Reflections on Sophomore Year: Staying Flexible in Times of Change

The author and the 2017-2018 ORL Yoga and Meditation Fellows on the banks of the Ganges River above Rishikesh, India. Like many good things, this opportunity became a reality thanks to an attitude of flexibility. 

It’s hard to believe, but this is my last post of my sophomore year. This PCUR “ending,” however, comes at a time when I’m still in the middle of working on Dean’s Date assignments and (thinking about) preparing for final exams, so there’s something a little dissonant about writing a reflection post right now. Indeed, I suspect that only after the last exam wraps up, or after I move home and begin my summer job, will I be able to reflect more fully on my sophomore year. Nevertheless, I do have some preliminary observations, which I hope others will find useful as they take stock of their own personal and academic progress this year. Continue reading Reflections on Sophomore Year: Staying Flexible in Times of Change

Amanda Blanco ’18: Reflections on Independent Research

Amanda Blanco, Class of 2018, Sociology Department

Amanda Blanco is a senior in the Sociology Department. Having taken several journalism courses and being an avid news reader, she was inspired by current events to write a thesis pertaining to the effects of today’s political climate on college campuses. Amanda recently finished her thesis and is in the midst of preparing for her defense. This process of reviewing her research in order to share it with a larger audience has led her to reflect on what the senior thesis experience has been like and what she has learned from the process. Luckily, Amanda had time in her busy schedule to share some of her end-of-year reflections:

Continue reading Amanda Blanco ’18: Reflections on Independent Research

Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Alex Wheatley ’16 *20 and Nathan Eckstein ’16 *20 Part 2

This semester, in our spring series, PCURs will interview a graduate student from their home department who either is currently a graduate student at Princeton, or attended Princeton as an undergraduate. In Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, interviews with graduate students shed light on the variety of paths one can take to get to graduate school and beyond, and the many insights gained along the way from research projects and mentors. Here, Emma shares her interview.

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As part of our Spring Seasonal Series, Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, I interviewed two students in the SINSI Graduate Program, Alex Wheatley ‘16 *20 and Nathan Eckstein ‘16 *20. The Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SINSI) is a scholarship program designed to prepare students to pursue careers in the U.S. government. Students in the program spend two years pursuing an MPA in the Woodrow Wilson School and two years in a SINSI fellowship with an executive branch department or agency (often, but not always, between the first and second years of the MPA program). In my last post, the first section of this two-part interview, Alex and Nathan discussed their experiences as SINSI scholars in the MPA program. Below, they reflect on their experiences with research and public service work in the fellowship component of SINSI.

Emma: What role has research played in the fellowship component of the SINSI program?

Alex and Nathan at a SINSI event last spring before heading off to their fellowships.

Alex: I’ve rotated through two positions thus far, the first at the Division of Viral Diseases at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. Almost all the work I’ve done has been fairly traditional research. At the CDC, I built on the knowledge I gained from my thesis to help analyze and write up a review of the spatiotemporal dynamics of the same virus (respiratory syncytial virus) in the US over the last three years. The policy question we debated in that research was actually how to define “RSV season”; changing testing practices had affected the timing of the season, and we had to weigh various policy-related factors as we updated that definition of season. I also helped with an economic analysis of RSV burden in the US. Continue reading Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Alex Wheatley ’16 *20 and Nathan Eckstein ’16 *20 Part 2

Research Papers in Foreign Languages

As the simultaneously dreaded and much-awaited Dean’s Date comes around again, many of us find ourselves writing final research papers for our foreign language classes. Conducting research and writing a long paper in a language in which we are not fully fluent is both harder and very different from writing one in our native language. Personally, I have spent the past few days writing a paper for French 307 discussing the ethics of weapons development, a fairly technical subject which presented a number of challenges.

Continue reading Research Papers in Foreign Languages

How to Research and Watch Movies at the Same Time

Until recently, I only watched TV and movies in order to decompress. There’s nothing quite like lying in bed after a long day, lulled to sleep by my favorite Netflix show. Requiring minimal effort, movies acted as a brief escape from my reading- and writing-heavy coursework.

Like many Princeton students, though, I sometimes felt guilty choosing to watch TV over, say, finishing my readings for precept the next morning. But a few weeks ago, my professor introduced me to an invaluable resource called Kanopy. Completely free for all Princeton students and faculty, this site provides over 30,000 films for streaming on any device. But Kanopy isn’t just another Netflix or Hulu: it’s specifically designed for use in research institutions.

Kanopy offers a wide range of free films, specially curated for students and professors.

Continue reading How to Research and Watch Movies at the Same Time

Finding Online Sources

With Dean’s date looming, it is likely that many of you (like me) are about to get a late start on your term papers. In my experience, the success of a project and the effectiveness of my thesis rests largely on my understanding of past research and the foundational theories concerning the topic. The first steps I take in a research project are to explore the literature surrounding a topic and to begin to put together a library of sources. However, when searching for online sources, it can be hard to know where to start looking, how to identify important and reputable sources, and how to keep your searches organized. Luckily, there are many tools that can help you streamline your search and get writing faster! If you are struggling, here is a basic framework you can use to search better:

Use Web of Science to Guide your Search

Web of Science is a human-curated database, which generally includes only reputable journal articles. It links every article to those that it cited and those that cited it, creating the eponymous ‘web’ that you can easily traverse in search of important or fundamental sources. Web of Science’s detailed statistics on article citations and journal impact allow you to more easily ascertain the relative importance of an article. It has highly customizable search options and even provides links to the full-text through Princeton University Library and Google Scholar.

A search for articles on ‘climate change’ turns up hundreds of thousands of entries on Web of Science. Luckily, you can narrow your search to a specific discipline using the site’s helpful customizable search tools: this visualization shows the number of articles on climate change in 12 different disciplines. To further constrain your search you can add more keywords or specify publication years, and you can sort the results by relevance, date, and citation count!

While Web of Science is a powerful tool, it has some draw-backs. You need to be connected through the Princeton network to access the site, it doesn’t include all journals from every discipline, and cannot search within the main text of articles for keywords. For that reason, I usually supplement my search with Google Scholar after forming a basis of reputable articles from Web of Science. Google Scholar allows for in-text keyword search and includes many mediums in addition to journal articles, but it is not a human-curated database, and search results will include many sources that are unreputable or low quality.

Build a Library of Sources With Google Scholar:

I have often found myself lost in a sea of open tabs or forgetting where I found a promising article. Keeping my search organized is always a struggle, but with Google Scholar’s library feature, it is extremely simple.  If you find an interesting article, simply click the star on the lower left hand side of the search result. The article link will be saved to your personal library along with its citation information. You can easily organize your library by assigning labels to different topics or projects and editing citation information. As your topic narrows and you begin to form a thesis, your library will evolve. Using Google Scholar Library is great because you can easily add, delete, and organize your library without having to download PDF documents or external apps. When you’re ready to cite your sources, Google Scholar creates citations for you and allows you to export citation files in many different formats.

With one click you can add a paper to your Google Scholar library, ensuring that your articles are organized and allowing you to keep your tabs clutter free while searching for more sources.

Using this basic framework for online source searching can help you find useful and reputable articles while saving you time and keeping your sources organized. If you are struggling to find articles for your discipline on Web of Science, Scopus is an awesome alternative which is very similar but has a different format and has a slightly different selection of articles. For even more specialized databases, you can always check out the Library’s website. In addition, for those who prefer to save their library on their computer and not store it online, applications like Mendeley or Zotero have great tools for downloading and organizing PDF sources and automating citations.

–Alec Getraer, Natural Sciences Correspondent 

Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Hadiya Jones

This semester, in our spring series, PCURs will interview a graduate student from their home department who either is currently a graduate student at Princeton, or attended Princeton as an undergraduate. In Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, interviews with graduate students shed light on the variety of paths one can take to get to graduate school and beyond, and the many insights gained along the way from research projects and mentors. Here, Taylor shares her interview with Hadiya Jones.

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Hadiya Layla Jones, 3rd Year Graduate Student in Princeton’s Sociology Ph.D. Program

What’s your research about?

As a black woman raised in a predominantly white middle-class suburb, I am intrigued, both personally and scholarly, by the diverse manifestations created by the intersection of race, gender, and class. I ultimately desire to study how black middle-class millennials, who are socialized in predominantly white spaces, navigate their identities, and I am particularly fascinated by how this process happens on the web.

Continue reading Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Hadiya Jones

Post-Thesis Life: An Insight into the Thesis Defense Process

Now that my thesis has been turned in, I’m starting to prepare for my oral thesis defense to complete my graduation requirements for the Woodrow Wilson School (WWS). It’s certainly going to be a challenge to fit everything from my nearly 100-page thesis into that ten-minute-long presentation, but the WWS Program Office is very helpful in assisting students prepare for the defense. So, with this post, I hope to help demystify the whole thesis defense process for the PCUR audience.

Continue reading Post-Thesis Life: An Insight into the Thesis Defense Process

Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Alex Wheatley ’16 *20 and Nathan Eckstein ’16 *20 Part 1

This semester, in our spring series, PCURs will interview a graduate student from their home department who either is currently a graduate student at Princeton, or attended Princeton as an undergraduate. In Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, interviews with graduate students shed light on the variety of paths one can take to get to graduate school and beyond, and the many insights gained along the way from research projects and mentors. Here, Emma shares her interview.

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Alex Wheatley ’16 *20

As part of our Spring Seasonal Series, Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, I interviewed two students in the SINSI Graduate Program, Alex Wheatley ‘16 *20 and Nathan Eckstein ‘16 *20. Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SINSI) is a scholarship program designed to prepare students to pursue careers in the U.S. government. Students in the program spend two years pursuing an MPA in the Woodrow Wilson School and two years in a SINSI fellowship with an executive branch department or agency (often, but not always, between the first and second years of the MPA program). In the first post on this two-part interview, Alex and Nathan discuss their experiences as SINSI scholars in the MPA program:

 

Emma: How did you decide to apply for SINSI?

Alex:  I saw a SINSI advertisement hanging on a lamp post. It wasn’t quite that simple, but it wasn’t premeditated either. I had been thinking about health-related fellowships, and as I subsequently learned more about SINSI it seemed like an excellent opportunity to dabble in many different aspects of public health, to do good through public service, to be thrown into opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have, and to complete a higher degree with students whose experiences were very different from my own. This was back when SINSI was a six year program that students applied for in the fall of their junior year– one of the toughest considerations was whether I was willing to commit the next six years of my life to a program I had learned about from a lamp post (spoiler: I made the right decision).

Nathan Eckstein ’16 *20

Nathan: I entered Princeton thinking I was interested in a career in public service. At the start of sophomore year, I spoke to Ambassador Barbara Bodine, then the SINSI director, about applying for an internship with an embassy abroad. Through some luck I wound up in Embassy La Paz, Bolivia, working in the Public Diplomacy section. In Bolivia, I assisted to plan and implement programming that engaged hundreds of Bolivians on subjects such as American civil society, volunteerism, and education. Through this work, I developed immense respect for my colleagues and bosses. That summer more or less confirmed my inkling that public service would be a good fit, and I applied for SINSI a few months after during my junior fall. Continue reading Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Alex Wheatley ’16 *20 and Nathan Eckstein ’16 *20 Part 1

Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview With Ole Agersnap

This semester, in our spring series, PCURs will interview a graduate student who either is currently a graduate student at Princeton, or attended Princeton as an undergraduate. In Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, interviews with graduate students shed light on the variety of paths one can take to get to graduate school and beyond, and the many insights gained along the way from research projects and mentors. Here, Shanon shares his interview.

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Ole Agersnap, Ph.D. candidate in economics at Princeton.

As part of our seasonal series on graduate students, I decided to interview Ole Agersnap, a friend of mine in his first year of the Economics PhD program. Ole and I met at the beginning of this year in the Princeton Chapel Choir, where we both sing as baritones. Over the course of the year, we’ve chatted regularly about economics, school, and life in general. Ole is a dedicated scholar with a clear perspective on his academic journey, so I hope you enjoy reading his reflections! Continue reading Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview With Ole Agersnap