In pursuit of deepening our understanding of the world around us, scientific research has, over time, grown increasingly specialized. It is easy to get lost in the complex web that today’s scientific research enterprise is, and it is easy to lose sight of what it is that every thread of the web has in common. At the very core of every research endeavor and every scientific discipline is one and the same: the scientific method. The tools may be different, but the guiding principles remain the same.
Although I love my research in photonics and although there isn’t anything else I would rather do any time soon, this pandemic has made me ponder upon my immediate utility in times of urgent crises. It has made me wonder if I am capable of leveraging what different scientific disciplines have in common and seeing if the lessons that my research has taught me are transferrable to more complex scenarios. It has created in me an interest in seeking out problem solving that involves not one or two narrow disciplines but many.
This past week, I took part in the prestigious Emory Morningside Global Health Case Competition, and it proved to be a good way for me to get a glimpse of serious interdisciplinary problem solving. The case prompt was on hesitancy to the COVID-19 vaccine stemming from misinformation and pseudoscience. As misinformation and pseudoscience are topics that concern physicists and public health experts alike, finding that common ground and working on this case prompt with a diverse group of individuals was a particularly satisfying learning experience.
I will likely never be a public health expert (not unless I’m willing to go through grad school again). But I walk away from this experience with a greater respect for scientists in other disciplines, and a greater understanding of the challenges that they face. I walk away from it with a better sense of how the different threads of the web can work together to trap the bug.
A shout out to my amazing teammates: Anindita, Linette, Shifali and Ellen. Watch our team’s case submission here: