Why You Should Join a Research Journal: An Interview with PURJ Co-Editor-in-Chief Jasper Lee ’21

Since coming to Princeton, I’ve become involved in diverse publishing and editing opportunities. One of the first undergraduate publications I joined was PURJ, the Princeton Undergraduate Research Journal. As a member of the Peer Review Board for PURJ, I learned more about the peer review process in academic research publications and had the opportunity to review manuscript pieces spanning incredibly diverse disciplines from the undergraduate body. In contrast to some other more specialized journals I’m involved in, such as Unfound, Princeton’s Journal of Asian American Studies, PURJ is a truly multidisciplinary publication that showcases work from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and arts. 

To learn more about the perks of being involved in a research journal, I interviewed Jasper Lee ’21, the current Co-Editor in Chief of PURJ. A molecular biology major, he first joined PURJ as a member of the Peer Review Board and then took on the role of Managing Editor of Peer Review. Here’s what Jasper shared about his experience with PURJ: 

How and why did you first become involved in PURJ?  

I joined PURJ in the fall of my freshman year, as a peer reviewer. Arriving on campus, I really wanted to get more involved with research, and I found the concept of a completely undergraduate-run journal to be incredibly interesting. The concept of formal academic research was still pretty arcane to me at the time, so a publication at the undergraduate level was a really great introduction.

Jasper Lee ’21 with his research from a molecular biology lab.

How is the peer review process an integral part of PURJ and the research process in general?  

Peer review is important for PURJ, and research in general, as it’s a critical system of self-regulation that ensures validity in published research. Since published research manuscripts are frequently used to inform decision-making, it is extremely important that they be as valid and objective as possible. There isn’t a central authority that will look through submitted manuscripts and examine them for their truthfulness and significance. Rather, this role falls on other researchers in the form of peer review, meaning that it plays an important role in research.

How has your experience with PURJ informed your academic studies?  

Being a part of PURJ has helped me gain invaluable experience in academic research, a discipline I aim to pursue further in graduate school and beyond. I work in a molecular biology lab throughout the year which has allowed me to develop my practical lab skills, but my time with PURJ has helped me in other aspects of research – the process of submitting a research manuscript, engaging in insightful and productive peer review, and other skills that are essential for a research career.

How is the experience of leading a research publication like PURJ different from simply being involved in it? What have you learned/gained more from your leadership experience? 

When I initially joined PURJ as a peer reviewer, the focus was all on the research – reading through the manuscripts and assessing them. In my leadership roles since then, I’ve become involved with the more logistical side of things – scheduling meetings, collecting responses, and the like. In general, my leadership experiences have helped me see the bigger picture of the entire organization and adopt a more balanced point of view to management. It’s easy to get lost in the details of individual manuscripts, but my role as a leader has necessitated that I make decisions with the whole journal in mind.

Why should undergraduate students join research journals like PURJ? 

I think any undergraduate interested in research should join a research journal like PURJ! Honestly, I’ve found my experience with the journal to have been incredibly rewarding – especially due to the in-depth look at the research process I have been able to obtain. Additionally, I found that participating in peer review exposed me to research from a wide range of disciplines that I might not have come across otherwise – a look at our magazine shows how diverse undergraduate research at Princeton is. And finally, I think that students should join for the rewards at the end – seeing a finalized copy of the journal, and knowing that you contributed to it in some small way, is truly something special.


Becoming involved in research journals like PURJ, therefore, can be a rewarding experience that can helpfully inform your own academic work, and leading a publication as part of the executive board can also present a different set of challenges and experiences. Especially if you’re unsure about your concentration and what you’re passionate about, joining a multidisciplinary journal like PURJ can help you explore a myriad of academic fields through work from undergraduate peers. And even besides PURJ, Princeton has abundant written platforms through which students can showcase their research–it might be worth checking them out! 

–Soo Young Yun, Humanities Correspondent