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

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

How to Approach a Politics Paper

 

Corwin Hall, home of Princeton’s Politics Department, is often the final destination of a politics paper.

This week, I’m working on a paper for Human Rights, a politics class that I’m taking.This course only has one major paper assignment, and it’s very broad. Given that this is a tricky, but not entirely uncommon situation, I thought I’d share my approach to writing this paper. It’s often said that “writing is thinking,” so why not write about thinking about writing?

I started thinking about the paper pretty early in the course. To be fair, this wasn’t all me—my preceptor gently encouraged us to have a topic in mind before Spring Break. The best thing about brainstorming topics early is that you have the time and latitude to allow your idea to evolve. And evolve my idea did. Continue reading How to Approach a Politics Paper

Why Do We Research?

John Witherspoon, President of the College of New Jersey from 1768-1794, played a key role in setting (what would become) Princeton on the course to become the renowned research institution it is today. Now, his statue watches over new generations of students as they journey into Firestone Library. 

If you are reading this post, you are likely involved in research. Unsurprisingly, I am too.  Yes, I’ve spent my fair share of long nights on the A floor of Firestone, reviewing sources and tightening up arguments. This week, I’m embarking on a new history research paper about the evolution of Native American spirituality from the 1830s to the 1890s, which I anticipate will take a fair amount of time. Reflecting on the work I have ahead got me thinking, why am I doing this in the first place? In fact, why do any of us research?

This question can really be broken into two parts: “What do we hope to achieve from our research?” and “What motivates us to conduct our research?” We think about the first question often, because in the academy, we have to justify what we’re doing to our professors, to funding boards, etc.  And in lots of research, one’s answer to the first question informs their answer to the second. Certain biologist friends of mine, for instance, study lab rat carcasses in the hopes of better understanding tumors, with the inspiring goal of curing cancer. In cases such as this, the aim of a project is to arrive at something with a concrete application so marvelous that it motivates the researcher to come to the lab each morning.
Continue reading Why Do We Research?

How to Write a History Research Paper

When writing a history research paper, the right approach is key. Sitting outside, like the above student, may be helpful, but also consider heading to a library for a more focused atmosphere–and larger tables to spread out your notes!

In my last post, I shared some tips on how to conduct research in history and emphasized that researchers should keep in mind a source’s category (transcript, court document, speech, etc.). This post is something of a sequel to that, as I will share some thoughts on what often follows primary-source research: a history research paper.  Continue reading How to Write a History Research Paper

Historical Research With Primary Sources

“They had dynamite.” This transcript of a conversation with three NAACP leaders illustrates the very real threat of danger these activists faced during the Little Rock Public School Integration Crisis.

After much consideration, I have settled on concentrating in the History Department. Consequently, this semester finds me taking several courses with a historical bent. Thus far in these classes, I have been immersed in the theory and practice of historical research. Today, I’d like to share some of the highlights from my experiences in History 280: Approaches to American History. Continue reading Historical Research With Primary Sources

Yoga and Research

The 2017-2018 Yoga and Meditation Fellows at the Divine Life Society Ashram, Rishikesh, India.

Greetings from Maharashtra, India! It’s just a few hours into 2018 here, and I’m on a bus bound for Mumbai with 15 other Princetonians as part of the 2017-18 Princeton University Yoga and Meditation Fellowship. As our time in the country comes to a close, I’d like to share some of my reflections from this immersive experience.

At first glance, it might not seem like there could be any possible overlap between yoga and research, or even academics. After all, yoga is just a bunch of exercise postures for hippies or suburban moms, right?

Continue reading Yoga and Research

Course Selection in Anticipation of Major Declaration

Your choice of concentration will definitely impact your precept experience–another reason to make this choice carefully!

My fellow A.B. sophomores, this post is directed at you (not my already-declared B.S.E friends). Whether you feel like your time at Princeton has dragged on or flown by, we now find ourselves at a crossroads. Next semester, we commit ourselves to something in a way that we have never quite done before: we declare a concentration.

Sophomores are generally in one of several stages with regard to major declaration by this point in the year. Some are dead set on a particular concentration. Others are relatively confident about which department they’ll choose, with some degree of uncertainty. Others still are rather split between or amongst several departments. And finally, a portion of the class might have very little idea about what they’ll choose in April. I personally find myself somewhere in between the second and third groups above. I’m deciding between a concentration that is comfortable and familiar to me, and one that would present more of an academic stretch–I haven’t taken many classes in the department, and in general, know less about the subject.

Continue reading Course Selection in Anticipation of Major Declaration

Advice on Reaching Out to Faculty

Sitting in the back of a lecture can make your professor seem distant. Reaching out via email, discussed below, can help you get to know them better.

In my last post, I ended with a suggestion: reach out to faculty members. This post is an assortment of advice on how to go about doing that. More precisely, this post is about how to get in touch with faculty for the first time. Yes, dear readers, today we discuss the joy that is the cold email.

There are several situations in which cold emailing can be in your interest. You might want to get to know the faculty member better, or to do research with them. You might also want their advice on research at other institutions, summer programs, or independent work. Whatever your individual case, however, certain general principles apply when reaching out to faculty.

If cold emails are new or intimidating to you, fear not. The advice contained below will (hopefully) make this menacing task feel much more manageable.

Continue reading Advice on Reaching Out to Faculty

Finding a Faculty Mentor at Princeton

At Princeton, ‘finding your way’ can seem as daunting as escaping the Labyrinth. Even when things are going well, I find myself asking thinks like: What are the best courses to take next semester? What should I do next summer? What should I do with my life?

Developing a relationship with a mentor can be one of the most personally rewarding aspects of academic life at Princeton. 

Questions like these don’t have easy answers, and as best as I can tell, we shouldn’t expect to wake up one day with everything figured out. But chipping away at these questions is important, and I’ve found it much easier to do so with some guidance. Where do we get guidance, though?

Enter the mentor. The mentor is your wiser half, your sensei—the person who guides you through this mysterious world with sage advice and unflagging support.

Continue reading Finding a Faculty Mentor at Princeton