Research During the Academic Year: Tips for Time Management & Pursuing your Passions

A schedule board with a plethora of sticky notes containing writings on various obligations.
Whether you’re in a lab or working remotely, fitting in research during the academic year requires above all a willingness to prioritize yourself and good time management. Photo Credit: Jo Szczepanska.

Whether you’re trying to free up your summer to enjoy one of Princeton’s other fully-funded programs, or maybe pave the way for more advanced summer or independent research opportunities, it’s understandable why you might want to get a head start on research during the academic year. But, with jam-packed class schedules, multiple labs, essays to write, and hopefully squeezing in some time for yourself, it can feel impossible to do research on top of life at Princeton. So, how do students do it? Can you really spend 8-10 hours per week on research and still find work-life balance? In short, it depends. The number of classes you’re taking, extracurriculars, and your own unique circumstances all factor into whether research during the academic year is sustainable for your class schedule. For some, research can be a valuable addition to their academic schedules. But, like anything at Princeton, it requires careful planning, time management, and clarifying your own values. Here are three tips for striking balance with research during the academic year.

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Publications, Conferences, and Professional Development: Motivations for Your R3

Research Correspondent, Amaya Dressler ’25, presenting her Writing Seminar R3 research at the Mary George Research Conference.
Research Correspondent, Amaya Dressler ’25, presenting her Writing Seminar R3 research at the Mary George Research Conference.

Writing sem. For many, it’s one of the most challenging courses they’ll ever take at Princeton. It forces you to think in new and challenging ways, often questioning some of the ‘basic rules’ we’d previously been taught about writing. With late nights spent drafting and redrafting, 8:30 am classes, and daunting essay prompts, it’s easy to understand how writing sem (short for writing seminar) gets its reputation. No student makes it out of writing sem with three perfect papers. Yet, in the midst of challenge, it’s easy to lose sight of the many professional opportunities that writing sem can offer. Whether you’re looking to get published, nail your next job interview, or just make a little extra cash, here are four ways that any student can make the most of their writing sem experience.

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Opportunity Overwhelm

An image of a coffee mug sitting atop a monthly planner.
An image of a coffee mug sitting atop a monthly planner. Photo credits: Estée Janssens (@esteejanssens)

“Don’t let any opportunity pass you by.” Whether from parents, coaches, teachers, or other peers, chances are we’ve all had this phrase quoted to us at some point in our high school careers. Before Princeton, I more or less lived by it. I knew that opportunities had to be sought at all times everywhere. One thing I hadn’t planned for coming to Princeton, though, was the possibility of there being too many opportunities. When resources are abundant but time is scarce, how does one choose? How does one take advantage of opportunities that are exciting, meaningful, and fun for them without risking burnout? Read on for four recommendations on how you can make the most of your Princeton experience while maintaining a work/life balance.

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A Budding Field: Finding Opportunities in Psychedelic Research

The logo for the Princeton Science of Psychedelics Club. A large three-dimensional ring with blue radiating ovals.
The logo for Princeton’s Science of Psychedelics Club (PSPC), a student-lead organization seeking to educate students about psychedelics, discuss current trends in psychedelic research, and provide opportunities to other students interested in pursuing psychedelic research. If interested in joining, contact PSPC@princeton.edu or President Camilla Strauss ’23 for more information.

One goal for any budding researcher is to see their work have a tangible public impact. But, with endless hours spent in a lab or hunched over a computer, there are times where research can feel abstract or removed from reality. Neuroscience, in particular, faces this stereotype. True, many (including myself) believe that neuroscience holds the key to understanding our conscience and, by extension, our modern predicament. But the question remains: where can an aspiring neuroscientist find the life-altering research they seek?

Ironically, the answer might just lie in reality-altering substances. From neuroscience to public policy, psychedelics is a budding topic across many different fields of research. While Princeton itself is yet to enter the field, the Princeton Science of Psychedelics Club (PSPC) serves as the hub for all students interested in this emerging field. I sat down with PSPC and senior Neuroscience Major President Camilla Strauss to talk about how students interested in psychedelics research could learn more. 

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A Figure Speaks a Thousand Words

Example boxplot titled Boxplot of Magnesium, Ashwaganda, and Melatonin with Deep Sleep. The boxplot analysis indicates statistically insignificant variations among supplement types. The author describes the follow-up question after their ANOVA analysis: how does my sleep vary with a magnesium pill vs. without a magnesium pill?
The boxplot comparison accurately reflects the variation between different sleep supplements and their effect on deep sleep quantity. As seen above, the boxplot demonstrates the presence of a single outlier under the Magnesium group which could have easily skewed and misrepresented the data in another type of figure.

As anyone who has taken one of Princeton’s introductory statistics courses can tell you: informative statistics and figures can and will be incredibly useful in supporting your research. Whether you’re reworking your R1, writing your first JP, or in the final stages of your Senior Thesis, chances are you’ve integrated some useful statistics into your argument. When there are a million different positions that one can take in an argument, statistics appear to be our research’s objective grounding. The data says so, therefore I must be right. Right?

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