In the fall of 2017, I was on co-op at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh under the supervision of Prof. Branden Fitelson (Northeastern) and Prof. Adam Bjorndahl (CMU). The contacts I made at a CMU summer school helped me arrange my co-op and my position as a Center for Formal Epistemology visiting scholar. The opportunity was, however, only possible because of the support provided by Northeastern University’s Department of Philosophy and Religion as well as CMU’s Philosophy Department.
CMU is known for being very formal. I learned firsthand that philosophy professors are not necessarily people who have a traditional background in philosophy. One of the professors who set up my co-op received his Ph.D. in mathematics, while another worked in statistics for his doctorate. Faculty in the philosophy department at CMU analyzes philosophical problems with tools not typically associated with philosophy – an area in which is they take great pride.
My typical week consisted of going to classes, doing independent research, and meeting one-on-one with professors. The classes I chose to audit were Hume, Formal Methods I, Formal Methods II, and Incommensurability: Ethics, and Philosophy of Science. The formal methods classes were helpful, because they taught me the basics of decision theory and exposed me to formal notation that I had not seen before in my undergraduate coursework. The incommensurability class was the most interesting to me; it related similar issues within two typically unrelated subfields of philosophy and attempted to solve the issues with formal frameworks.
Meetings usually helped me the most and led me to the next steps in my research. Working on several projects was stressful at times, but proved to be a very valuable experience. It taught me that the life of an academic is not easy, but it can be very rewarding. I ended up presenting one of my projects, “The Problem of Unconceived Alternatives within a Bayesian Framework”, at the Northern New England Philosophical Association’s Annual Meeting halfway through the co-op. I am very grateful for the opportunities that were made possible by the support of the philosophy departments at Northeastern and at CMU.