One may think that interdisciplinary research is very hard to define. It may appear to be somewhat like the famous comic strip parody
In fact, according to the Oxford Dictionary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research is almost viewed synonymously as bringing together researchers from various backgrounds to collaborate towards a common goal.
My background is in Astronomy - currently I am a second year graduate student at the University of Washington Astronomy Department. This contributes to my part of the transdisciplinarity aspect. Specifically, my research in the Astronomy Department includes grappling with large datasets - I analyse the variability of Quasars, about which I write more on my personal webpage . Coming from the University of Oxford with a Master’s degree in Physics, the opportunity to work with data within the broad theme of Urban Science combines my personal values and academic expertise into a useful scientific outcome. I have a passion for growth in understanding of the surrounding world - for much of my undergraduate time I have been combining materials that I found useful already as an undergraduate (see my old webpage). Furthermore, as an international student from central Europe, I am particularly sensitive to issues pertaining to local economies. Moving between countries and continents has provided me with a broad perspective on how local governments and cities work.
Working on a project that pertains to reducing the homelessness of families is especially important for me, as it contributes to the fundamental cell of society - a family. A nuclear family, consisting of a mother, father, and their children, conveys fundamental values, that enable building a society. Unfortunately, many of the families are split, with a single parent struggling to provide for the needs of children. Family as the socially most important unit has to be protected, and it is important for the counties to tackle the tragedy of family homelessness. This is enabled by the program of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation , carried out this summer in partnership with an eScience Institute at the University of Washington.
My background has exposed me to a diversity of values, ideas about governance, and methods for problem solving at a societal level. As an undergraduate, I spent four years in the United Kingdom, including London, Oxford, and Edinburgh, where I was exposed to vastly different sets of historical and cultural circumstances. Finally, I have been here in the US for the past two years, where there are even more contrasts to be observed between the older societies of Europe and the relatively new societies of the United States. Since arriving here in Washington, I have been fascinated by the degree to which this pristine land has been urbanized in a very short period of time compared to its European counterparts.
I was born in Poland in 1989 at the historic moment when the time of Soviet occupation ended. As I was growing up, my country was reforming itself into a sovereign nation for the first time since before the World War II. I witnessed and felt the effects of rapid societal change as my country grappled with a multitude of cultural and public issues, including homelessness. Needless to say, this had a profound impact on my imagination and my curiosity about the way people organize, govern themselves, and conduct their lives.
Though my passion has always been Astronomy, I have deeply held beliefs about the value of persons and the need to provide for the dignity of human lives and communities. I would be thrilled if the outcome of my research conducted during this summer program could provide input that might affect the way local government identifies and appropriately responds to observed data patterns, and thus the needs of persons and communities.
I am convinced that working as a team, analysing data from three counties together with data scientists and with representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we can inform the way in which public policies on homelessness are shaped on a county level.