The infamous Senior Thesis is a source of stress and anxiety for many students. Although there are information sessions galore for juniors, I didn’t feel like I actually understood the process until I started it. This summer, I began my thesis research process by traveling to Norway to collect observational data on the country’s prison system.
Before senior year, the senior thesis can feel worlds away. For me, thinking about my senior thesis has always felt like imagining potential careers—impractical fantasies rather than realistic plans. Wouldn’t it be cool to…? What if I…?
But just a few weeks ago, I received an email from my department, reminding me that thesis funding application deadlines were approaching. If I wanted to receive summer funding for thesis research, I needed to have an adviser, a research question, and a summer research itinerary solidified by the end of spring break.
I felt somewhat blindsided by this deadline. I’m still a junior. I just started my second Junior Paper. I had given almost no thought to selecting my thesis adviser, let alone constructing a research plan for my still non-existent thesis project.
But for years, I’ve heard stories about the University’s generosity in supporting thesis projects. I wasn’t about to miss this opportunity.
Fortunately, I was able to select an adviser and write a project proposal before the funding deadline. Even so, I wished someone had warned me sooner about the timeline for thesis projects.
As I’ve learned, it is never too early to start thinking about thesis ideas. Because thesis ideas can gestate for a long time, it can be helpful to maintain a few lists of ideas, models, and resources. You can add to them when you get inspired and consult them when the time finally comes to select a topic.
Princeton is full of opportunities–it should be easy to plan a cool summer, right?
Sure it should. But in reality, just thinking of summer 2019 is overwhelming.
You just finished fall midterms and already everyone is talking about what they want to do next summer. Your inbox is swamped with emails that mention dozens of programs. Campus is littered with posters throwing deadlines around, but it’s nearly impossible to make any sense of it all, especially while managing a Princeton course load!
If you haven’ t thought about summer yet do not stress. This time last year, I was still undecided about my major, and trying to simply decide what extra-curriculars to be a part of. And yet, I had a great summer:
Summer after my first year at Princeton, through the International Internship Program, I interned in Kathmandu, Nepal at a contemporary art gallery. This was my first time abroad, and I had a phenomenal experience. During my internship, I designed a catalogue, shadowed the gallery’s director, and even designed/installed my own exhibition. Though the internship was unpaid, my summer was fully funded by Princeton.
The point is, I think its completely unnecessary to start stressing for May in October. So, to calm any nerves and make planning a rocking summer a bit easier, here’s a brief overview of some popular summer ideas for underclass students. Included are deadlines, brief descriptions and testimonials from past students.
Disclaimer: This is NOT a complete list. Just a list of popular options and those that my friends have explored. Also, these opportunities are not limited to first-year and sophomore students. Juniors and seniors may also take advantage of some of the programs mentioned below.
The summer after my first year, I worked for the Pringle Lab as an ecological research assistant in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. I have always loved the natural world, and my internship in Gorongosa allowed me to combine that love with my passion for scientific research. Camping for eight weeks amongst vervet monkeys, warthogs and baboons, and working with researchers in the savanna amidst antelopes, elephants, and lions made the internship a dream come true. That dream was made possible by the Princeton Environmental Institute.
Each year, PEI offers numerous established internships in locations around the world. These opportunities cover a range of environmental topics that address complex global issues related to energy and climate, sustainable development, health, conservation, and sustainability. All the internships last at least 8 weeks, are funded by PEI, and are mentored by a professional organization or Princeton professor. In addition to established internships, PEI also offers an opportunity to design your own internship with a professor if you are interested in a specific research topic.
My PEI internship provided me with real world experience in topics I was learning in classes and taught me how research works in the field.
My PEI internship provided me with real world experience in topics I was learning in classes and taught me how research works in the field. I worked alongside three Princeton Ph.D. students, studying the diet of large mammalian herbivores, identifying trees on termite mounds, and surveying floodplain vegetation protected from herbivory with enclosures. Working with the small community of researchers in the park, I developed research skills such as how to plan field projects and take thorough field notes, while also strengthening my interpersonal skills. Much of our work related to the restoration of Gorongosa’s ecosystem following the ecologically catastrophic civil war in Mozambique, and I witnessed first-hand many of the issues that impact modern conservation and humanitarian efforts in developing countries.
If you likewise have a passion for environmentally related research, you can find detailed internship descriptions and application information on the PEI website. The final deadline for established internships is March 27th, but applications are considered on a rolling basis until positions are filled–so apply as soon as possible!
While it takes a little more effort to make a non-established internship happen, it really is all about taking initiative. My internship in Gorongosa was student-initiated and began simply with a couple of students asking Professor Pringle after class if we could intern with his lab. So if you are interested in creating a student-initiated internship, don’t be afraid to ask–talk to a professor or graduate student about creating an internship and get the ball rolling, and read about past internship projects to get ideas and understand what type of project will succeed. For advice on connecting with faculty members, see this recent PCUR post.
For students who are interested in summer research opportunities in non-environmental fields, the office of undergraduate research offers a student-initiated internship program over the summer called OURSIP. The priority deadline is March 1st, then applications are accepted on a rolling basis until April 1st.
— Alec Getraer, Natural Sciences Correspondent
Don’t tell your mom I told you this, but the Funding Fairy isn’t real. And it took me until this week to realize it.
Since before even arriving on campus, I’ve heard story after story of Princeton’s generosity: the fully-funded research project, the all-expenses-paid trip to Cuba, the paid summer fellowship. Dazzled by these stories, I pictured the University as a Funding Fairy with a magic wand (or a pushover parent in a toy store – ready to pull out their wallet whenever I pointed at something I wanted). Unfortunately, however, this Funding Fairy is not real; funding is not awarded nearly as liberally as I imagined.
Earlier this week, I decided I wanted to spend winter break translating Yiddish poetry in archives in New York City. I’ve been itching to study Yiddish for months, but, because Princeton doesn’t offer a Yiddish program (yet), I’ve had to limit my Yiddish projects to vacations. Shortly after thinking of my poetry translation idea, I shot an email to the Lewis Center for the Arts asking for a small bit of funding for the project. A few hours later, I received the response: “We don’t have winter funding.” And like a child discovering the coin under her pillow was no fairy gift, I realized securing funding is more complicated than just asking for it. And I’m actually grateful for that.
A few weeks ago, I participated in an event hosted by Princeton’s Peer Career Advisers called an “Insider’s Look at Internships.” I was there as an ambassador for OURSIP—the Office of Undergraduate Research’s Student Initiated Internships Program. OURSIP makes it possible for Princeton students to pursue unpaid research opportunities over the summer, such as my own, by providing funding to cover anticipated expenses.
The unique thing about OURSIP is that it asks students to take it upon themselves to secure their own internship before asking Princeton for help with funding. As opposed to other Princeton programs, like PICS or IIP, which also assist students in the internship search process as part of the program. As students came up to speak to me about OURSIP at the event, I found that their first question was always, “So what is OURSIP?” and after hearing my description their second, more hesitant question was always, “But how did you find your internship?”
If you are an upperclassman, at this point in the semester, you’ve probably met with your adviser, decided on your research topic, and come up with a game plan for beginning your independent work. That said, you may still need to figure out one final detail: getting research funding. Not only does the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE) now have several applications open for Winter and Intersession research, but applications for spring funding will also be opening relatively soon. Even if you aren’t in the midst of writing a thesis, SAFE also lists opportunities for students who need funding for internships, summer study abroad programs, and independent projects. If this is your first time applying for funding and you’re worried about writing a convincing proposal, you’re not the only one. That’s why PCUR attended the Writing Program’s “Crafting Your Research Proposal” workshop to bring back some pointers. If you weren’t able to make it, here are the fundamental guiding questions to help make your research statement as clear and effective as possible: Continue reading Need Funding? Tips for Writing a Convincing Proposal
No matter how you look at it, spring semester is about making choices. The first few weeks involve choosing which classes to switch into (or, less happily, out of). The next few months will see sophomores choosing their major, and seniors choosing the direction of their post-graduation lives. Of course, there is one other choice embedded in this half of the year: what internship/program/job each of us will do over the summer.
Since most summer opportunities require some level of research skills, PCUR wanted to help you decide what kind of researcher you’d like to be between May and August (and possibly beyond). We created Resources for Researchers to point you in the right direction. Our new page – which you’ll also find in our menu bar – includes where to look for research programs, who to contact, and how to get funding. We’ve surveyed Princeton-sponsored opportunities as well as those from outside organizations. Whether you’re interested in science, engineering, health, government, policy, humanities, arts, or culture, there’s some useful information waiting for your perusal.
A final note: Resources for Researchers is not exclusively devoted to summer programs. It also covers fall-spring research opportunities and independently-designed projects. So, no matter what kind of researcher you’d like to be, take a look at the Resources available here – and make whatever choice feels right for you.
— Melissa Parnagian, Chief Correspondent
With Princeton ranked as the No. 1 school in America, it’s easy to assume that everything here is the best that it can be: We have great professors, amazing resources, and will graduate with a degree that is highly esteemed around the world. Surrounded by all of the University’s accolades, we oftentimes forget how important the student voice is to the University’s growth and development. Over these past few weeks, however, I’ve discovered how integral students are to improving academic and social life here on campus.
Princeton has an incredible wealth of resources dedicated especially to undergrads. But where are these resources, really? And how do we gain access to them? In my experience, the key to getting resources and advice is to simply ask.
Towards the end of my freshman year, I knew I was going to do the month-long Princeton in Brazil language program in Rio de Janeiro. I wanted to spend the rest of the summer there, too, but wasn’t sure how to do it. I couldn’t afford three months abroad by myself — and, even if I had the money, how would I fill the time?
My Portuguese professor knew I was interested in queer studies, and recommended I talk to Professor James Green, a visiting professor from Brown with the Program in Latin American Studies. She told me he was an expert in the field. I felt awkward reaching out to a professor I didn’t know, but I sent an email introducing myself, explaining my interests, and hoping to set up a time to talk.
He agreed to meet with me a week later, and — much to my surprise — I walked out of his office with an offer to be his research assistant for the summer in Rio. It was an exciting opportunity — and exactly what I needed to apply for summer funding.