Over the course of the semester, PCURs will explain how they found their place in research. We present these to you as a series called The Project That Made Me a Researcher. As any undergraduate knows, the transition from ‘doing a research project’ to thinking of yourself as aresearcher is an exciting and highly individualized phenomenon. Here, Jalisha shares her story.
White lab coats. As a freshman in high school, I believed these to be the quintessential markings of a true researcher. My transition into the world of research, then, occurred during the summer after my first year of high school, when I wore my very own lab coat for the first time.
That summer, I participated in the Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program, a program charged with the mission of encouraging young minorities to pursue careers in STEM fields. I was assigned to work with a microbiology professor in her lab, where I would assist with research on the presence of harmful bacteria in store-bought lunchmeat. I had nothing more than my high school biology experience for credentials, but with my white lab coat on, I felt prepared for anything. Continue reading The Project That Made Me a Researcher: (No?) Lab Coat Required
This fall has been an extremely hectic one for me- in addition to taking the typical Princeton course load of 4 classes, I’m also trying to balance starting my senior thesis research, working my various on-campus jobs, and applying to grad school. Recently, however, a new challenge has emerged: preparing applications for graduate fellowships. It came as a surprise to me that these applications are due well before any of my actual graduate school applications. Luckily, I’ve been able to find a few resources to help out with the fellowship application process, especially for research fellowships like the NSF. I’m sharing my fellowship resources and strategies here to help anyone else who anticipates riding the senior year struggle bus while applying for fellowships.
I am writing this blog while simultaneously unpacking my suitcase from one of the most eventful weekends of my Princeton career. Where did I go, you ask? Well, this weekend I flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, where I presented a research poster at the annual conference for the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics!
Traveling to attend academic conferences is one of the many perks of being a researcher, and student researchers are no exception. These conferences allow you to expand your understanding of your field or related fields and network with people from around the world. While many students conduct research during their time at Princeton, however, the opportunity to attend and present at an academic conference seems almost illusory. If hectic class schedules and large conference registration fees aren’t enough of a deterrent, the fear of being inadequate/unprepared can quell even the most hopeful Princetonians from submitting their research abstracts to conference committees.
This is how I respond to a non-senior who asks about my senior thesis:
“I love my topic and my adviser is amazing; I can’t wait to start my research!”
& THIS is how I respond when a fellow senior asks about my thesis:
” OMG I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING; WHY DO I FEEL SO LOST??!”
Despite the great deal of resources departments provide to help seniors with their independent work, feeling overwhelmed appears to be inevitable at the start of senior year. This seems to hold true no matter how many times you emailed your adviser over the summer or how much time you spent writing (and rewriting) your IRB proposal. If you’re anything like me, your natural reaction to stress is to seek seclusion; you’ve probably thought to yourself, “Senior year, I’m going into isolation in order to finish this thesis- it’s the only way it can be done!”
The name “independent work” promotes this same idea, that your thesis must be your own work and therefore requires you to independently figure everything out. However, it’s possible that by reframing the way we think about independent work, we can actually succeed in completing our senior theses and save ourselves a lot of stress along the way.
One of the biggest concerns students have when considering studying abroad junior year is how they will work on their independent work, specifically their Junior Paper (JP). While the experience of writing a JP abroad varies from person to person, I can say that I found writing the JP abroad to be a lot easier than I had initially expected! I did, however, intentionally seek out ways to facilitate the JP writing process. Here are a few things I did that can make JP writing a lot easier if you’re planning to go abroad:
First off, I found it extremely helpful to start thinking about my JP in advance, at least a month before leaving for study abroad. Although I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about, I had a general area that I wanted to explore (cognition in the classroom). By deciding this early on, I was able to meet with my adviser and brainstorm potential JP topics. Together, my adviser and I also found professors at my university abroad who were involved in research related to the areas I was most interested in. I was then able to reach out to these professors via email to introduce myself and find out which classes they were teaching the following semester. I actually ended up taking a class based on the work done by a professor that I reached out to, and it really helped me narrow down my JP interests!
Something incredible happened the other day in class here at University College London (UCL). My psychology professor was lecturing on the topic of attention and awareness when, suddenly, a familiar name appeared on the screen: Matthew Botvinick, Professor of Psychology at Princeton University! I was struck with surprise, amazement, and joy at seeing his name on the board, feeling fortunate to have taken a neuroscience course with him the year before. A sense of pride washed over me as my European classmates & I learned about one of Professor Botvinick’s experimental studies on conflict monitoring. However, I also felt a wave of regret. Why had I not known about this study before? Shouldn’t I, a student in the Psychology Department at Princeton, know about the amazing research that my professor had conducted?
Most students at Princeton are well aware of the fact that the school’s faculty members are highly accomplished. However, while the merits of some professors are published by CNN on a daily basis, the accomplishments of other professors are less publicized. Nonetheless, many of the individuals who stand before us each and every day have and continue to produce incredible research that is highly regarded around the world.
As students, we frequently ask a particular question regarding our coursework: “How is this going to help me in the future?” While sometimes posed sarcastically, with a hint of disdain for whoever invented subjects like Calculus, our intention behind asking this question has always been to elicit a meaningful response that proves our coursework worthwhile. For some individuals who plan to go into academia after undergrad (myself being included), the correlation between our current coursework and our future occupation is highly apparent: writing literature reviews and research proposals now will help us write better ones in the future. No brainer. But what about the individuals who plan to work outside of an academic setting?
Interestingly enough, I recently discovered that many students at British universities receive a document from each professor listing the indispensable life skills they’ll develop through the completion of their coursework. These skills, referred to as “transferable skills”* for their usefulness in just about every occupation, encompass everything from thinking critically and negotiating to managing resources and communicating globally. This listing of skills not only seems beneficial for individuals looking to beef up their resume, but also for anyone trying to find purpose in their academic work. Continue reading “Transferable Skills” – The Answer We’ve All Been Waiting For
A common question I’ve gotten since coming to the UK to study is “what differences have you seen between classes in the UK and classes back home?” I’ve given some thought to this question and have decided to map out some of the various differences I’ve noticed between the curriculum design and expectations for upper level Psychology classes at Princeton vs. at University College London (UCL). Each system presents different strengths in developing student researchers.
Lectures & Course Readings
Princeton: Many of my Psychology courses at Princeton were structured around a pre-assigned textbook. This practice helped with giving the course an understandable and predictable composition, with each lecture matching up closely with the units of the assigned reading material. Although professors generally provided supplementary information not found in the textbook, common themes and key elements of the course could be identified through the textbook readings.
UCL: Every lecture I have attended thus far at UCL has been heavily based in current research literature. The assigned readings are the research articles themselves. In the lecture, the professor typically picks a topic related to the course, then discusses current research on the topic, emphasizing both the merits and shortcomings of various studies. It is then discussed how the studies interact with one another, showcasing how newer studies are able to strengthen or disprove claims made by previous studies through replicating or altering experimental designs. Continue reading A Global Look at Educating Researchers
Hello from London, England! This semester, I’ve left the comforts of the Orange Bubble, traveling 3,500 miles to study at University College London (UCL). While my spring semester in London began a few weeks ago, I know that back at Princeton, the new term is just beginning!
The start of a new semester is always refreshing – it’s almost as if we’ve been given a blank slate, a chance to start anew. I typically spend little to no time thinking about the past semester once a new one has begun, feeling as though the completion of final assignments signals the abrupt end to all thoughts relating to a particular course. However, this semester differed from past semesters for me. One particular Dean’s Date assignment stayed on my mind long after its submission and ended up impacting me in an unexpected way. Continue reading Finding Passion in Past Semesters
Many people think about studying abroad while at Princeton, but only a select few actually apply. I seldom hear of research-oriented students studying abroad. Many of us fear leaving behind the Princeton-centered academic research we’ve grown attached to. However, study abroad can be an amazing opportunity for student researchers to learn about their fields from an international perspective.
Next semester, I’ll be studying abroad at University College London (UCL). In addition to taking classes at my new university, I also hope to get involved in its research community. It seems easy to get caught up in the grandeur of being in a new location, focusing on exploring the area and forgetting to engage in meaningful and intellectual pursuits related to research. Therefore, I have spent the last few days trying to brainstorm ways to tie my research ambitions in with my plans for studying abroad. I’ve come up with a few pre-departure tasks that I feel will help me keep my research at the forefront of my mind while I traverse across the seas: