Charlotte Atkins

Student, Columbia University
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  • United States of America

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Aug 06, 2021

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. :)

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!

Aug 06, 2021

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.


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

Jul 30, 2021
Replying to Yaxin (Cindy) Gao

Week 6

Hi all! This is my video presentation:

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

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

Jul 30, 2021

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.

Jul 23, 2021
Replying to Lillian Rountree

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. 

Hi Lillian!

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

Jul 23, 2021

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!

Jul 16, 2021
Replying to Lily Friedland

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!

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.

Jul 16, 2021

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!