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Curb Scholar Blog: Building from the Ground Up

Posted by on Friday, September 26, 2014 in 2012-2015 AY, Curb Scholars.

This blog post was written by Austin Channell.

The college transition hasn’t been quite what I expected.  Throughout high school, academic success came to me with little to no extra effort.  However, once I arrived at Vanderbilt and started taking tests, I found this to no longer be the case.  Academics have begun to feel like an uphill battle.  While the academic rigor was a reason for my choosing Vanderbilt, the severity of the challenges I have faced was not fully anticipated.  

Based on the reactions of my peers, this seems to be a decently universal trend.  As a result of this transition, I’ve had to devote the vast majority of my time to studying and completing assignments.  This means that, unfortunately, Curb has not been on the forefront of my mind (ditto sleep).  There’s currently a frustrating gap between the creative, engaging work that excites me and the technical work that I currently must spend my time on.  However, despite my busy introduction to Vanderbilt, I have found some time to begin exploring potential project ideas.

One such project idea involves the discrepancy in research funding that is currently seen in medicine.  This was inspired by my brief stay last summer at a genetics lab at The Ohio State University.  The head of the lab made a comment about a frustration she and others in the field faced—that there is often a gap between the work that researchers believe would be the most beneficial and the work that the public is eager to fund through charitable donations.

My project idea, though still not fully developed, involves exploring what fields of research require additional support and then presenting the information in a clear, relatable way so that people can make informed decisions when they go to donate.  The challenge faced therein lies with presenting objective information about funding needs, while trying to avoid marginalizing the severity of a well-funded disease.

Two weeks ago, I pitched my idea to the other Curb Scholars.  Though my presentation was met with many questions, what I believe to be the important part of that experience is that it got people thinking.  Creative ideas will inevitably be molded, shaped, and redefined by their surroundings and the people who interact with them, and my project idea is no exception.  While I don’t know what final form it will take, I embrace the opportunity to see it grow, struggle, adapt, and hopefully ultimately emerge in a clearer, better final form because of the stumbles and bumps of the creative process.

The freedom offered by the Curb Center’s openness to student project ideas puts me in a unique position to observe the world around me, notice issues on both the micro and macro level, and then let my mind wander to potential solutions while feeling supported by the confidence that my ideas will be both given the opportunity to grow and to be challenged by creative peers.  This is a position I absolutely hope to capitalize upon in the near future, hopefully to produce projects and ideas of enduring value.