing something like that will aid your research and strengthen your voice, too!

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
3 months ago

Week One:

As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to ignore those insecurities or, better yet, use them to our advantage?

I’ve just started my Laidlaw research after a stint in Summer A classes, one of which was a psychology course that drilled into my head the value of replication in research and, yes, saying what’s already been said. Even though this is my very first week at my internship at FHI 360, working on the intersections of contraception and menstruation, I’ve already encountered several of the same talking points I used and wrote about in my research last summer when it comes to menstrual health—things like the need to focus materials on populations beyond adolescent girls; the ways that menstrual health gets both siloed and spread out across many different fields (both an advantage and a disadvantage); the need to educate and inform everyone in a community about menstruation, not just those who actually experience it. Yes, these might all be things I’ve heard before, but I don’t mind—one, because it means I actually know what I’m doing here and have the necessary basis of knowledge (a step up from last summer!), and two, because though we’re discussing the same things, the audiences FHI 360 is trying to reach—community health care providers, menstruators themselves—are very different from those that my work last summer was reaching (policymakers and academics), and both sets of people need to hear the things we’re saying. So yes, though it’s familiar ground, it’s in a new framework and reaching new people!

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how?  If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

My work this summer is both different from and similar to the work I did last summer: same field, entirely different context (public health lens, a massive organization, different target audiences, etc.). Without my work last summer, however, I would never have gotten to where I am—I doubt I would have even really thought much about the concept of menstrual health in a public health context at all. As it stands, though, I’m using so much of what I learned last summer to guide me through this internship now: the basis of knowledge I gained; my ability to qualitatively code; practice writing papers, memos, and analyses; and (more or less) the confidence to dive into this work headfirst.

Go to the profile of Elaine Lee
3 months ago

Hi Lillian,

Thank you for sharing! I think you make a really good point with target audiences. The content of an idea might be very well known in certain circles, but it is also super important to frame it in a new way so that it reaches different people.

Go to the profile of Brian Perlstein
3 months ago

Week One:
As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to ignore those insecurities or, better yet, use them to our advantage?

Working as part of a history research project, while my ultimate goal is to make novel discoveries, I understand that this is not always my objective at every step of the way. For instance, my current work focuses on the beginnings of the Anthropology and Sociology Departments at Columbia, with the goal of discovering when and how these departments diverged and became less interdependent. As of right now, I’m still mostly reading the scholarship on the early days of these departments to better ground myself in the current literature. After that, however, I will begin the most exciting—and also most frustrating—part of history research: digging through the archives. 


When it comes to history research, you can’t make a new discovery unless you find it in an archive. After all, if you find out information from a book or scholarly journal, you know that you weren’t the first to discover it. Nonetheless, the citations in these resources will often point you to the primary sources you need to make novel discoveries. For instance, a biography of sociologist Elsie Clews Parsons led me to her Family Papers at the Rye Historical Society, as well as to her research advisor’s papers at Yale University. While most of the correspondence from these sources was irrelevant to my research questions, a few letters were critical in helping me better understand why and when Parsons translated “The Laws of Imitation,” one of the first landmark sociological texts.


As such, even if the primary goal of my research is to discover what no one else has discovered so far, I think research is best understood as a collaborative process. If you want to say something that no one else has said, you need to first follow the existing scholarly conversation, and only then can you try to have the next word.

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
3 months ago

Hi Brian!

I am so excited to hear about your research! I think you made an excellent point that one cannot make new discoveries without finding some elements of that discovery in the existing scholarly conversation, and I think it applies to more research fields than history. Hope you all the best with your research and I look forward to hearing more about it throughout the summer!

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
3 months ago

Week Two:

If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?

My community engagement project depends heavily on interaction with community members. At the moment I am in Chongqing facilitating an education workshop on site. The community of people I am connecting with has very diverse backgrounds. Most of them have never been abroad or out of their own province. However, we are united by the reflection of their own educational background and a willingness to experiment with alternatives to the existing test-oriented educational system. The conversations we are having mainly fall into two themes. The first is to look inward and reflect on our previous educational experiences and assumptions. For example, yesterday we talked about what approaches we used in engaging with different texts and how much of those approaches were shaped by the college examination standards. The second theme was to look outwards to see how social structures and policies have influenced the education system in China, and what we think is missing in this education shaped by these complicated forces. The goal of this conversation is to explore together what we want to bring to the students in the following volunteering work, and what are the languages and approaches most suitable for our students. 

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
3 months ago

Hi Cindy! It's amazing to hear that you are connecting with your community through a willingness to experiment. The fact that many of your audience has never been outside of their home province and yet out-of-the-box thinking is how you connect is amazing! I wonder if their willingness to search for new alternatives is fueled by the fact that they haven't traveled far from home. Usually, I feel like you hear the opposite is true. Someone travels abroad and discovers alternatives rather than opening their minds to new ways of thinking and doing at home. Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Go to the profile of Sabrina Jade Shih
3 months ago

Week Two:

I do hope to incorporate some outside participation into my research, mainly interviews from researchers, policymakers, or community organizers who work on smart city issues and have insight into decision-making processes related to smart city projects. When I conducted interviews for research in a class last year, I was surprised by the formality of the process to keep the approach and interviewing of these figures as ethical as possible. Our class was required to undergo online training, to have our project approved through Rascal by an outside Columbia oversight board, and to present a consent form to our interviewees to be completed before the interview could commence. Defining an "ethical manner" by which to conduct outside participation would be hard to do alone, so I appreciate that there is already a rigorous process outlined for researchers to abide by. I will do my best to follow these practices of clear disclosure that I have learned to keep this process as transparent and mutually respectful as possible.

Historically, I have always felt my own self coming through in my research and felt so worried that I was not doing good quality research. Aside from the identifiable sources of bias that could be controlled, I felt hyperaware of how my worldviews and past academic frameworks affected how I sifted through information, interpreted it, and subsequently included it in my findings. For example, my interest and experiences in climate justice often drive me to analyze situations through the dynamics of settler colonialism or resource exploitation. However, I have slowly started to push back at that worry because I recognize that it is an inescapable problem; all researchers must come from somewhere and will all have their research processes shaped by their past experiences. A much more productive approach is to recognize that this background can be an advantage, helping the researcher bring a new analytical perspective to an issue that may not have been previously explored. In this sense, I think all projects can benefit from some visibility of the researcher in recognition of inherent bias in all research, at least to the extent of disclosing potential biases and conflicts of interest, of course. My own project will probably benefit from a more 'present' researcher, not just in disclosing and justifying my research process (since it is more flexible than a scientific experiment), but also in my insertion of certain framings of information. Done correctly, making the researcher 'present' in the work will not threaten its credibility.

Go to the profile of Isaac Pope
3 months ago

Hi Isaac, I really enjoyed watching your video and learning about pulsar wind nebulas! I'm impressed by the way that you have applied math, computer skills, and physics in your work. And it's fantastic that you've been able to lead your own project, developing your leadership skills and your ability to delegate tasks to team members. Congrats on finishing your 6 weeks, though I'm sure your project will continue long after. 

Go to the profile of Elaine Lee
3 months ago

Week one:

Sometimes, I do worry that my ideas are unimpressive and too routine to be useful. However, having a supportive boss and team has helped me combat these worries. People on my team are always there to give detailed feedback on specific aspects of my ideas, helping me learn that there is no such thing as a completely "unoriginal" idea. In addition, as an artist, I also know that inspiration is hard to predict. It can take years or seconds to develop an idea, and everything we see, hear, and interact with can have an intangible impact. Just as there is no completely unoriginal idea, there is no purely "original" idea. Stopping short of condoning plagiarism, maybe a good idea is just whatever works.

My project this year does have certain similarities to my project from last year, but major aspects are different. Instead of starting a public health campaign and doing research, I'm working at an established nonprofit. However, many features of my work (communicating to donors, making infographics and impact reports) are still the same.

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
3 months ago

Hi Elaine!

I've spent a lot of this week feeling the way you described in your first sentence -- I'm so glad your team is so helpful and supportive! I also love what you wrote in your post about inspiration as an artist. Doing research, it can be hard sometimes to remember that not everything we do will be immediately generative or impactful, and that creating and doing work takes time. Thank you for reminding me. I hope you have a great week!

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
3 months ago

Week 4

What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

     I think a big challenge I am working through is making sure that I can participate in the pitching to nonprofits in a way that makes it seem less as if I am trying to sell them something and more like a collaborative process! It's certainly a difficult line to tread. Recently I was in a call with a contact I had secured, and she was incredibly apprehensive and rather intimidating. I almost felt like I was actually trying to sell her something. But, being familiar with stories that were interesting and couldn't have happened without prior collaborations, I referenced a few pieces of interest. Immediately, she was a bit more excited about the thought of collaboration. I'd venture to say that there is something about finding a sweet spot, sort of a right way to do something that yields the most amount of success that is incredibly satisfying, and I think this has definitely been the way to do it. I've gone about with a copious number of strategies that I've used in these calls, and all have their varying successes, especially given the individual person. At any rate, knowing what to say at the right time is something I'm going to have to continue to develop.

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you?   How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

    It's certainly rekindled my passion for journalism and storytelling again! Participating in these open newsrooms and team meetings has exposed me to the really wholesome attitude that I didn't figure still existed in journalism, and I think the company's ideology sort of helps with that. They're all about creating news that is interesting and passion-driven, but they attempt to cover stories that are not necessarily the most relevant to the white and wealthy audience of traditional written news media--instead, they go about uplifting people who have been left behind. Such an attitude towards the creation of news I think is sparse these days, and I really do admire it a ton.

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
3 months ago

Week One:

As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to ignore those insecurities or, better yet, use them to our advantage?

Beginning my research, I am definitely feeling these worries. I'm doing research on the portrayals of labor in a few specific medieval English texts, and spent the majority of this week rereading those works and broadly familiarizing myself with the scholarship on them and more generally on labor in the Middle Ages. After reading so many smart and thoughtful papers by extremely qualified medievalists, I'm feeling inspired but also daunted. These papers expressed ideas and thoughts that I'd been having in a much more articulate and informed way than I am currently capable of, which was simultaneously affirming -- I don't think my ideas are wrong -- and disheartening -- these academics are much more knowledgeable than I am, and can do this work much better. As a researcher, I am trying to let this inspire and motivate me. Reading this breadth of scholarship has helped me realize that narrowing the scope of my research would be beneficial, so I am paring down my focus. I think that turning my worries into tools will be something I work on throughout my research, and I hope to finish these six weeks more capable in that regard.

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how?  If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

Last summer my research project centered around protest poetry and questions of timeliness vs timelessness, and this summer my research focuses on labor and medieval literature. I feel that these projects have some similar themes, but are different enough that my work this summer feels new and challenging. The influence of history on literature is an idea I explored last summer that also guides my work now, but one I feel much better equipped to deal with this time around.

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
3 months ago

I enjoyed reading your first post for this summer, and good luck with it! I know almost nothing about how you can conduct a research project in medieval times, but I look forward to learning more about it in the research symposium this Fall.

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
3 months ago

Week Five:
What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

Throughout this research project, I learned many things in statistics, and doing a research project made me more interested in learning new materials. I was able to find my advisor and do a theoretical research because I took some PhD level courses, but I realized the importance of learning new things, and I actually spent most of my summer time reading and solving problems in the textbook that was used in the courses. Doing a theoretical research was a completely different experience compared to doing a laboratory research, and it was a very valuable experience for me.

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
3 months ago

Hi Daiki,

I'm interested in your theoretical research project. What was it that you were researching/reading? How do you think you might apply this theoretical research to a more practical research project in the future? I know the humanities sometimes faces the problem of application, so I'm wondering if this also applies in math. Do you think it was worth your while to do a theoretical project?

Go to the profile of Malia Simon
3 months ago

Week Five:

Doing journalism for an established publication this summer has been such a learning experience. I would say I've learned the most from my editor, who has taken the time to put together presentations for each meeting and instruct our writing process. Specifically, she has really informed my understanding of what it means to be a journalist beyond just the writing process. She spent a lot of time focusing on the process of just finding a good story, and how to tune your eyes to the world as a journalist.

When it comes to leadership, I really admire her style as well. She conducts the meetings with authority but not dictatorship. She allows for questions and comments whenever people feel moved to do so while also keeping a directed course for the meeting. If I were to become an editor for any sort of publication, I believe I would model after my editor at Honeysuckle--she embodies the idea that the most effective leadership is not always the most threatening one. 

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
3 months ago

Hi Malia, working for a publication and learning leadership skills from collaborating with your editor sounds very interesting, thanks for sharing and interested in learning more about your work! 

Go to the profile of Arya Rao
3 months ago

Week Four:
What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

Scientific research is usually conducted on long timescales; it can take years to start and finish a project. Therefore, a summer-long project can be a challenge-- to work effectively and achieve goals, the project needs to be planned in detail months in advance. The proper tools and reagents need to be ordered so that they can be used at the very beginning of the project.

A piece of DNA that I needed in order to start the main portion of my project was delayed by 5 weeks. Unless I came up with a solution, it was likely that I would not be able to complete the project. Instead of waiting for it to arrive, I applied my skills in molecular biology lab work to genetically engineer the piece I needed from DNA we already had in the lab. This allowed me to stay on track.

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
2 months ago

Wow! Arya, that's amazing problem-solving! Instead of allowing the complication (which by the sounds of it could be fairly typical in your field), you took your determination one step further and actually created the missing portion yourself. That's incredible. It also says so much about how devoted you are to stay on track even when things go in an unusual direction. Great work! This is super inspiring. 

Go to the profile of Arya Rao
3 months ago

Week Three:
What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

I usually arrive at lab at around 8am; it is a very pleasant walk over from my apartment! I make a plan for the day based on my progress on various aspects of my project, determining which experiments will take the longest and which experiments can be done simultaneously. At the beginning and middle of the week, I like to sketch out what my week looks like in terms of experimental progress, looking ahead to the next days and weeks. This kind of planning is especially important in molecular biology, which is extremely dependent on external shipments and experimental timing.

I work until around 6pm each day, doing a mix of work at the lab bench and at the computer. There are 6 people working on Ebola-related projects in the lab; we meet nearly every day to check in and brainstorm. It's a very collaborative environment! It is nice to have these kinds of meetings in person again. 

See here for a pic of my bench space: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1040UKGymIZwjCOm94xtaNU26gmRXIKV0/view?usp=sharing

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
3 months ago

Hey Arya!

Being able to do in-person lab research and have actual, in-person meetings sounds so wonderful!! The ability to easily collaborate and check in on other people is a much more difficult to one to curate online, and I'm more than a little bit jealous of your ability to go into a physical workspace different from your own home every day (though my work has some in-person aspects, I'm mostly still passing the time in front of a computer in my house). Your work on Ebola sounds absolutely fascinating—I have always been very into infectious disease research (from a distance)—and I'm glad you get to conduct it in such a pleasant and collaborative space!

Week Three:  What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

A typical day of my research is usually spent at my computer.  So far I have been creating a literature review of social science and legal literature on the effects of post-9/11 emergency-based national security policies. So, CLIO is my number one resource!

It’s hard to be productive in my dark, hot bedroom (the lack of AC really gets to me), so I try to switch up my research setting and take advantage of Columbia’s campus. Today I am at Butler Library, in a nice cubicle. The libraries have taken away some COVID restrictions, so you can come in without a seat reservation now. Here’s photo of my view! Other days I go to coffee shops or Lerner Hall.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wFZkvMT9cxwbD-JXTKbdNVEQ0JSkjNOY/view?usp=sharing

Today, I am learning about congressional inaction with respect to executive actions related to the War on Terror. Pictured on my laptop is a law review article about how Congress is complicit in the increased secrecy, and lack of accountability and oversight of the Executive branch’s national security actions. But my research isn't always reading through scholarly articles. I have also been trying to educate and contextualize the time that I'm studying-- by listening to speeches and watching videos. Videos like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vzRMaHCysU&ab_channel=APArchive 

On 9/11 I was just 1 year old, so it's important that I try to better understand the spirit of the time (especially the culture of fear and paranoia). Presidential speeches, interviews, etc are the perfect way to do that! 

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
3 months ago

Hi Beatrix!

Your research sounds fascinating! Our projects are pretty different, but I feel you on the difficulty of being productive at home -- I have a bad habit of trying to do research from bed, which never ends as well as I hope. My research is computer-centered too; I was also in Butler the other day! Maybe I'll run into you there sometime :)

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
2 months ago

Hi Beatrix! I love hearing about your typical day especially because your type of research is so similar to mine. Switching up the scenery around you is SO important. I've found that too! Sometimes even just going to the library isn't enough and I try to read an article and take notes outside in the park! Thanks for sharing :) 

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
3 months ago

Week Three:
What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

Throughout the week, I spend most of my day in the lab, arriving at around 9AM and leaving between 6-7PM in the evening. My lab work varies slightly day by day depending on the progress and stage of the experiments. As I am currently running trials and growing plants in different media, I typically prioritize time-sensitive tasks in the morning that involve working in the growth chamber or the cold room, where seeds are placed to germinate and plants are stored throughout the trials. In the afternoon, I spend time analyzing our data (ex. imaging with confocal microscopy, creating new media) and planning ahead.

I attend weekly lab meetings on Tuesdays, where the lab is divided into three groups and each lab member presents on a rotational basis on their most recent work and research. Lab meetings provides a space to engage/learn about the work of other lab members, discuss recent literature and evaluate our current experimental approaches with feedback.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fq9l4KTPM262XHxT5SmBRsTi2hgI9315/view?usp=sharing

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
3 months ago

Week Two:

Does your research incorporate any outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation? If so, how do you plan on approaching research participants or spaces in an effective and, most importantly, ethical manner?  If you are not conducting ethnographic research, what communities do you engage in your research, and how have they informed your project?

How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?

If you are doing a leadership-in-action or community engagement project, how do you interact with community members, and what kind of conversations are you having? How do you connect with this community of people, and what common cause do you find?

While my department at FHI does indeed directly engage with specific communities, such as community health workers in certain Kenyan counties, that direct engagement is not part of my work (that’s up to my supervisors!). However, such feedback and engagement then necessarily influences all of our work, including my own: for example, I’m working on updating information on the menstrual cycle on a healthcare tool and just received word from my supervisor about details from her talks with communities on the ground that should be incorporated in. Such a dialogue is incredibly important, both practically and as part of the broader practice of working to decolonize the work done at FHI. This past week and a half have been, among other things, a meditation on the “global health” work I am doing for this internship and that FHI—and numerous other organizations—are deeply engaged in. It is a field with a very traceable and tangible colonial history (growing directly out of colonial medicine), making such efforts especially crucial. Many aspects of the work can still feel uncomfortable and, well, still somewhat colonial: for example, so many of FHI and other US nonprofits are working off of grant money from USAID, an American government agency, to do work that mainly focuses on people in “low and middle-income countries.” It is not that I think that we are not doing important, relevant, or genuinely helpful work, but—as I am heartened to see FHI is trying to be aware of—there is so much colonial baggage coming with our work that absolutely needs to be addressed and handled. All to say: such conversations with the communities that we intend to benefit, and in a genuine, engaged way, is a necessity to be conducting ethical research and just one of many steps in decolonizing the work.

Maybe that’s a tangent, or maybe not—I think it’s also important for the question of “presence” in my work. I think that necessarily, I do not need to and should not really be present in some of the work I’m doing (like in my work on this healthcare tool); while others, such as a more creative project I’m working on with another (non-Laidlaw!) intern, needs to be a bit more personalized to be compelling. Beyond whatever final product comes out, I am trying—and, to my credit, I think doing a reasonable job—at making sure I am “present” and expressing myself and my ideas within the workplace and not letting my fear or feelings of newness/inexperience get in the way of contributing and sharing my ideas.

Go to the profile of Brian Perlstein
3 months ago

While my research—which as of now deals with studying anthropology professors—does technically involve ethnographic observation, it does not require this directly on my part. Instead, I deal with the fruits of ethnographic research, and while the researchers I study were quite accepting of different cultural norms, many of their ideas have no place in contemporary anthropological scholarship. For instance, professors like Franz Boas would frequently refer to non-western cultures as “primitive,” and while Boas is the progenitor of cultural relativity, he did consider his culture more advanced than those that he studied. As such, although Boas tried to observe other cultures without any preconceived notions, his observations should not be taken at face value but must instead be weighed against the biases he held while conducting his research.

At the present moment, the communities I have interacted with in my research have, unsurprisingly, mainly been archivists, librarians, and historians. Usually, my interactions consist of requesting primary and secondary source materials, but I have occasionally had more substantial interactions that changed the direction of my research project. For instance, an archivist at the Rye Historical Society pointed me to items at the American Philosophical Society that ended up being of interest to me. Additionally, the archivist at the Philadelphia United Lodge of Theosophists was especially patient with me and took the time to go through some of their manuscript collections that they thought could be of interest to me. As such, the communities I have interacted with have often not only helped me with my requests, but often used their knowledge to further my research in a way I did not originally expect.

While my current research does not especially involve my “presence,” I will soon transition my work to be more focused on presenting my findings as opposed to discovering new information. In that phase of the project, I will have considerable intellectual liberty to synthesize and exhibit my findings. As such, I am already thinking of ways to present some of what I have learned. For instance, I plan on developing an intellectual genealogy that effectively demonstrates how certain key ideas spread across Columbia departments and were transmitted down from professors to their students. While I think that, in this case, this is an effective medium for presenting this information, I also plan on producing a podcast episode that covers information that would be best explained through something more similar to a lecture. Ultimately, I am very excited to have my presence become more visible in my work.

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
3 months ago

Week 2: 

My research has yet to incorporate outside participation via interviews, but I expect it to be included in the future. I think my research into the 15-minute city and its necessary components would benefit greatly from conversations with the hypothetically affected community (Portland, ME residents). For example, finding out the typical routine of a 30-something, middle-income resident of Portland, ME vs. a 60-something retired resident would aid in understanding what community assets would make a difference to their lives. As I’ve yet to begin these types of interviews, I found myself imagining the community I know in Portland while I’m applying the theories of urban planning to my hypothetical world. This is definitely a good base group to have now, but I will definitely want to expand this group in the future.

When it comes to urban planning I think a mixture of invisibility and presence is best. Or, better said, it depends on the stage of the planning. The creator is present in your initial brainstorming while thinking about the human experience but once the brainstorming stops and the planning starts, the involvement of a planner should become more invisible as to prevent selfish planning (planning that benefits the daily life of the creator rather than the typical resident).

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
3 months ago

Hi Lily,

Thank you so much for sharing! I really like your point about how a mixture of invisibility and presence is best when it comes to urban planning. I am excited to see what new perspectives interview can bring to your research. Hope all goes well!

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
3 months ago

Week Three:

What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

A typical day of my community engagement starts at 7:15 AM when we hold our morning outdoor activity for our students. The plan for the rest of the day varies, but typically most mornings are reserved for two 1.5 hour-long workshops. In these workshops, the other volunteers and I teach the students varies skills including engaging with different types of texts, note-taking, leadership, and group decision-making. The afternoons are reserved for community exploration, during which the students are divided into smaller groups and I am responsible for taking a group of students out of the classrooms to explore the community around them. Yesterday I took the students to Chamagudao (the Tea Horse Road), an ancient trade road used for trading tea and silk for 2000 years. The road was only a half hour walk from the classroom. In the evening, we host reading clubs and movie screenings for the students. There are 6 volunteer mentors in the organization (including myself), and we typically get together for a brief meeting after the evening student activities. A typical day ends at 10:30 PM after our volunteer meeting. 

Here is a photo of a morning workshop: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uzUg6Vk574EDrltqC3BV_qLzwC-FXpcF/view?usp=sharing

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
3 months ago

Week Two:
Does your research incorporate any outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation? If so, how do you plan on approaching research participants or spaces in an effective and, most importantly, ethical manner?  If you are not conducting ethnographic research, what communities do you engage in your research, and how have they informed your project?

How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?

I am not conducting ethnographic research, but as my project centers on the dynamic between specific literary texts and workers' responses to changing labor practices, present day labor disputes and the communities that engage with them are always on my mind. Doing my research, I've been thinking a lot about the different ways communities metabolize and express labor-related anxieties -- my work centers literary response, but that's certainly not the only kind. I expect my thinking on my work's resonances with the present day to only grow as I become more sure of the past/medieval side.

I think that my project is more suited towards an invisible researcher? Honestly, I'm not totally sure what an invisible vs visible researcher looks like. I'm trying to research and defend ideas I have, and maybe my having those ideas in itself necessitates or demands my 'presence'? On the other hand, I'm working with some pretty objective material -- a critical document for me this week was a medievalist's record of productivity yield by year from a specific region of England -- and this material exists and declares itself regardless of my presence. I actually worry a little that there's too much of myself in my research -- I'm a little nervous I'll accidentally misinterpret the records and articles I read to suit my project. I think it's important to balance researcher presence and invisibility, and I hope I'm doing that alright. 

Hi Charlotte, your research project is fascinating! The first thing I thought about when reading the beginning of your post is: who is able to write during this time? Especially since your project is about labor-related anxieties. If someone is working all day under harsh conditions, would they even have the energy or wherewithal to sit down and write about it? I'm sure you're addressing and thinking of these questions already, but it's definitely an interesting issue. It's always important to consider which perspectives your project cannot address, or which communities had no access to the medium of writing. 

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
2 months ago

Hey Charlotte! As you already know, I'm really interested in all of the material you're working with (though without actually knowing anything about morality plays or wheat productivity in East Anglia as I'm sure you now do). Your worry about misinterpreting records and articles to suit your project is one that resonates with me, and certainly a worry I've had with other projects I've done. At first, I wanted to counter and hopefully alleviate this worry of yours by pointing out that records like regional productivity are, like you say, usually objective (assuming we believe the medievalist) and hard to misinterpret, until I remembered that data can lie (or rather, as a stats major, we can manipulate data to lie), so maybe they actually can be misinterpreted (well, willfully so)—which isn't very helpful or destressing at all. Those tangents aside—I think you'll be safe treating such records as objective as long as you don't start trying to do any data analysis—I wonder if having such objective and quantitative material can serve as a good basis for some of your work and thus help alleviate some of the worry of misinterpretation.

Week Four: What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

One of the main challenges I’m dealing with is learning and familiarizing myself with a new landscape of scholarship— legal scholarship. There are unfamiliar terms, rules, doctrines, etc that I’ve encountered and had to teach myself about. It’s difficult to dive into a field that you do not have experience in, but it also serves as an opportunity to widen your breadth and knowledge. Usually what I do when I am stuck on a concept is I reach out to my research mentor and ask. But I also think there is something special about finding something out on your own. For example, last week I was reading an article about the sentencing of those convicted of material support offenses, and I didn’t really understand what “material support” meant. What qualifies as “providing material support to terrorist groups” and how can it lead to a sentence from thirty years to life, for a crime that would otherwise result in a sentence of around five years? These questions prompted me to extensively research and teach myself about material support offenses and the Terrorist Enhancement sentencing guidelines, as well as the Treasury’s role in designating certain entities as terrorist groups.

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you? 

This research experience has interested me in the field of national security law. I’ve known for a couple years now that I want to pursue a career in foreign policy. But I’ve thought that I would do foreign policy analysis (i.e. doing research and writing and advocacy in a think tank or other kind of non-government organization). Now, with this project, I’m realizing that there’s an entire field of national security law that uses law as an instrument for arguing certain national security policy changes. I didn’t know that I could actually *practice* law in a way that would intersect with my interests. I am now considering going to law school because of this research experience. I would love to use a law background to analyze the legality of certain measures (for example, indefinite detention, torture, war crimes, extrajudicial killings), or even have a direct impact on the victims of these policies and work towards accountability.

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
about 2 months ago

Hi Beatrix! I also worked within the legal research field last summer, and it was a large learning curve for me, too. The legal jargon often was very confusing, and I even found myself googling symbols I couldn't understand! Doing legal research also showed me the breadth of the legal field and the possibilities someone has with a law degree. Thanks for sharing!

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
2 months ago

Week Four:
What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.
Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you?   How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

I have been monitoring plant growth and imaging fluorescent markers expressed for different genes under the microscope to localize components of a signaling mechanism in plants. I have been growing plants on medium with varying nutrient levels and using agarose powder to solidify the medium into a gel-like substance. While using agarose helps keep the plants fixed on the medium during the trial, this also presents challenges during the imaging process as the roots of the plants may grow into the medium/gel over time, making it difficult for the microscope to capture the fluorescence clearly. I am now currently experimenting with using a solution that helps clear off lipids from the plant tissue and removing each individual plant off of the medium and transferring them on slides at the end of our trial in order to capture better and clearer microscopy images.

Being a part of my current lab, attending lab meetings and seminars held by faculty on this campus has helped me broaden my horizons. Within our lab, I have had the opportunity to hear about the research of different lab members and gain multiple perspectives on the current trends and frontiers in plant development research. My work remains focused on understanding the individual components of plant hormone pathways and I am excited to continue exploring different aspects of my project and research in plant development.

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
2 months ago

Hi Scarlet, I'm glad to hear that you are having a great experience in your lab. I also gained a lot of things from attending lab meetings and seminars, and I'm sure that you can learn a lot of things by attending them. Good luck with growing plants, and I hope you can get a good result in your research project!

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
2 months ago

Week Three:
What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

Remote research means that most of my day is spent in front of the computer—or, more accurately, in front of my mother’s, in her office, as my computer is a little too old to process all the different tabs and applications I need to have open. After a quick walk in the morning before it gets too hot to enjoyably be outside, I sit down, check my email (I get so much email now!) and figure out how I want to proceed with my day. I write out a broad sketch of what I want to accomplish each day each week, but especially as new meetings usually end up meaning new work, I never end up doing exactly what I’ve written down on Monday that I’d do. Usually at some point in the day, I’ll chat, either through video or direct message, with the other intern in my department at FHI, Margaret, both because she is wonderful and a great person to bounce ideas off of and because there are a series of tasks we’re collaborating on (writing up certain commentaries, a more creative knowledge management project, and more). I’ve really enjoyed being able to have a good chunk of my work be collaborative, especially since, for the time being, I’m still just sitting in my house for most of the day. Though we’re both working on similar topics, Margaret has a completely different background than me (an English major who’s also pre-med, so I think that gives you some context), so her perspective often differs from mine in meaningful and productive ways. Depending on the day, I’ll also have video meetings with some of the other permanent staff at the department, including my supervisor and other close collaborators about projects I can assist on and ideas that need discussing. Especially this week, I’ve started a bunch of projects in very different areas—data cleaning, commentary writing, a literature review, and graphic design, of all things—which means I get to use a lot of different parts of my mind (and hopefully all for good).

For the multimedia part of this week, I’ve decided to share some of the publicly available resources and materials FHI has to offer a better sense of what it is I’m actually doing (and hopefully a more interesting addition than a photo of my mother’s completely barren office desk). A fair amount of my work is on projects that are technically confidential, which both is exciting and means I have to be necessarily somewhat vague as to what I get up to. But one project I’m working on is an update to the NORMAL counseling tool job aid FHI is developing and field-testing to help healthcare providers and community workers counsel people on contraceptive-induced menstrual changes (CIMCs, as we call them), what they are, and how they are, well, normal. And much of my other work surrounds CIMCs, too, and particularly unearthing and reframing what the impact of most hormonal contraceptive methods can be and mean for a user’s quality of life, as explained in this video.

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
2 months ago

Hi Lillian: Wow, this sounds like such a wonderful opportunity! I really relate to the way you discussed remote internships, and the need for squeezing in the outdoor time when the temperature outside is actually bearable! I think it's so cool that you have developed a relationship with a fellow intern in your department, and that you both have different perspectives that end up ultimately making each of your research projects even better. What are some things that you have found particularly helpful during your workflow? How structured is your typical day? 

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
2 months ago

Week Two: Typical Day of Research

Honestly, my research this summer is great because it’s so free-flowing, but it’s also challenging for the same reason. Time management is a skill I’m always trying to improve. Very early on in this process, I decided to make a work schedule similar to that of a workplace or school. I have meals, planning, relaxation, and, of course, specific research mapped out into a daily schedule. So far this system has worked pretty well. The scheduled hours that have especially come in handy is the time I devote to planning my day as specifically as possible. I set tasks, attempt a to-do list, and collect sources to dive into. That being said, I’m always open to suggestions as to how to plan my day to be even more productive! Let me know if any of you have some tips!

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
2 months ago

Oops, I meant week three! 

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
2 months ago

Hi Lily!

I'm also trying to get better at time management! I find that I often start my day with a too-ambitious list of things I want to get done, and then regardless of how much I actually accomplish I feel a little disappointed at the end. This isn't a very helpful comment -- I don't have any tips -- but I'd love to hear more about your timetable, your system sounds great.

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
2 months ago

Hi Lily: Yes! I agree and work similarly, though my to-do list time is always right before bed just because it helps me fall asleep. 

The one tip I have: I generally find that if I bake too much structure in my day, that if I get derailed, I won't be able to recover. Thus, instead, I create a Minimum Viable Product list, which is the minimum that I need to get done in a given day, and then create a Best Case Scenario list, where I include other tasks I'd love to complete if I have the time. I hope this helps! :)

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
2 months ago

Week Three:

What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

My research is very reading-heavy, so I spend most of my time hanging out in a library doing work on my computer! On my laptop CLIO and JSTOR are basically always open, as well as a bunch of word docs where I catalogue relevant excerpts from articles and write down my thoughts. Today I was in Avery trying to find an article on artistic depictions of spades in the fifteenth century -- no luck -- and I'm planning on going to the law library soon to read old records of medieval court cases. Right now I'm looking for information on enclosure, a medieval farming practice. I really enjoy how self-directed my research is, but the lack of a strict timetable sometimes hurts too. I've tried to make a schedule and stick to it, some days that works better than others.

Here is a picture of what my laptop looked like for part of the day today!

Hi Charlotte, our "typical research days" are quite similar! I agree that it's difficult to hold yourself accountable without a strict timetable. Sometimes I struggle a lot with getting up early and being productive. One thing that has worked for me is just getting myself out of my apartment and onto campus. Once I am out of my comfort space and in a library or Lerner, I am far more productive.

Also: I hope it's not too difficult during COVID to get easy access to your sources. I wish the libraries would allow us to access the stacks at this time and retrieve books ourselves-- but oh well.

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
2 months ago

Week 1

As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to ignore those insecurities or, better yet, use them to our advantage?

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how?  If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

Absolutely! My project is not completely novel, as other expert researchers have already looked at some of the same specimens in the past to answer different questions from the ones I am asking. However, the way I see it is that as researchers, our job is to build on the foundations that others have already set and the interpretations they have already provided. Nobody's work is truly novel if we think of novelty as existing in a vacuum. I feel that this is advantageous, because I can see my research as an additional insight into thematic conversations researchers are having as a collective, which is only possible thanks to the work that other people have already done so far. 

Many of the techniques which I used in the last summer project are directly translating into the work which I am doing now, and I am very grateful to my advisers in my last project for all that they have taught me! For example, the analytical and quantitative tools are the same. The skills of reading scientific literature and writing are the same, too. Finally, the soft skills of communicating, working in a team, and generally understanding the process for writing a paper have also been very helpful. 

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
2 months ago

Hi Meghan, I'm so excited to see you start your research project for this summer! I think it is a wonderful point that novelty does not exist in a vacuum, and that researchers are entering into an existing conversation. Wish you all the best with your work :)

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
2 months ago

Hi Cindy: Thanks so much! :D I wish you luck as well! 

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
2 months ago

Week Four:

What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you? How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

The challenge I am grappling with is how to balance the people-oriented and the task-oriented approach of doing community service. Since my role in this NGO as a volunteer instructor is to prepare the volunteers for the coming teaching service that they have to complete independently, there are a lot of tasks to complete and deadlines to meet. The volunteers come from extremely diverse backgrounds, and a significant number were past students of the NGO who lived in less privileged areas of China. The combination of these two factors means that I have to constantly balance the need for efficient task completion and the awareness that my audience has very different ways of communication from myself as well as one another. While there is never a clear-cut answer to this conflict, I think it is important to be aware of the tradeoff and to access the situation case by case. 

The community work has introduced me to the field of classical Chinese literature. Yesterday I facilitated a group discussion about pedagogy based on a text written in the pre-Qin dynasty. The text, being written more than two millenniums ago, still surprisingly sparked a discussion about our modern education system and ways of learning. I had the opportunity of meeting several NGO organizers who use the Chinese cannon to facilitate discussions about modern social issues, and I found the approach to be profoundly interesting. There seem to be parallels between this topic and the Columbia Core classes, and I hope to explore more in the following weeks. 

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
2 months ago

I think it's super cool that you're learning about Chinese literature through your work! I've been finding that my expectations at my internship in terms of learning--sometimes we get so focused on the tasks at hand that we miss the actual like, main point! At my placement at this start-up news network, I sometimes forget that we're making interesting news, and it's always something I have to remind myself of. I'm part of the process, and my work doesn't exist in a separate world from the product--it's all connected!

Go to the profile of Daiki Tagami
2 months ago

Week 6:

I used Zoom to record my presentation:

https://columbiauniversity.zoom.us/rec/share/NldJlVpjejUTSNyNvc86sfiKE2WH6lAQPDURX2vZ80A73t1kyw7Zc1irKeDVl6DQ.xqrVuEsCSNzbfw1L?startTime=1626661469000

I'm sad that this is my final post here, but I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments on their research project. I look forward to meeting everyone in the Fall!

Week Five: What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

My research mentor, Hina, has been instrumental in shaping my research experience. She is definitely someone who I look up to— she has one of my dream jobs and is highly dedicated,  hard working, and passionate about protecting human rights in national security law. She is also a fantastic leader. Something I’ve learned about leadership from her example is that leaders have a vision. Leaders have a vision for what they believe to be a better future.

When I think of a leader, I usually think of words like “delegating,” “strategic thinking,” “communication,” or “innovation.” All of these ARE characteristics of a leader, but they leave out the passionate part, the core motivation that keeps leaders up at night— the vision that a leader has for how the world could be better, and how to get there.

Hina works tirelessly to represent and advocate for those who have been wrongly detained by the U.S. government, those who have been presumed to be terrorists or disloyal, and those who have been targeted, with their constitutional rights violated.  This is because she views the U.S. executive branch’s actions since 9/11 as expansive and ultimately harmful, especially for communities of color. In her leadership, she is guided by the belief that things should change, that Americans must have their rights protected, and that endless war-making and war-based measures will degrade democracy and inclusion at home. I am inspired by that vision and I hope that I can take after her  when I enter my career.

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
about 1 month ago

Hi Beatrix, 

I also found my supervisor to be incredibly inspiring but for different reasons. I think it is so amazing that your supervisor gave you a lot of passion for your work and helped you find a vision for your future. Hina sounds like an amazing leader and role model who we should all aspire to be similar to. 

Go to the profile of Paul Hanna
2 months ago

Week Five

What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

------

I've gained tremendous amounts of experience in the realm of "figuring things our yourself." What started as a fear turned into an area of confidence, and I'm glad I've learned to sort of work without clear directives by setting them myself. I even became more confident during my pitches to nonprofits during our meetings--my manager, Gurjinder, stated that I was on track to replace him, which are motivating words!

That being said, Gurjinder has played an important role in helping me find some direction and proposing certain areas to explore when I ran into roadblocks. He is a diligent person, always very precise and type-A, but it helps quite a bit when you're sort of running amuck. He's helped me learn more about opportunities in journalism and in nonprofit work, and he's also just been a tremendous help in terms of career discovery! So far, I've been informally introduced to a few colleagues that have careers in industries that I am thinking of, places like film, television, the art market, and the like.

In regard to leadership, I've certainly learned the value of finding the balance between friendliness and alienation between a leader and those who follow. He could certainly be a bit harsh at times, but he doesn't hold grudges, which I admit is good. I think personally, I tend to be too friendly, and I think I need to take work relationships for what they are, focusing on the closer bonds that are developed either as organically by virtue of time spent with people, or once a project is complete, just so that we can set a ground standard in terms of how we work. I intend on doing this in the future, and being more of a guiding figure--offering broad strokes of where we should be heading, but not micromanaging people to do the small things in the way that I might do them. I think that is incredibly important, and certainly a tough problem for me to fix so far.

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
2 months ago

Hi Paul! Your project this summer sounds like an extremely educative and meaningful one.  I think "figuring things out yourself" is an extremely important skill and one that I am definitely still trying to learn. In terms of leadership, you put it very nicely in describing it as a balance of friendliness and alienation. I too tend to lean too far on the friendly end and often lack the independent and more "harsh" perspective. If you have any advices in the future about what helps you in achieving this balance do let me know! Wish you all the best with your project!

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
2 months ago

Week Four: 

One of the largest difficulties I’ve encountered is navigating the economic incentives and complications for urban planning. My background is more in the social and environmental characteristics of good planning which often overlap with improving the local economy, but I still feel that I have lots to learn about the economic factors at play. The main way I’ve dealt with this difficulty is by taking the concepts extremely slowly. For example, when I was learning about the process of a town or city filing for bankruptcy as it connects to the general theme of America’s dependence on the debt and growth process, I took the time to learn about the process of bankruptcy as well as the history of the location. I imagine that I’m slowly taking apart a machine until I understand how to put it back together myself. This has been extremely helpful in the long run.

As for finding new fields of interest, yes! Absolutely, and in the best way! At the beginning of my project, I was researching city planning and how its theories could apply to my hometown of Portland, Maine. Through my research, I have discovered how much city improvement relies on well-planned suburbs and the roads that connect them. I’ve followed the rabbit hole that has led me to suburban-oriented planning theories like transforming the “stroad” (a combination of a street and road), and more!

Go to the profile of Beatrix Geaghan-Breiner
about 2 months ago

Lily, I love how to you say you are "slowly taking apart a machine" until you "understand how to put it back together." And since economic incentives are so central to what a local government is willing to do for urban planning, it is very good that you are exploring and teaching yourself the economic world of urban planning. Onward!

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
2 months ago

Week Four:

What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you?   How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

I’ve been able to work on a variety of projects during my time at FHI, but the most challenging one has been the aggregation of several public datasets, mainly DHS and PMA surveys, into Excel to determine what indicators on menstruation have been and are being measured, alongside where and when. While I know how to code (theoretically—it’s been a while), I have actually never used Excel in any real capacity before, and my experience with large datasets is limited (and, of course, on a different software). I found the challenge of this to be a mix of my own personal pride—especially since I’m a stats major, I feel like these things should be easy for me—and insecurity alongside my admittedly paltry Excel skills. I hesitated at first to start the task because I was worried I would be in over my head and not know how to resolve any bumps I hit along the way. All of my work so far has taken me out of my comfort zone in some capacity—nothing, of course, is an exact replica of what I did last summer—and this work has by far been the most out-of-left-field. So far, I’ve found that reminding myself of my own inexperience somehow… makes me feel better about my inexperience? I’m only two years into undergrad—I don’t need to be an Excel master! Getting out of my own head has helped a lot with this challenge, alongside a fair dose of asking for help when I need it, either from Google (thanks for introducing me to COUNTIF) or from the scientist I’m working with for a quick call to talk through a problem. The final product is still a work in progress, and I still feel a little unsure about it, but I’m making headway anyway.

Working more explicitly on family planning/SRHR has been an interesting experience. I’m still happiest doing work that involves the reason I wanted to be at FHI—contraceptive-induced menstrual changes—which is a pretty narrow field, especially since the idea of focusing on these changes is so new (which is insane! They’re a huge reason that users discontinue their contraceptive methods!). But even beyond that, my time at FHI has certainly broadened my understanding of my interests and inspired some soul-searching in terms of what I’d want to have in a career moving forward. However, my biggest takeaway has been realizing the aspects I’m less interested in, namely the “global health” side of FHI’s work. I’ve had several good talks with my supervisor and fellow intern about the colonial legacy of global health and its present power dynamics and problems, and I’ve loved those conversations. Thinking about decolonization and global health is going to be part of my work in the upcoming week, so those conversations certainly aren't over, but so far, they’ve only reaffirmed my feeling that while I love this work in SRHR, I don't want to be doing it in this context. 

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
2 months ago

Hi Lillian!

Your work this upcoming week on decolonization and global health sounds so fascinating. I can't wait to read about it!

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
2 months ago

Week Four:


What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you?   How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

I encountered a challenge recently while reading a historical article on regional English farming practice. The article was extremely informative, and greatly helped my thinking on enclosure (the specific farming practice my literary research centers), but also kind of directly countered one of my main claims. According to the article, enclosure was implemented without tensions or anxiety in the region of England on which my work focuses. This which was worrying because my research explores the ways anxieties resulting from agricultural change were reflected in literature, but if there were no anxieties, there could be no literary response. Realizing this, I became pretty stressed out. I spent a while thinking worriedly about how I might resolve the incongruities between my claim and the article's before I finally decided to talk to my mentor about it. She said that actually, this disagreement is perfect -- the article's claim is wrong, and the literature I'm working with is proof of it. In addition to being relevant for its ties to modern labor and societal response, my research could now also be considered significant for countering or adding a dimension to the claim of a celebrated historian. I would have never thought to reframe the conflict between my claim and the article's this way, but it's a technique I'll remember. 

My work has narrowed considerably since the beginning of the project. Originally I intended to focus on several medieval texts, but quickly realized that I didn't feel equipped to address the socioeconomic and labor contexts of multiple works in only six weeks. After narrowing my work to center one specific play, I feel much more confident and less overwhelmed!

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
2 months ago

Hey Charlotte!

I completely believe in your ability to counter this historian’s claim!! I love how your mentor has helped bolster your confidence by offering this change of perspective on what you can do with a contradictory argument and how narrowing your work has made you feel more able to grapple with this project. Knowing when to ask for help was also a theme for me this week, and I think this is a perfect example of just how crucial that skill is—and how many good things can come from it! I am so excited to hear about the conclusions of your research this summer :)

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
2 months ago

Week Five:

What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

My non-profit work for the past five weeks has turned out to be an extremely educative experience. I learned about how a non governmental organization operates, from how they recruit volunteers, conduct volunteers training, to the details of its organizational structure and relationship with donors. More importantly I gained a lot of first hand knowledge of the K-12 public education system in China and its impact on individual students. For example, I learned through talking to students about how the problems of left-behind children (children whose parents have left their home village to find jobs in cities) intertwines with public school malpractices in less privileged areas. Though the Chinese policy forbids primary and secondary public schools from expelling students, schools in less developed region where significant portions of the student body are left-behind children often violate this regulation. This is because school officials know that the parents of these students often lack the legal knowledge and the awareness to pursue lawsuits (which are in fact very simple for these parents to win) against the school. 

Hong Liu, the founder of the NGO and my supervisor, has been a mentor to me was instrumental in shaping my community service project. His background in sociology and East-Asian studies brings in a distinct academic perspective to social work. Not only had he provided me knowledge about how to facilitate volunteer work, his experience of dedicating the past 15 years in running this NGO to promote equity in education in China and his down-to-earth attitude has been instrumental in shaping my understanding of what constitutes impactful and meaningful community service. 

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
2 months ago

Week 2 Reflection

Does your research incorporate any outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation? If so, how do you plan on approaching research participants or spaces in an effective and, most importantly, ethical manner?  If you are not conducting ethnographic research, what communities do you engage in your research, and how have they informed your project?

I've not yet finished my research, but once the bulk of the work is done, I am going to be reaching out to local schools and libraries to give presentations about our findings. This is very exciting to do for me, and it is actually the part of my work which I look forward to the most. I think it is quite rare to see scientists presenting within my local community and directly getting involved with public schools in my area. I do not remember ever meeting or interacting with a research scientist up until I was in high school. I think this is a general gap I have noticed in science education: There isn't much interaction between researchers and young people (people under 16). It would have made me super happy when I was that young had I been able to spend time asking questions to research scientists. Until I have results, however, I try my best to be cautious about what I say to other people about my work, as I do not want to come to conclusions before I have examined and thought about the data. 

How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?

I interpret being present in scientific studies as following your and your colleagues' intuition for what makes the research exciting, important, or interesting. There is somewhat of a gut feeling you get, where there seem to be some questions in particular that the specimens you are examining or the data you are collecting will offer insight into. By this definition, I think I am very present in this project. For example, I am really curious to find out what the ecology of this group was, and one of my advisers suggested certain anatomical structures we can focus on to do so. My other adviser raised a super interesting question which I have adopted as well, which is why did this group in particular go extinct? Finally, I am really hoping that we can better understand paleoherpetological faunal turnovers in this research, as this is something I have become very excited about after reading about work which has been done on lizard evolution in the Antilles and Caribbean. Macroevolutionary history of squamates is quite difficult to track quantitatively because of preservation bias, so being able to investigate to what extent this major mammalian faunal turnover also affected squamates is very exciting to me. I think these three questions will be partially answered by our research. 

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
2 months ago

To clarify, "this major mammalian faunal turnover" refers to the Grande Coupure. 

Go to the profile of Bethel Ikenna Adiele
2 months ago

Hi Meghan!

I really love the way you described your presence in the project through your personal intuition and that of your colleagues and mentors. It points to the collective and community-oriented nature of research in itself, and it's something that I have also experienced in my vaccine advocacy lab. It's like we're going on a quest towards a prize (say solving a specific research question or fulfilling a deliverable), and we have to map out the way as we go. Describing these intuitions as your "presence" in the project is so fitting!

I am excited for your presentations and how this will fill the gap you find in science education in high school! Wishing and hoping for all the best!

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
about 2 months ago

Hi Bethel: I apologize for not seeing your comment sooner! Thank you for the kind words. :) I'm excited for your research as well! 

Go to the profile of Bethel Ikenna Adiele
2 months ago

Week 1

My project this summer is online, though it is also very much field-work. Last summer, I conducted an independent research study on COVID-19’s multiplicative effects on pre-existing racial and ethnic disparities, and I had to perform literature reviews on health disparities broadly and review on community health profiles from NYC. This summer, my research pushes the needle on my work last year, seeking to understand how health disparities manifest in vaccination. I am working with Prof. Rishi Goyal and Prof. Dennis Tenen, who is leading a Columbia World Project on Increasing COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence. The aim of this project is to analyze the online poetics of vaccine hesitancy, being that social media and the internet broadly is a major proponent in the fight against vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination rhetoric.

Thus, a major part of my community engagement focuses on being in online communities like reddit channels, youtube, facebook groups, and twitter. Our project team would take language, posts, flyers in the communities we examine for the purposes of linguistic analysis using python natural language processing (NLP) to determine sentiments of hesitancy, support, or rejection of vaccines. So, my biggest worry was that of engaging with online communities while also not trying to impose my research goals onto individuals online. The topic of privacy and (mis)usage of personal viewpoints for research purposes is something I have to keep in mind for this!

Go to the profile of Bethel Ikenna Adiele
2 months ago

Week 2

Does your research incorporate any outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation? If so, how do you plan on approaching research participants or spaces in an effective and, most importantly, ethical manner?  If you are not conducting ethnographic research, what communities do you engage in your research, and how have they informed your project?

My research does have an ethnographic component. As part of the undergraduate team, I am specifically focusing on vaccine hesitancy in the Black community. Since, my work is online, much of my ethnographic work has been centered around scouring through Black Twitter, Reddit, Instagram channels to understand what Black people's concerns about vaccination are and why they have these concerns. So far, the issue of trust appears frequently. Thus, my project calls me to think of and examine ways that trust can be built between the black community and local government, health officials, etc. 

How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?

The researcher in my project is more invisible. However, based on my experience as a black person who personally has family and friends in the black community who are vaccine hesitant, my project pushes me to take seriously their questions. Also, I find that many concerns they have mirror the concerns I find in the online communities as well. Thus, my personal experience helps inform my project and vice versa.

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
2 months ago

Hi Bethel, Thanks for sharing about your project! The ethnographic component sounds very interesting and timely. I am excited to hear more about your research in the fall.

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
2 months ago

Week Five:
What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

This summer, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work in-person in the lab, broaden my horizons and learn new lab techniques. I have been working with a postdoctoral researcher in the lab, who has helped advise and guide my project. From sharing/discussing published literature to learning how to image with confocal microscopy, I have learnt more about how to lead a project and the planning that is required with lab bench work as the plants take time to grow during their individual cycles and we must account for how we can alternate with imaging and analysis to maximize our research efforts and manage these time-sensitive tasks.

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
about 2 months ago

Hi Scarlet! It sounds very rewarding to have the chance to work in-person. I hope you get the chance to continue your research and have a leadership role in the lab! 

Go to the profile of Arya Rao
2 months ago

Week Five:

Working in a large lab has afforded me the opportunity to meet and learn from a lot of amazing people! My PI is an MD/PhD; since this is the career path I plan on pursuing, I have been able to ask her for her insight on questions I have regarding my next steps. The group within the lab studying Ebola (about 5 people) is close-knit and has a diverse set of scientific skills. I've become a better scientist just by talking with my colleagues every day. My graduate student mentor has been an especially positive influence as I pursue lab work this summer.

In this setting, I've developed both independence and collaborative skills. Working in such a big group has placed my work into perspective; I am empowered to ask for help when I need it and to provide my insight when I am able. 

Go to the profile of Beatrix Geaghan-Breiner
about 2 months ago

Week 6:

Click here to watch my video: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kEvuqDR-o1TCTkKvUyah868odT143uWJ/view?usp=sharing

Have a great rest of your summer! Thanks to Dean Lang and the whole Laidlaw community. 

Go to the profile of Yaxin (Cindy) Gao
about 2 months ago

Week 6

Hi all! This is my video presentation: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yQ-mGaUkFCdIS82TH50vGUCWnfAHkZqH/view?usp=sharing

Thank you so much Dean Lang for all your help! Wish everyone the best and see you all in the fall!

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
about 2 months ago

Wow Cindy, your work is so inspiring, amazing job! Hope to see you in fall!

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
about 2 months ago

Unfortunately, my research this summer has not incorporated any outside participation, such as interviews. However, I have felt a lot of engagement with my home communities while I conduct research, especially in my everyday life. My go-to question when interacting with an Uber driver has become "I do research in water contamination. Do you prefer bottled or tap water?" Under the surface of that simple question, I have found a million opinions and cultural differences. From people telling me about how they never drink tap water or only drink tap water or wish they could afford a in-home treatment system or how the norms in their home cities differ from New York City. Water, such an essential part of life, is very much a given in the United States, whereas other countries might have much more struggle for potable or non-potable water. Hearing how someone's source of drinking water greatly affects their life has been a huge motivator in continuing my research this summer, even when my code won't run or my tasks get complicated. 

Working with the effect of natural disasters on public water systems has truly helped me connect with my communities at home and have conversations with my family members about how natural disasters have affected their lives. I found that being prepared for a hurricane or for a lack of water has always been engrained in how I lived, and I feel much more connected with anecdotes from my life in New Orleans knowing that my community has often faced the threat of water contamination from natural disasters. It is disheartening to read previous literature and find the disconnect between the researcher and the people, but learning of arsenic contamination in well-water and then calling my grandparents to ask about well and water treatment makes me feel connected to my research in a way I have not been before. 

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
about 2 months ago

Hi Kate: This is so cool! I love how you've found a way to bring your research into conversations with everyday people to learn from them as well! This is a great idea for staying engaged with the broader NYC+home community! :)

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
about 2 months ago

For week three, a typical day on the job starts with logging into my email and checking to see if my supervisor has given me any tips on things I need to work on for the day. Then, I go back to my notes from our previous meetings (every Friday afternoon outside NoCo!), and I open Rstudio. I often find myself overwhelmed with tasks, and I like to write down a few to do for that day. Today, I gave a presentation on the models I had made previously, and I spent a lot of time making a powerpoint presentation for the scientists at my research center. Then I typed up the notes from the meeting and made some adjustments to my models before I have my Friday meeting tomorrow. I am working from my apartment in New York, so I like to take a walk sometime during the day, catch up with a friend for lunch, or go on a quick run! 

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
about 2 months ago

Week Five:

What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

It’s hard to easily summarize everything I’ve learned from this internship so far—at the risk of sounding somewhat dramatic, I feel like I've learned an entirely different mindset (and one that can be difficult to shift out of after hours). It’s the difference between conceptually understanding what public health work means and, well, actually doing it, and being a part of the structures and systems and teams that make it happen. So lots of hard-to-articulate, abstract skills have been gained, alongside some more tangible ones—with every email I write, I hesitate in pressing send a little bit less, and opening up an Excel sheet doesn’t fill me with dread anymore—and are undoubtedly informing how I think about what a professional future looks like for me. There are so many things to want!

On a similar note, so many different people have been cornerstones for me as I’ve done my research and work that it feels difficult to name just one. However, since I’ve just gotten off of a really great and engaging call with Amelia, a scientist at FHI (her title is indeed, literally just “scientist”), I’ll go with her. She’s doing the work that’s closest to the work I think I ultimately want to be doing down the line—not quite doing full-on clinical trial research, but not fully involved in the more nebulous and undefined worlds of knowledge management and research utilization—and it’s been under her guidance that I’ve been crafting this menstrual indicators database, which is one of the biggest projects I’ve worked on during this internship and the only one that has been my exclusive work. But I think that the greatest impact she’s had on me so far is an idea she expressed in our call earlier. I was asking about her background and education, and she imparted this advice: “As long as you’re moving forward [academically and professionally] and not just treading water, no decision is a wrong decision.” It was an immensely reassuring thing to hear, and does seem to hold true: Everyone in my department at FHI took incredibly different routes to end up at the same place, and everyone I’ve spoken to seems really quite happy with that reality. Of all the advice people have given me so far during my internship, I think I’ll take Amelia’s advice most to my heart, at least philosophically (I won’t ignore everyone telling me to know some “hard skills,” either).

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
about 2 months ago

Week Five:

What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

I feel like I've learned so much over these past weeks, both in terms of academics/knowledge and skill. The knowledge side is pretty straightforward -- my project is research-focused, and I've gained new knowledge about medieval literature and labor. This week I've been reading some 14th century court cases, and in accessing those I've also learned where to find some specific kinds of information, which is something I'd undervalued before beginning my project. Skill-wise, I feel much more capable of doing self-directed work now. I know my work habits better, and I know what I need to do to be productive and proud of myself. 

My project is very virtual and self-directed, so I haven't met many people who could have shaped my work, but my research mentor has been so wonderful and crucial throughout my research process. Early on I had some big worries about the direction of my project, and my mentor was such an incredible asset in helping me think about what I wanted to focus on and what kinds of information I wanted to incorporate. I made a pretty big pivot in my work around week two, and I was a little nervous to tell my mentor, but I shouldn't have been -- she was so supportive and helpful, and I felt much more confident and sure of myself after meeting with her. Her support has taught me a lot about leadership -- sometimes I still slip into thinking that leadership is only external and exists exclusively in group settings, but interacting with my mentor has taught me that leadership is also mental and internal. I hope to carry this in the future, and remember the importance of leading from within.

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
about 2 months ago

Hi Charlotte! I was so happy to read your post and see that you have found a similar relationship with your research mentor as I have these past few weeks. I'm also on week five of the fellowship and I can't imagine where I would be without someone to encourage me to take risks in my research. Glad you're experiencing something similar! 

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
about 2 months ago

Week Five: 

My academic advisor, Professor Eric Goldwyn, has been extremely helpful in shaping my project. Frequently, we meet to discuss the rabbit holes my research has taken me down. As a transportation expert, Professor Goldwyn can offer me real-world answers to my most extraordinary urban planning ideas. Most of the time, my questions for him are about how realistic some urban planning idea is, and what is standing in the way of achieving it. Professor Goldwyn is a very serendipitous researcher. At least, that’s what he encourages me to do based on how he researched urban design and planning in grad school at Columbia. As such, I’ve learned from him that it’s okay, and even fruitful, to follow the rabbit holes of researching. Because of this advice, I’ve been able to take my research in new directions and develop my own interest in fields I didn’t know existed before.

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
about 2 months ago

Week 3

What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia!

I am currently working hybrid. On days when I work at the American Museum of Natural History, I catch the bus and the subway to the AMNH. Once I am there, I badge in and wait for James, my graduate adviser. We usually discuss research together for a few minutes while we set up. Then, I start working on segmenting in the AMNH segmenting room. 

Segmenting is when you label individual bones in a CT scan slice to export them for 3D reconstruction of the fossils you are examining. I do this both at home and at the AMNH, but the AMNH has a computer setup for segmentation which can handle a much larger file size and which is much easier to use than my current home setup. As a consequence, at home I work on a smaller specimen, while at the AMNH I work on a larger specimen which requires more computing power to segment. 

I am able to segment about 7-12 bones per day, depending on the size of the bones, using the AMNH setup. I usually do this while listening to music. I will frequently reach out to James or Dalton, my co-authors, if I have a question about certain aspects of the anatomy. Because bones often get disarticulated during fossilization, this means sometimes which bones are which on the CT slices can be difficult to discern. I also meet with Professor Raxworthy, my adviser, to discuss research questions and also to discuss studying/comparing with extant anguids. 

As I pack up to leave, I always take pictures of the bones of the skull I have completed so far. This way, I can continue drafting the description for the paper even when I am not at the museum. 

Here are some photos! I tried to include some scenic NYC photos to make my fellow Columbians happy. :)

The one where I am wearing blue is in the segmenting room. You can see the AMNH setup with a tablet. The three panels which form an L and are all in 2D represent the 3 axes of slices for the CT scans. You can color on any of these axes, and switch axes if a suture is more visible in a different view. The bottom right panel displays a 3D model of what you are segmenting. You can use it to orient yourself and also visualize your segmenting, to make sure that your segmentation has been done correctly. I do not have it shown in the photo, but I also have my laptop set up, with key papers on anguid research. These help guide me in knowing what shapes the bones are, where the sutures would be, and whether or not there are strange aspects of the anatomy in the specimen I am looking at. 

The others are waiting for/in the bus and in the "Canoe Room" (77th Street entrance) of the AMNH! 

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1eK26HlleTpFCjMYxWy8PZSj0yrfJ6T5q?usp=sharing

Go to the profile of Bethel Ikenna Adiele
about 2 months ago

Requested access to see the rocks Meghan! 

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
about 2 months ago

I'm sure someone else has said this to you before, Meghan, but every time I hear you talk about your work in evolutionary biology I can't help but think you're living out a childhood dream in the best possible way (eight-year-old me would have loved to study fossils). Your work sounds like such an interesting mix of in-person collaboration, technology, hands-on research, and paper writing! It's fascinating to hear what your day-to-day is like and I'm envious of how much travel and hands-on aspects it has—I hope it is every bit as exciting as it sounds on paper :)

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
about 2 months ago

Hi Bethel: I shared folder with you yesterday! Please let me know if you still don't have access. 

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
about 2 months ago

Hi Lillian: Thank you! I definitely am living out my childhood dream and more. I always thought I would only be doing dinosaur research; as a kid, I never would have expected that I'd be studying anguid lizards at the museum! I really hope that you'll be able to have a hands-on opportunity soon. :) Even if your current experience is remote, I'm sure the top-notch work you are doing will open up doors in the near future. I also hope you'll get the chance to meet your adviser(s) in-person and spend lots of fun quality time with them once the pandemic is over! 

Go to the profile of Scarlet Au
about 2 months ago

Week Six:
For your final post, upload a video presentation to our site. In your presentation, please discuss your project: why did you become interested in it, what was the goal of the project, what was its significance or impact (real or potential). Finally, please consider how your understanding of leadership (curiosity, empathy, teamwork, resilience, etc.) has informed your work or been deepened by your work.

Video presentation link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Ks6FkfQvN8cYbgRCk_jzRqCG34uFuN-p/view?usp=sharing

Thank you to Dean Lang and the Laidlaw program/community for their continued support and hope everyone have a great rest of the summer!

Go to the profile of Bethel Ikenna Adiele
about 2 months ago

Week 3

What does a typical day of your research/community engagement look like? Aside from a narrative description, upload a photo, video and/or other multimedia! 

At 10:15 - 11:15 am, I have a meeting with the team

At 11:15am -1:00pm, we have an undergraduate team workshop for studying language behind vaccine hesitant posts

These meetings happen every Tuesday

The rest of my day is focused on looking through research on African American vaccine hesitancy and collecting ethnographic linguistic data from black forums on reddit, youtube, twitter, etc.  

Photo: Vaccine Advocacy Group weekly meetings!

Go to the profile of Bethel Ikenna Adiele
about 2 months ago

Week 4

What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

Our vaccine advocacy team has collected linguistic data on comments people have made surrounding the topic of vaccination, and these comments are from facebook, twitter, youtube, and reddit channels. Now, we are entering the stage of analyzing the data in order to arrive at key tropes and patterns or "poetics" in vaccine hesitant or anti-vaccination language. With tens of thousands of data, we've wrestled with how we would be able to effectively run descriptive analysis to come to proper topics and sentiments that can allow us to write direct messages to address these sentiments. 

So, we spent hours discussing exploration methods we can use to make sense of and group the patterns of sentiment and language we see in our data, using natural language processing (NLP) of python. 

Has your research or work in a community to this point introduced you to any new fields or topics that are of interest to you?   How, if at all, has your work narrowed since the beginning of the project?

My work focused on African and Black American vaccine hesitancy has pushed me further into my interest in public health disparities along racial and ethnic lines. It has also introduced me to a whole new world of linguistic data analysis, which I didn't even know was a thing before. My work was pretty narrow from before, since my part of the larger project is focused on African American vaccine sentiment. 

Go to the profile of Lily Friedland
about 2 months ago

Hi Bethel! It's so interesting to hear the types of discussions you're having with your vaccine advocacy team. It's always fascinating to think about the different types of barriers certain research teams encounter. I also wanted to say how happy I am to hear that your research is taking you in new directions regarding linguistic data analysis! Your work is so important and really seems to attempt to draw on as much data and interdisciplinary thinking as possible. I look forward to reading more about your research in the future! 

Go to the profile of Lillian Rountree
about 2 months ago

Week Six:

For your final post, upload a video presentation to our site. In your presentation, please discuss your project: why did you become interested in it, what was the goal of the project, what was its significance or impact (real or potential). Finally, please consider how your understanding of leadership (curiosity, empathy, teamwork, resilience, etc.) has informed your work or been deepened by your work.

Here is the link for my video (accessible via Columbia emails)!  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WMJeZOWgn4ZfHJqwnoluZdsBJboFmcA4/view?usp=sharing 

It's been a really enlightening internship, and I'm so happy to have been able to do it. Good luck to everyone else still working on their projects!

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
about 2 months ago

Hi Lillian: I requested access. Can't wait to watch your video! It sounds like you're very passionate about your project and, from your week five post, that you've learned a lot in this experience. I hope you feel proud of all you've accomplished! Please share the video when you get the chance. :)

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
about 2 months ago

Hi Lillian: You are so confident when you present about your research, and your presentation skills are great! It sounds like it was a phenomenal opportunity and that the work you are doing will have a huge impact for many young women! :) I'm so happy for you! 

Go to the profile of Meghan Rose Forcellati
about 2 months ago

Week 4

What challenges and/or difficulties have you encountered and how did you go about resolving them? Speak to a specific challenge you have encountered and some of the ways that you tackled the problem.

This week, I tried loading my external hard drive onto the computer, and realized the files had gotten corrupted! I was terrified because even a day of progress is a significant amount of work, and last week I had a particularly productive day, so losing all of that data would have been a huge setback. Luckily, my adviser James saved the day by contacting a colleague at Yale who explained a way for us to import an old copy of the image stack into the external hard drive, and then export ROI's from the old file into a new one we created. I was so grateful that my colleagues were able to help solve this issue as it was a very frightening experience. :)

Another challenge I run into often is handling the work from home situation in general. Because I work hybrid, I am able to appreciate how much of a productivity/efficiency tax there is trying to work from home versus in-person. For me, I work about twice as fast at the museum than at home. The way I work around this is by working slightly longer hours when I am at home and focusing more on goals than on "times." In other words, I try to finish tasks I give myself rather than on working for a set period of time. 

Another challenge I run into is getting nervous about timelines. I find spending a bit of time dividing tasks up into mini-deadlines helps me feel less nervous about how much progress I am making. 

If anyone has encountered similar issues or has similar stories, feel free to share. Advice would be appreciated on tackling these types of problems, as I'm sure other people have much better ways of handling them than me, haha. :)

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
about 2 months ago

Hi Meghan!

Oh no, that issue with the files sounds so scary! I'm glad you were able to save your work, what a stressful experience. 

I think focusing on goals over times is a really smart way to deal with working in hybrid! I was having a similar problem, and for me switching to valuing output over time input was helpful. Unfortunately I don't have any better suggestions, but it sounds like you're doing a great job!

Go to the profile of Charlotte Atkins
about 2 months ago

Week Six:

For your final post, upload a video presentation to our site. In your presentation, please discuss your project: why did you become interested in it, what was the goal of the project, what was its significance or impact (real or potential). Finally, please consider how your understanding of leadership (curiosity, empathy, teamwork, resilience, etc.) has informed your work or been deepened by your work.

https://https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aAeAudm4mW5jw4jeMQbZhi1bcLtrfwMc/view?usp=sharing/drive/u/0/https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aAeAudm4mW5jw4jeMQbZhi1bcLtrfwMc/view?usp=sharing-drive

Hello everyone! Here is my video presentation. Have a wonderful rest of your summers, and I look forward to meeting you in fall!

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
about 2 months ago

For week four, I am discussing the difficulties I have encountered this summer. One stand-out difficulty for me was the isolation of working virtually and from home. While I also had an experience like this last summer during Laidlaw, I found the isolation to be much more frustrating this summer, while things were opening up and some of my friends did have in-person opportunities. For this summer in particular, I found it isolating that I only had one meeting a week with my supervisor and did not get the chance to meet any of the other interns. This has helped me decide that after college I would like to work in a collaborative environment and in an office or work environment. I have tackled the problem by communicating with my boss more frequently and talking to friends more outside of work, although I just do not think that this type of independent research is a field I would like to continue longterm. 

My work has narrowed significantly since the beginning of the project. Originally, my role was part of a team working to predict water contamination issues; however, I was moved to an independent research project about just Texas, which then I narrowed to an independent research project about how extreme weather events affect the public water systems in Texas. This project fits my interests in climate change and the effects of weather/nature on human life. 

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

Hi Kate: Yes! I completely relate to the isolation being super super difficult. It is so, so hard to work remotely! You're very strong for going through this. I hope that you get many experiences in-person in the near future! It's great that you found a project you like, and especially so since your project relates to climate change. If you ever want to set up a Zoom group work session, let me know, because I also have the same issue where working from home feels very difficult. I've found Zooming someone while we're both working helps relieve some of the difficulty (An idea I credit Anna Nuttle for, who suggested we do this to study together during the school year). :)

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

Week Five:
What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

I have learned a lot about how to lead a study and what morphological traits can be used to approximate ecology in fossil organisms, which is very useful for trying to reconstruct or understand past extinction events. One person who has been instrumental in helping how I conduct my project is James, the graduate student in my lab who has been overseeing much of the work and who is also leading the project with me. James has been very kind, generous with his time, and patient towards me. Furthermore, he has helped give me advice for what to do if I would like to continue pursuing research like this in the future.

One thing which I've learned is that leadership is something which can be adapted to the person or people who are being led and the situation they are in. I've been working with James for 3 years now. When we first started working together, it was much more structured, and the types of projects we were doing were less individualistic on my end. However, as I've matured, James has helped me get started on being one of the leads in a study and take more ownership of the projects I am doing. I think this was very effective because while I was not ready to lead my own study when I got to college, the skills I learned in previous work with James helped me develop this maturity. James has also always made sure to be respectful and kind towards me. I think having a leader like James, who is personable, empathetic, adaptable, and willing to go the extra mile to make sure that their team is able to succeed is very valuable. In the future, I really hope to mentor undergraduates and help them succeed. I am grateful to have had many wonderful role models who have taught me so much about leadership through their own actions as leaders. :)

Go to the profile of Kate Marsh
about 1 month ago

Week Five: 

I have learned a lot of new skills and knowledge during my summer experience. In particular, I got to solidify a lot of the skills I've learned doing the classes for my concentration in statistics, especially the coding skills in R from my data mining course this past spring. I also have learned a lot about manipulating spatial data and the issues/hardships that come along with using geographical data. 

One person who has been instrumental in helping me conduct my project was my supervisor Paulina. She is such an amazing person and scientist, and she has definitely helped shape my relationship with science. I think it can be hard to find role models in stem fields, but she has been such an encouraging boss. In particular, she does a great job of letting me learn on my own but also reinforcing my skills with difficult tasks and showing me how something is done in the end. I think I've learned a new level of leadership from her. I think in the past, I've mostly done very structured jobs where my tasks were clearly given from a supervisor, but this summer I have only really had a supervisor as a knowledgable partner. Instead of telling me exactly what to do or what my tasks are, she would help me figure out generally what was needed for my project. I think her leadership style showed a lot of trust, and I hope to emulate something similar in the future. She was not very tied down in the details, and instead she tried to help me help myself. 

Go to the profile of Bethel Ikenna Adiele
about 1 month ago

Hi Kate! I'm glad your experience was very formative for you and allowed you to solidify and apply skills that you've been honing in on for some time! I'm also happy that your supervisory allowed you to walk in the park yourself, though beside you, so that you could come to understanding on your own! Excited to see how your project all pans out!

Go to the profile of Bethel Ikenna Adiele
about 1 month ago

Week 5

What new skills and/or knowledge have you gained from your summer experience? Have you met anyone who has been instrumental in shaping/helping you conduct your project? Briefly, how has this person impacted you? What have you learned about leadership from this individual, and how might it influence your actions, work, and self in the future?

By virtue of being introduced me to the world of linguistic data analysis, using python, I've started to learn new research methodologies. We're currently running descriptive statistics on the languages and comments from the different online, public forums where conversations on vaccines are held. Though, I am not a computer scientist, merging language and machine learning to discern patterns in vaccine hesitant language provides insight into the public health battle that we are facing right now in the United States. 

My two research mentors, Dr. Dennis Tenen and Dr. Rishi Goyal have been really encouraging and helpful in this research journey. They really exemplify the style of participative leadership, allowing for me and my fellow undergraduate teammates to have a say on how we approach the project. Not only are they keen in hearing our insights and taking them seriously, they are very supportive, open to talk about research but even our personal interests and goals in the future and how they could be of support to that. I am truly grateful for them, and hope to be a supportive leader just as they are!

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

Hi Bethel: It looks like you've learned a lot of really interesting and useful new methodology for finding solutions to very prescient questions. :) I'm glad you've had this opportunity; it also  sounds like you have really great mentors!