Working on my research throughout the summer, I improved and developed skills that I could apply in my future research, specifically critical thinking. Before this program, I was aware that critical thinking played in research. However, I underestimated its crucial role at every step of the process. As a critical thinker, I learned that I need to think clearly and rationally to understand the logical connection between ideas and finding sound reasons to back those ideas. Additionally, it’s essential to maintain an open and inquiring attitude regarding my opinion and the views of others.
Currently, the scientific world is driven by critical thinking, especially amidst the COVID pandemic. Many scientists had to think quickly and effectively find solutions to communicate about the virus to the public. The program highlighted the importance of science communication, especially digital science. We had the opportunity to take a digital science communication course. We learned how to communicate to a lay audience, decipher scientific writing, and utilize graphics/ visuals to tell scientific stories. This can be applied to the research I did with my group Heart Worth a Lifetime, where we used animation to explain our topic of maternal smoking leading to preterm births and the effects on babies with Congenital Heart Disease. One of the biggest challenges my group faced was when we had to pivot our video due to smoking, which led to CHDs’ insufficient evidence. A large part of critical thinking is evaluating the underpinning of claims, and not merely accepting your reasoning as sufficient proof or blinding yourself to other objections. Therefore, we acknowledged the feedback from our content experts and mentors and switched the content of our video to the well-evidenced effects of maternal smoking on preterm births. Using critical thinking, we had to evaluate new ideas to organize our video and modify our preexisting ones. In
Planning your Scientific Journey course, I also learned how to develop a process for my research and bring it to life. Critical thinking helped self evaluate by enabling me to justify and reflect on my current values and desires to fit with the research that I want to pursue. Lastly, we learned about the experimental design, specifically in ensuring your research is rigorous and transparent. Both of these require you to provide sufficient evidence and detail to support your claim for your results to reproducible. As a critical thinker, I would need to actively and skillfully apply general principles and procedures of thought to make my research highly reliable and accurate for reproducibility as well.
In the last ten weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to have one of my most memorable experiences with the Vanderbilt PACER-SURE Program. With the COVID 19 outbreak, many summer programs were canceled, and I was unsure of how my summer was going to turn out. However, Vanderbilt, the NIH, and the AHA reassured me by switching this program to a virtual experience. Although my fellow scholars and I couldn’t interact in person, Vanderbilt still made this program as immersive as possible with the use of mentors, speakers of different professions, and the utilization of multiple communication platforms like zoom, slack, and mural. This sentiment extends to my research because although there was active laboratory work, we still had the opportunity to learn research skills through online courses and seminars. As my first research experience, I felt it was just as fulfilling as hands-on experience, and I’ve grown as an individual in this program. Future physicians must possess critical thinking skills since the basis of many health care solutions is out of the box thinking. Overall, the skills I’ve developed in this program can be applied throughout my pursuit to become a doctor.