Reflecting on your first Midterm to Perform Better on the Final

For most of us undergraduates, midterms tend to be a stressful time, even more demanding than finals or Dean’s Date. This is because we go through midterms while classes and assignments continue as usual. In contrast, we have a week-long reading period at the end of the semester to focus on writing papers and preparing for finals. If you are a first yearstudent, you have the additional stress of going through  Princeton midterms for the first time and you might have realized that they can be quite different from exams in high school. Therefore, it is not unusual for first years to receive grades on midterms below their expectations.  When I was a first year, I learned how I could use my midterm grades as guideposts to help me identify which courses I most needed to adjust to and improve my final grade.  It is important to note that midterms scores will not always fully correlate with finals and that there are plenty of opportunities after midterms to adjust strategies and improve performance. Here are some of the strategies I have found helpful when looking to bounce back from a midterm.

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Looking for Courses to Take this Spring? Start with your TikTok Feed!

Tiktok is more than just an addictive application. It can serve as a tool that helps you discover your academic interests.

Are you struggling to focus on your assignments because you can’t stop scrolling through TikTok? Do not stress! Although TikTok can be addictive, your For Your Page (FYP) may actually have an unintended positive academic side-effect. For those who aren’t familiar with TikTok, your FYP is your personalized feed of videos. Everyone has a different FYP according to their interests. I would like to suggest that your FYP can actually help you find spring courses that you are passionate about. Oftentimes, students aren’t sure which classes they should take because they don’t realize that non-academic interests can actually transfer into academic practice. So, I would like to help create this connection for you: think about what type of videos you see on your FYP (and if you don’t have TikTok then on social media in general) and I will suggest some courses that I think you would love.

  1. TeaTok

Is your FYP full of the latest celebrity drama or “tea”? I think conducting research through certain psychology courses may satisfy your need for gossip. Through psychology, you can explore more deeply why the drama between your favorite celebrities happens and what they might be thinking and feeling. Furthermore, if you are a first year, then I suggest looking into WRI 153: The Meaning of Celebrity. In this course, you can conduct research on your favorite celebrities and also explore how they impact social values.

  1. Political TikTok

If your FYP is full of politics, then you might consider taking an academic approach to this interest through taking a politics course. Two courses in which you can pursue political research are POL 316: Civil Liberties and POL 240: International Relations. In POL 316 you can explore the value of civil liberties through researching key topics such as abortion and discrimination and in POL 240 you can learn how the politics of international cooperation work. Furthermore, if you want to conduct a statistical analysis of the contemporary political events you learn about online, then I suggest taking POL 345: Introduction to Quantitative Social Science. In this course you analyze data using R and conduct a ton of applicable political research. For example, I am currently enrolled in POL 345 and we’ve been analyzing polling data leading up to the election to predict who the next President will be.

  1. Artsy TikTok

If you often see make-up tutorials, dancing, or singing on your FYP, then think about how you might be able to engage with these arts beyond your phone screen. I suggest that you browse through the Lewis Center for the Arts course offerings. This spring they will have courses in photography, painting, sculpture, dancing, and more!

  1. Gaming TikTok

Is your FYP full of Among Us or League of Legends streams? Princeton has an abundance of courses that will allow you to pursue research in technology or gaming. One course that I particularly recommend for first year students is WRI 185: Gamification. I took this writing seminar and absolutely loved it because through this course you can explore what makes up the essential elements of a game and also research games that you enjoy playing. Some other courses that gamers may like are COS 126: Computer Science: An Interdisciplinary Approach, through which you can begin to explore how coders actually program games, and MAT 378: Theory of Games, through which you can learn how to use mathematical concepts to solve games.

  1. Fantasy TikTok

If your FYP is full of Draco Malfoy, Cinderella, or Star Wars scenes, then you should check out English courses such as ENG 385: Children’s Literature. Although this course won’t be offered this spring, I suggest looking out for it in the future because in this course you can analyze the novels you read as a child, including Harry Potter! I also think that a Creative Writing class would be a great fit for you. More specifically, you can take CWR 204: Creative Writing (Fiction) to learn how to actually write your own fantasy. Lastly, if you are interested in studying French FRE 207: Studies in French Language and Style centers around analyzing French fantasies. I am currently enrolled in FRE 207 and it’s one of the most interesting courses that I’ve taken at Princeton.

 6. CuteTok

Do you love watching videos of adorable puppies and newborns? Developmental psychology would be an awesome course for you to take. In PSY 254: Developmental Psychology, you can discover what is actually happening within the brains of the cute little babies you see on TikTok. I also recommend looking out for PSY338: From Animal Learning to Changing People’s Minds in the future (as it is not offered this spring). In this course, you can learn more about the way the puppy on your For You Page thinks and makes decisions. One other course that I recommend for those who are interested in animals and would like to explore the relationship between animals and humans more deeply and in a religious context is REL 214: Religion, Ethics, and Animals. These courses will help you see the cute videos you view on TikTok through a new perspective and are definitely worth looking into.

Your TikTok FYP can tell you a lot about who you are and what you love. After spending countless hours on TikTok myself, I realized what I really enjoy watching and learning about. I now take courses in fields that are related to my FYP and feel so passionate about the topics that I’m able to research. I hope that you too can try linking your personal interests with your academic plans by taking courses this Spring that you truly feel are “For You”.

Although Spring plans are unclear, we can choose to take courses that we feel truly passionate about regardless of if we are back on campus or online.

– Ryan Champeau, Social Sciences Correspondent

Lost and Confused? Create a Map!

It’s said that a picture tells a thousand words; a map, however, can tell you a million.

To me, maps are not just tools for navigation. They have a variety of uses, enabling their creators to visualize a vast array of data efficiently and quickly. From questionable election forecasts to the location of monuments in a city, anything of your choosing can be mappable. Maps, in my experience, can be one of the most powerful tools in your research toolbox. Thus, I want to show you how you can use maps in your research, and the power they hold!

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Getting the Most Out of Courses Outside Your Comfort Zone

One of the fascinating aspects of our education at Princeton is how we are encouraged every semester to take courses from a wide variety of disciplines. However, while that is intellectually stimulating, it can also be unnerving in the beginning – especially when you have to step away from analyzing a situation or a problem through the lens of a discipline of study that you are comfortable with and instead approach the issue from a completely different viewpoint. Case in point: last semester, at the recommendation of my academic adviser, I took Anthropology 203 (ANT 203): Economic Life in Cultural Context with Professor Rena Lederman. My adviser believed that the course would be useful for me as a prospective economics concentrator: it would give me the opportunity to examine the field from a different perspective and broaden my horizons. Conceptually, that made a lot of sense. Soon, however, I realized that trying to analyze economic situations without the economic tools and methods that I had grown accustomed to was rather disorienting. Nevertheless, despite the initial difficulty, I found that looking at questions I was familiar with in economics through an anthropological lens ended up being to be especially rewarding. Thankfully, that process became easier as I progressed through the course and learned the tools and methodologies specific to anthropological research.

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How to Prepare for an In-Class Zoom Presentation

Presenting on Zoom can be difficult, as you must now learn how to keep a virtual audience engaged. Last spring semester, after returning home due to COVID-19, I had to quickly learn how to make this transition, as I was enrolled in CBE346: Chemical Engineering Laboratory (core lab). This course was laboratory based, and it consisted of 4 different lab rotations, after which all students had to complete a written report and a presentation. Due to the pandemic, 3 of those were completed over Zoom. 

In this post, I will give tips on how to prepare for a Zoom presentation, using the insights I gained from my core lab presentations.

Screenshot of the recorded video of my core lab presentation.
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Through Thick and Thin: Going over PSETs during Remote Learning

Getting PSETs done over Zoom can be a combination of awkward and challenging. To assist with that task, fellow PCUR Correspondent Ryan Champeau recently wrote a post with suggestions for working on PSETs in the age of remote learning. A great tip in that article is to collaborate with friends when permitted under a course’s collaboration policy. However, given that students can’t meet in person to work on assignments anymore, I’ve found the process of checking over PSETs to be a bit more difficult than usual.

Specifically, I’m taking QCB 455, an introductory course to quantitative and computational biology in which there are four total problem sets. As a neuroscience major in a class filled with computer science majors and some graduate students, I didn’t really know many people in the course. Going over the first PSET with people I didn’t know over Zoom felt a bit strange, but I’ve since found that there are actually a few benefits to going over PSETs that are specific to the remote experience. In this post, I’ll go over the three strategies I’ve started to use when collaborating on PSETs for my classes:

Photo by Max. G.
One of my favorite places to get PSETs done back when students were on campus – the couch at the heart of Murray-Dodge Café.
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Tips on Preparing a Research Funding Proposal

At Princeton, we are fortunate to have pretty much unrestricted access to a huge variety of research resources through our libraries– access which is free (or, at least, “free” after tuition…). However, as I have written before on this blog (see here and here), there may be situations where Princeton’s library system does not have the information you need for your research, and you have to venture outward to other libraries and archives, or, in some cases, engage in field work of some kind. Now, access to these resources, unfortunately may not be free. Usually the biggest expense here would be travel, but even given our current no-travel circumstances, research expenses remain in the form of document scans, books, photocopies, and human subject payment (all of which are acceptable uses of funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) as of now).

If you relate to this concerned student, have no fear– research funding is accessible with a well-done research proposal!
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Turning a Laboratory-Based Research Proposal into a Remote Project

Last spring semester, I was completing my junior independent work in a bioengineering lab on campus. My project was lab-heavy, as I was investigating the extent of DNA damage (measured as type and frequency of breaks occurring in the DNA) that occurs in persister subpopulations (cell populations with non-inherited tolerance to antibiotics) of E.Coli cells when treated with antibiotics and other DNA damaging agents. I had prepared a series of experiments to test these conditions, most of which would be performed after returning from spring break. However, those plans changed in March, when students were sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Like many other lab researchers, I was left with incomplete experiments and an upcoming deadline to present my work. Independent research for the chemical and biological engineering (CBE ) department is only one semester long, and I spent most of the first half of the semester doing literature review, planning experiments and learning lab techniques. With only eight weeks left before my final paper and presentation deadline, I worried about the possibility of having to change my entire research topic into something that could be completed remotely. However, along with the lead researcher of the lab, or principal investigator (PI), and graduate student mentor, we developed a plan to easily transition the project I had already been working on into a remote project. In this post, I will give tips on how to conduct laboratory research remotely.

Conducting laboratory-heavy research remotely can be challenging. However, due to the collaborative nature of research, a laboratory project can successfully be modified to be conducted remotely.
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A Freshman’s Guide to Writing a Research Policy Memo

The freshman seminars are one of the unique experiences at Princeton. While they may seem intimidating at first, they made me think of the process of research in my very first year in college. Not everyone might become a full-time researcher – I, for example, want to become a policy analyst – but many of our jobs will involve research, and the structure of the freshman seminar is very conducive to the research process. In the Economics of Immigration seminar that I took with Professor Leah Boustan during Fall 2019, we discussed aspects of the economic effects of immigration both on the receiving country and on the migrants themselves. Our final deliverable was a research policy memo – a document that describes a policy intervention by the government, by first arguing the need for it, then describing its advantages, and finally proposing a way by which it might be implemented. In order to write an effective memo, I had to research an issue that necessitated looking at it from diverse points of view. The process made me appreciate several principles of writing a policy memo.

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4 Tips to Organize Your Lost Folders and Misplaced Files

While I was working to finalize my research this summer, I realized something: I couldn’t find one of my sources central to my argument. Pouring through my various folders on my computer, I could not find this source. Between Excel sheets with undescriptive names and misplaced images, it wasn’t just that my source was missing; I lacked an entirely well-formulated, well-maintained organizational structure to keep track of my work.

If anything, organization should be easier in the digital space. Besides bytes, we’re not necessarily concerned with finding the space to store our papers, books, and other materials; in fact, we can create folders upon folders, meticulously grouping related works together to keep track of them.

But this is the trap. While I’ll see the mess before me on my desk, I don’t necessarily see that all of my folders are disorganized until I need to find something. I don’t see that I stored images for my essay on my Google Drive rather than in that class’s folder. In my experience, computer storage may facilitate organization, but it also hides potential messes from you until you need to find that one file for your assignment or research. And even if you’re the type of person where all of your work is spilled out onto your home screen, sifting through the documents at times is surely a nightmare.

So, I wanted to outline some of the steps that I’ve taken this school year to make sure that everything remains organized in this weird digital setting:

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