Looking for an Impactful Summer Research Internship? PEI Delivers

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.

The author, knee-deep in a seasonal waterhole in Gorongosa National Park, dredging the water in search of a downside to his internship… he still hasn’t found any!

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

Debunking the Funding Myth

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.

The Funding Fairy isn’t as real as I thought.

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.

Continue reading Debunking the Funding Myth

Internship Step One: Reaching Out

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.

Use professors and advisers as resources to help find summer opportunities

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?”

Continue reading Internship Step One: Reaching Out

Need Funding? Tips for Writing a Convincing Proposal

There are many opportunities to apply for funding!

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

Resources for Researchers Choosing Summer Programs

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.

So many resources, so little time…

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 

The Importance of Being Vocal: Student Feedback at Princeton

Suggestions and feedback are an extremely important part of the University’s growth! Have you ever noticed this suggestions box by the Welcome Desk in Frist? 

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.

Continue reading The Importance of Being Vocal: Student Feedback at Princeton

Accessing Princeton’s Resources: Just an Email Away

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?

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I spent the summer after my freshman year and had my first experience traveling outside of North America!

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.

Continue reading Accessing Princeton’s Resources: Just an Email Away

Learning from What Isn’t

With May finally here, we’ve reached the home stretch of the 2014-15 school year. Make no mistake: This is an achievement. You deserve to celebrate. Grab an extra fro-yo cone next time you’re in the dining hall, and enjoy knowing the machine has more handles than there are weeks remaining in the semester.

Here’s hoping your fro-yo cone turns out better than mine.

After that *debauchery*, ease back into the research world with a reflexive book – like Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Several Short Sentences About Writing, which was recommended in my African American Studies class last semester. As the title makes clear, it’s a series of short sentences about how to approach the writing process. Klinkenborg replaces oft-repeated mechanical suggestions with much more useful ideological ones. My favorite appears on page 29: “Every sentence could have been otherwise but isn’t.”

Following Klinkenborg’s words, every sentence in your research papers is a deliberate choice. Every argument could have reached a different conclusion, but did not. As you question, test, and analyze facts in your independent work, a crucial step is to recognize why you chose a particular arrangement of information. This goes beyond mere adherence to a thesis. Why did you pursue one research lead, and not another?   Continue reading Learning from What Isn’t

Senior Thesis Spotlight: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

What would the world look like if you were a giant?

Joseph Bolling ’15 (left) and Ankush Gola ’15 (right) with their project. (Image used with permission of Joseph Bolling and Ankush Gola)

For their senior thesis in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Joseph Bolling and Ankush Gola are creating a system to find  the answer to that question. In a way similar to how our brain stitches together two slightly offset images from each eye to create a 3D image, Bolling and Gola are using two quadcopters with mounted cameras to recreate the same effect on a much larger scale. Quadcopters, which are like helicopters but with four rotors instead of only one, have recently become popular among commercial and recreational drone operators.

“We want to not only enhance the user’s depth perception, but elevate their eyes,” said Gola.

Bolling and Gola drew inspiration for their project from a cartoon titled “Depth Perception” by the science comic XKCD, in which the character describes a way of using distantly spaced webcams to view clouds in his eyeglasses. In their system, Bolling and Gola plan to integrate the virtual reality headset Occulus Rift to allow users to view the world from any angle they wish, as if they were giants towering above. Aside from producing an interesting effect, the project could be especially helpful in surveying and modeling territory.

“The aerial perspective [of the quadcopter] lends itself very nicely to this type of visual effect,” explained Gola, “and quadcopter filming itself is becoming very popular, so we think will fit in well.” Continue reading Senior Thesis Spotlight: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Applications: Get (and Stay) Excited!

The excitement of post-graduate opportunities!

Last week, Stacey gave some great advice about productive things to do when you’re forced to pause for some part of your project, such as waiting on shipments or lab analyses. But what about the other end of the spectrum? What if you have so much to do that you feel overwhelmed and lose motivation to do any of it? Or if you’ve been working on your project for so long that you begin to lose interest?

I found myself in a similar situation a short while ago. I’m currently applying to various grad schools, and a major component of these applications is the  “Statement of Interest” or “Personal Statement”, in which you basically say why you’re interested in that particular program and how your past experiences have prepared you for it. And at first, it’s exciting! You’re reading about the schools/programs/research you’re potentially going to be spending the next few years immersed in, and the whole situation is one of promise and novelty. So you’re motivated to write, and you work hard on your statements.

But then, as you start working through the second statement, then the third, then the fourth, fifth, sixth… and the school work and extracurriculars start piling on, the initial feeling of promise and novelty wears off, and the task becomes a chore, even though you know it shouldn’t be.

So how do you put your mind back on track? How do you regain the motivation you had at first? Continue reading Applications: Get (and Stay) Excited!