From Law to Coding: Writing my SPIA Quantitative Junior Paper

Photo depicts grand Princeton building at night time, with ivy climbing up brick that appears reddish in the lighting.
From courses at SPIA to starry nights at Nassau Hall, there are many opportunities to reflect on what type of research is meaningful to you

There are many reasons why I chose to major in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), ranging from the impact that we have through service and the focus on policy and law. One unique feature of SPIA is the ability for concentrators to take more qualitative courses such as SPI333: Law, Institutions, and Public Policy and quantitatively-based courses, such as POL346: Applied Quantitative Analysis. During the Fall of my junior year, I wrote a more qualitative junior paper on risk assessment tools in the pretrial adjudication system and analyzed whether or not they make more biased decisions than do humans (see here to read more about my experience). Headed into my junior spring, I was presented with the choice of writing another qualitative paper or joining a quantitative research lab. Thankfully, I felt confident in my coding abilities due to past courses I had taken which prepared me for this moment (see here to read about how I gained a quantitative background in R as a SPIA major). I chose the lab without hesitation and my spring semester independent research journey began.

Continue reading From Law to Coding: Writing my SPIA Quantitative Junior Paper

Failure: Science’s Beauty and the Beast

In my junior year of high school, through my conversations with more and more teachers and scholars, I thought I had come to understand the importance of one inevitable piece of the scientific process (or really any academic discipline):


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Welcome to the 2022-2023 Academic Year!

Welcome back to PCUR! We’re excited to begin posting for the 2022-2023 academic year. I’ll introduce myself briefly – my name is Caitlin Larracey and I recently joined Princeton as the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Research. I was heavily involved in undergraduate research as an English/History major, collaborated with undergraduate researchers on my writing studies dissertation, and most recently served as the postdoctoral fellow in program design and student mentoring at Johns Hopkins University. I’m so excited to say that one of my primary responsibilities as OUR’s assistant director at Princeton is serving as the administrative lead for PCUR.

Image depicts six women (PCUR 22-23) in front of a gray brick building with bright green ivy
From left to right: Mahya Fazel-Zarandi, Ryan Champeau, Amaya Dressler, Virginia Cobbs, Kate Weseley-Jones, and Alexis Wu

I have the pleasure of welcoming back PCUR Ryan Champeau ’23 and introducing new members Virginia Cobbs ’25, Amaya Dressler ’25, Mahya Fazel-Zarandi ’25, Kate Weseley-Jones ’25, and Alexis Wu ’25. I welcome you to engage with their perspectives on and experiences with research! You can learn a little more about each correspondent below and stay tuned: PCUR posts will begin this week!

Ryan Champeau ’23

Social Sciences Correspondent

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Concentration: Princeton School of Public Policy and International Affairs

Degree Program: A.B.

Certificate Programs: Cognitive Science

Research Interests: Public Policy, Decision-Making, Law, Economics

Bio:I’m a senior from New Jersey who likes dogs, photography, and writing! I’m interested in exploring how I can use research to have a positive impact on the Princeton community and beyond. Within SPIA, I have conducted research on mass incarceration, public opinion, social movements, and more. On campus, I am a Residential College Advisor, former Chair of the Whitman College Council, Scholar of Finance, Club Golf member, Community Action leader, and Co-Chair of the ’23 Class Day Committee. I’m also really enthusiastic and love to rap!

Recent posts by Ryan Champeau

Virginia Cobbs ’25

Natural Sciences Correspondent

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Concentration: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Degree: A.B.

Research Interests: Bumble Bee social behavior, Parkinson’s Disease, Medical Racism

Bio: My name is Virginia and I am a sophomore majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary biology. I grew up in Birmingham, AL (roll tide!) and before coming to Princeton, I spent a year researching Parkinson’s Disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I am now researching Bumble bees in the lab of Prof. Sarah Kocher here at Princeton, and I also work with Prof. Fuentes in the Anthropology dept studying racial bias in medical algorithms. When not in the lab I enjoy reading, biking, and sailing.

Amaya Dressler ’25

Social Sciences Correspondent

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Concentration: Psychology or Anthropology 

Degree Program: A.B.

Certificate Programs: Humanistic Studies, Global Health and Health Policy

Research Interests: Menstrual Health and Dysfunction, Endocrinology, Cognitive Science, Nutrition, Medical Institutions and Health Disparity

Bio: I am a sophomore from Littlestown, PA. As a pre med student looking to concentrate in either Psychology or Anthropology, my research interests extend broadly across women’s health and healthcare reform. Outside of research, I can be found writing for Nassau Weekly or working with the PACE center as a CA fellow, and I am always happy to chat! I am usually hanging out either reading in Butler Library or dancing in one of the campus’s open studios. 

Mahya Fazel-Zarandi ’25

Natural Sciences Correspondent

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Concentration: Molecular Biology 

Degree Program: A.B.

Certificate Program(s): Quantitative and Computational Biology, Applications of Computing 

Research Interests: Computational biology, Genetics and genetic engineering, Biological chemistry

Bio: I am a sophomore from Toronto, Canada, majoring in molecular biology. I am interested in the intersection of biology and computer science and its application in the field of genetics. Outside of my classes and research, I write for the Daily Princetonian, listen to classical music, and play my Persian instrument, santoor. 

Kate Weseley-Jones ’25

Humanities Correspondent

Image depicts a woman smiling at the camera. She has long blonde hair, a dark blue top, and is standing in front of a white wall.

Concentration: Art History

Degree Program: A.B.

Research interests: ancient art, heritage conservation, behavioral science, gender studies

Bio: Hi, my name is Kate and I’m a sophomore from Long Island, NY! I’m planning to pursue a degree in art history, but I’m interested in most things that fall in the overlap between the humanities and social sciences. When I’m not hunched over a book, you can find me on campus playing the cello or practicing new tricks with the Aerial Arts Club.

Alexis Wu ’25

Engineering Correspondent

Image depicts a young woman smiling at the camera. She has medium-length dark brown hair, is wearing a bright red top, and the sun is shining behind her.

Concentration: Computer Science

Degree Program: B.S.E.

Research Interests: Applications of computing, educational technology, human-computer interaction, computer-aided design, art history

Bio: I am a sophomore from San Diego, CA, majoring in computer science. I am interested in the wide range of computer science applications, particularly in other engineering fields, history, and the arts. On campus, I am also a student tour guide for the Princeton University Art Museum and a mentor with Community House Big Sibs.

Experiences in the ReMatch+ Program: An Interview with Kasey Shashaty ’23 – Part 1

Kasey Shashaty is a junior majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. She began working at the PULSe (Princeton University Laser Sensing) Lab in the summer of 2021 and has been working with them since. In this interview, Kasey and I discuss how she got involved in this lab through the ReMatch+ program, her experiences working in the lab both virtually and in-person, and where she is taking her experiences in the future. 

Kasey Shashaty ’23
Continue reading Experiences in the ReMatch+ Program: An Interview with Kasey Shashaty ’23 – Part 1

Interested in Joining PCUR? Apply Now!

This year’s Princeton Correspondents on Undergraduate Research team has been working hard to share their research experiences and to highlight the incredible discoveries that are being made in labs and groups across campus. We’ve covered topics from summer internships, to independent work, to navigating research and life during the pandemic. As the end of the school year quickly approaches, we’re looking for new correspondents to apply and join our team! Curious to learn about what it takes to be a member of PCUR? Keep reading to find out!

Princeton Correspondents on Undergraduate Research
Apply to join fellow undergraduate researchers who love to write and share their experiences!
Continue reading Interested in Joining PCUR? Apply Now!

Navigating Princeton in COVID-19 Isolation

      Although things have been looking brighter on campus, with a decrease in COVID cases and happier weather, the threat of COVID-19 still remains and can be a daunting obstacle. I tested positive for COVID-19 last month, and I was lucky enough to get through it, but an extra stressor was definitely keeping up with my classes while being in isolation. Everyone’s experience is different, especially when it comes to symptoms and classes, but I hope that my advice can help you get through a tough time if it ever comes to it.

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A look into Princeton Independent Research: Presenting Proposals to Congressmember Bush

Our task force meeting Congressmember Bush last semester.
She was truly inspirational.

     When you are a first-year, you hear about the Senior Thesis, the Junior Paper, and independent research. While these may seem daunting and unexciting, they are actually some of the most unique and amazing parts of the Princeton experience. Most juniors do independent research within their respective majors. As a SPIA major, I took a Task Force in the fall, where I worked with a professor and team of SPIA students to achieve a policy mission, and I am now in a Research Seminar, where I am doing more quantitative research on a new policy issue. In this post, I would like to share my experiences in my task force last semester in order to help you gain an understanding of what independent research could look like, and how truly incredible it can be.

Continue reading A look into Princeton Independent Research: Presenting Proposals to Congressmember Bush

How to Cancel on Someone, the Right Way

Earlier this winter, I received an email inviting me to a day’s worth of interviews for an MD/PhD program. This invitation included a schedule with Zoom meetings that extended much later into the day than I expected. As a result, these meetings conflicted with some of my classes as well as a meeting for an extracurricular activity.

We’ve all been there: something comes up and we can no longer make it to a class or meeting on our calendars. Whatever the reason, there’s a special kind of stress that comes with realizing you’ll need to cancel on someone. When will you have a chance to make this up? Will your colleagues and professors be upset with you?

I’ve also been on the other side of the equation: as a supervisor for Murray-Dodge Café, I’ve received my fair share of emails from students needing to miss a shift or a meeting. While the best way to handle these situations is to avoid them altogether, that isn’t always possible, so in this article, I’ll share some of my tips for handling these sticky situations!

Displaying a secondary time zone on my Google Calendar really helped me stay on top of my interviews and course schedule!
Continue reading How to Cancel on Someone, the Right Way

Graduate Studies and Careers in Public Service: an Interview with Professor Iqbal Zaidi – Part 2

In the second part of the interview with Professor Zaidi, the discussion gradually veers away from his career, and we go into his advice for students, the courses he loves teaching, and what he learned about making plans and still being flexible.

For those who missed the first part of the interview, please read it here.

Continue reading Graduate Studies and Careers in Public Service: an Interview with Professor Iqbal Zaidi – Part 2

A Week in My Life Doing Materials Science Research

This semester, I am doing junior independent work in the Arnold lab group at Princeton, which is based in the MAE department but also focuses on materials science, which is what I am interested in. My project investigates creating graphene aerogels from protein precursors, which basically means that I get to select different proteins of interest, freeze-dry them, pyrolyze them, and then see if they create graphene by examining them under a scanning electron microscope (SEM). These graphene aerogels are interesting materials because of their high porosity and conductivity, making them promising for applications to energy storage, which is why we are interested in researching them.

I thought it might be interesting to highlight a week in my life (well, actually two weeks) to give some insight on what lab-based independent work can look like during the school year. I want to note that this is only my experience as a CBE major, and independent work can look very different for other majors. If you’re an underclassman interested in doing junior independent work or just curious about what that could entail, I hope that this post can provide some insight.

The inside of Bowen Hall, the hub of the Princeton Institute of Materials and where my research lab is.
Continue reading A Week in My Life Doing Materials Science Research