Learning to Develop a Research Project at PCSSM

Lotus Kaufman, COL ‘ 24, Los Angeles, CA

This summer I had the pleasure of doing research for the newly founded Penn Center for Science, Sustainability, and the Media (PCSSM).  Throughout my academic journey this far, I have been attempting to reconcile what I previously felt to be two mutually exclusive interests, environmental studies, and communication. Over the past three years, by taking classes in both fields, I have found the sweet spot that lies between. I am deeply interested in the ways we communicate climate change and developing strategies to alter the way we discuss environmental issues to target those groups who disavow or are not concerned about climate change. When I heard about the goals of PCSSM when they launched last fall, I knew that I had to be involved. 

Much of the summer was spent reading and sifting through material to build an understanding of existing research so that I could ensure I wouldn’t be duplicating any prior work. This portion of my summer has been a major learning experience for reading dense academic material, discerning what bits are the most important and organizing the information. Even though these are skills I have gained through my whole college experience, given the volume of work I had to digest, it has been this internship that has fine-tuned them for me.

Doing research this summer at PCSSM has been unlike any other research project I have done before— in scope, but also in freedom. I’ve been extremely lucky to work closely with PCSSM administrative coordinator Heather Kostick and post-doc research fellow Eryn Campbell who have let me explore a plethora of topics, encouraging me to go after what I was most passionate about within the context of the center. The autonomy I’ve been given, while undeniably daunting, has pushed me to grow in a lot of ways. While it undeniably can be easier to be assigned exact instructions, the lack of stringent assignments and tasks has required me to be self-directed in my work and trust in my abilities and decision making. Because beginning a research project is such an enormous undertaking, I am super grateful to have had guidance and support from Eryn and Heather, both of whom are extremely knowledgeable on the research process.

After much deliberation, and much more reading, we have decided to focus this project on understanding Christianity in the context of American political polarization on climate change to inform messaging strategies. I’m excited to continue working with PCSSM on this project into the upcoming school year!

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2023 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services