Peyton Barsel

Student, Columbia University
  • Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Scholar

Area of Expertise

Humanities Politics

Research Topic


Laidlaw Cohort Year



Columbia University

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English Spanish

My hobbies/interests are:

Politics & current events Reading Tennis

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes


Influencer Of

Recent Comments

Jun 30, 2022
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Truthfully, my biggest challenge has been battling the urge to give in to hopelessness. My project deals with the Culture War and watching Roe v. Wade be overturned in the last week of my research project has been nothing short of devastating. I have to remember that all knowledge is good knowledge, regardless of the political atmosphere at the moment. I am so grateful I've had the opportunity to be on a research team that is interacting with topics that are so relevant. 

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

Proquest Congressional has absolutely been my greatest tool during these 6 weeks. The databases available are so expansive that they can be overwhelming but it is truly wonderful how much information it contains. Sometimes I take for granted how revolutionary technology is to my research but I could not have done it without these online databases. 

Jun 23, 2022
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Do you hope to produce an annotated bibliography that you reflect on down the line? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one-month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

I plan to write a progress report-styled paper in an effort to keep up with my work in the future. Because the databases for my work are so massive, consolidating them has been the most particularly challenging portion of wrapping up my research. Initially, I'd hoped to provide policy memos but I think at the stage my research is at, it would be irresponsible to create policy memos without the background knowledge needed to understand how we as a nation arrived here on the political spectrum. 

  • Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

To begin with, I'd like to state that I think all academic research matters, regardless of field. Mine in particular I think is important because it sheds light on a topic that all are familiar with but also in the dark about. The culture war is thrown around so often that what is actually is becomes diluted and I hope this work does at least something to combat that issue. 

Jun 16, 2022
  • What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

I have begun to realize that this work can be incredibly triggering to the people it involves. Many legislators are directly impacted by the laws they help to pass or kill and I can only imagine how taxing that must be for them. In doing this work, I will admit that the content is heavy. Ethically, I think it's important to give content warnings and disclaimers beforehand in order to reduce harm in the most meaningful way possible. 

  • As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

I have considered writing a paper rather than the original goal of making my project more outward-facing because I feel as if there is so much ground to cover. I think a paper may be a more meaningful way of making that happen because there is more room to expand on ideas. 

Jun 03, 2022
Replying to Andreas
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

I wouldn't say that my current project is interdisciplinary (it is pretty firmly within the humanities in terms of both content and methodology), but I have loved talking to students pursuing projects in STEM-related fields since my research is ultimately related to how we talk about medicine and its place within a given culture. Bioprospecting, or the search for objects in the natural world from which drugs or other isolated biochemical products can be derived, is a potential interdisciplinary application of my research project, were I to reframe through the lens of contemporary geopolitics. In many ways, my focus on language, trade, and indigenous knowledge in South East Asia offers a premodern example of this phenomenon. 

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

I need to make sure I am reading things that are relevant to my project (and not just interesting). There is so much about the history of trade in South East Asia that I find fascinating that might not actually be super relevant, but I also find it easy to convince myself that any reading is good reading because it is giving me a greater wealth of knowledge to draw upon later. This may be partly true, but I noticed myself pull back from what I was reading several times to reassess its usefulness in the larger scope of my project. It's okay to not read everything, even if it seems useful, or even if it is cited many times (although this may be a good indicator of its academic influence). On the other hand, I found myself repeatedly drawn to a particular geographical hub of trade in the South China Sea that I had never heard before. I think it is challenging trying to stay within a narrow range of materials if there remains the hope (or the lived experience) that interesting and relevant topics/thematic material may lay just outside those self-imposed boundaries. 

Hey Andreas, 

Not to be a bad influence, but I'm a big proponent of the "any reading is good reading" philosophy. I think you're absolutely correct that assessing readings is a crucial component of zoning in on the scope of what you'd like to study. Still, you'd be unable to do that without reading material outside of the scope. I am working currently on reading more sources rather than focusing solely on what I know is relevant because I would like to broaden from what I "know to be true" to material that challenges the views I already hold in the present. Good luck going forward and I'm looking forward to seeing where your work goes! 

Jun 03, 2022
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

The interdisciplinary nature of this program is incredibly helpful to my own project. For instance, there are people in the groups I have been working with that are studying literature and Supreme Court cases, both topics that relate to what I'm studying but not directly. Through listening to them work through what they will be continuing with their projects going forward, I was able to frame my research question in a new light. Now, I have shifted some of the work I'm doing to be more outward-facing to provide the public with more actionable ways to combat political polarization and address the Culture War. 

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

I anticipate that my scope is too large and I may have a problem with how to package the information in a way that is both helpful and accessible in such a short period of time. I think I need to remain honed in on a smaller research question in order to provide a meaningful result. 

May 27, 2022
Replying to Kelly Warner

1. My definition of leadership has evolved past the stereotypical mental image of someone being at the forefront of a club or an organization to expanding to all dimensions and levels of a community. Leadership can also exist through supporting teammates or through self-acceptance and reliance, which is something that I didn’t previously realize. 

2. The main challenges I believe I will face with my research is collaborating with other people, especially since my research is a part of a preexisting research project. As a result, I feel like my initial idea of what my research would entail slightly differs from the actual work I will be doing, so I am in the process of coming to terms with that and moving forward with the project! 

Hi Kelly! I really appreciate you separating your images of leadership in clubs and other standard formats from what we are doing here through our research projects. I think it's daunting to imagine what we will be doing over the next five weeks but I really like conceptualizing it as a new challenge that will help us develop our leadership skills in an untraditional way. I look forward to how our concept of leadership keeps changing. 

May 27, 2022
  1. How has your understanding of leadership changed from our workshops on this topic (or has it)?

My understanding of leadership has shifted from being more of an individualistic definition to a more significant group effort. Before, I felt like my ability to be an effective leader fell squarely on my shoulders. Now, I feel like leaning on my fellow peers as we embark on this research journey together will make my time at Laidlaw more enjoyable and improve my leadership skills. Learning and listening to others is a key component of leadership and I'm excited to exercise that further. 

  1. As you consider your research project, what questions or challenges are forefront in your mind? What first steps do you intend to take to start your project?

Currently, I'm working to delineate how I create a project for myself while also providing insightful information to my faculty mentor and his project. I will begin with collecting data but am trying to determine how I will use that data to further my own research and interests.