I’ve handed in my thesis and my lab notebooks to my advisor. I’ve cleaned up the equipment I’ve piled in the corner of the methane sensor cabinet in the lab. I’ve explained my system, with all its lingering imperfections, to my group members. I’ve told them to give my lab screwdriver a new home.
That was how my time in the Princeton University Laser Sensing Lab came to a close. Graduation seems to be a time to celebrate all our successes, and to (already!) feel nostalgic for the good times we’ve had at Princeton. That’s natural. But after such a long and difficult journey, only remembering where I’ve gone right seems oddly one-sided. I wouldn’t be capturing some of the most important takeaways from Princeton if I only remembered the happy times.
On the surface, the products of engineering seem incredible. You can make iPhones, self-driving cars, and robots that swim inside your bloodstream. But what makes engineering incredible is also what makes it hard. You’re manipulating the very rules of nature to work in your favor, and nature doesn’t always want to do what you tell it to.
Still, sometimes the magic of the end product conceals the hours of drudgery in the lab. I used to think of it almost as a given: You spend long hours in the lab, and with enough time, something always pops out from the other end.
Unfortunately, that idea doesn’t take into account the endless frustrations of engineering. They’re a very real and very unavoidable part of lab research. With a week to go before my thesis deadline, everyday problems in the lab have become even more agonizing. Here are a few quotes I picked up in lab that sum up what’s going on this week. Continue reading What’s Life Like in the Engineering Lab?
There’s no denying it: It’s hard to escape the “Orange Bubble.” With so much to do on campus, it’s hard to think of reasons to leave our little insulated community. But the deeper I venture into my thesis (due May 2; the coveted Post Thesis Life doesn’t exist for ELE majors), the more I realize how easy it is to get lost in long days of endless work —and how important it is to leave the Orange Bubble once in a while.
In the thick of doing research, it’s easy to forget about the ultimate goal of writing and publishing. Thankfully, about once a month, the Princeton University Laser Sensing Lab holds what we call a “literature review”: Everyone brings in papers they’ve come across for their own research, and shares techniques that could be useful for the group at large.
At our last meeting, someone changed things up. Instead of bringing in a paper that contained interesting ideas, he brought one that he declared “the worst paper I’ve ever read”.
When I was a freshman, President Shirley Tilghman stood on the stage in McCarter Theater and told us, a crowd of alert and excited newly enrolled students: “If you’re wondering whether you belong here, you do. We don’t make mistakes.”
I wanted very hard to believe that. I was in awe of all of my classmates who seemed so talented and brilliant. I loved talking to them, but at the end of the day, I felt inadequate. I spent a lot of time wondering whether President Tilghman’s words really applied to me.
Over the course of the semester, PCURs will reflect on the professors, advisers, and friends who shaped their research experiences. We present these to you as a series called Mentorship in Research. Most undergraduates have met, or will meet, an individual who motivates and supports their independent work. Here, Stacey shares her story.
I really didn’t want to stay for the awards ceremony at the science fair that day, but Mrs. Sabherwal insisted. I told her I had to go to my clarinet lessons. No luck. I asked my mom to plead my case. No luck. She only offered, “It’s okay if you miss your lessons today”—and so, defeated, I waited at the fair.
And what an arduous wait it was. I couldn’t sit still—I just wanted to leave, and I was starting to get hungry. They kept calling names and more names. Names and more names. Were they done yet? I left and used the bathroom. But there was a flurry as I emerged, hands still damp with residual sink water—come quick, they told me, they’re calling your name! The highest award in the district science fair! Impossible. It turns out that Mrs. Sabherwal had confided in my mom about the award and expressly requested that I remain.
“Women aren’t meant for research. Get out of the research field while you still can.”
I heard those two sentences during the summer of my freshman year. I was at a summer research program, and the woman who told me this was the last person I would’ve have expected to discourage me from pursuing research. She was an associate professor from China working in the lab for a year and seemed very successful. But as it turned out, she had many buried regrets and concerns about her choice of profession and had come to question her own abilities as a woman researcher.Continue reading “Women aren’t meant for research” ? Reflections of my path through Electrical Engineering
With Princeton’s 3-week-long reading and finals period, January can seem like one long, unending study session. Thankfully, you’re not alone. There are always some friends by your side… and by friends, I mean desk friends: objects you can’t do finals without. Of course, it’s also a good idea to make time for your real friends during finals. As Kavi has explained, study groups are extremely effective, and they can help you approach studying with better mood. But for now, let’s focus on 4 desk friends that can really do wonders for your studying and your sanity.
Reading Period is probably one of the most unique times of the Princeton semester. Fall semester’s Reading Period is particularly special (or brutal, some people would say), because it comes after winter break and makes January one long month filled with studying and finals. But after four years of enduring the looks of pity and shock from friends and family, it’s somehow been growing on me. The prospect of having work over break is still stressful, but I’ve come to strike a balance between work and relaxation and even enjoy parts of Reading Period—and winter break, too.
That’s probably your face as you read this title. To be sure, our typical experiences with research usually have little to nothing to do with social media. But we have to remember that, at the end of the day, research is interesting because of its power to change lives. It’s our job as researchers to show how that can happen — by making our work accessible and relevant. And who knows how to be accessible and relevant better than social media experts?
Somewhat surprisingly, that’s where art comes in. Princeton’s recent Social Media Day started with an interactive demonstration—an early morning tour of the collection in Princeton University Art Museum, with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Chief Digital Officer, Sree Sreenivasan, offering tips on how to share art on social media. This tour was modeled after the “#emptymet” tours that showcase the Met’s artwork online, which helps maintain public interest in the works.
So taking a page out of that book, let’s recap the best quotes from Social Media Day, as illustrated by artwork from the Princeton University Art Museum.