Recently, we’ve all had to do our best to adapt our coursework, extracurriculars, and past times to a remote format. Some activities – like hands-on research in a lab – may be difficult, or even impossible, to do over Zoom. For those of you looking to fill the gap, hackathons may be the solution. Hackathons are short programming events designed for students to learn new skills, meet new people, develop solutions to everyday problems, and win prizes. And because of the COVID-19 situation, many hackathons are turning virtual.
To hear a little more about what exactly hackathons are and who they might be a good fit for, I interviewed Princeton sophomore and Director of the TechTogether New York hackathon, Soumya Gottipati. For those of you who have recently hard your internships canceled, Soumya also let me know about internship opportunities you might be interested in!
For this year’s Winter Seasonal Series, entitled Research Resources: Unsung Heroes, each correspondent has selected a faculty member, staff member, or peer working for a research resource on campus to interview. We hope that these interviews will provide insight into the variety of resources available on campus and supply the unique perspective of the people behind these resources. Here, Kamron shares his interview.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed Sara Howard, the Gender and Sexuality Studies and Student Engagement librarian. I’ve found that I often don’t use all the available research resources to my benefit. Given that we have all recently transitioned on an online learning community, consider meeting with your librarian over Zoom!
So you’ve just finished your JP, a dean’s date assignment, or some other research project. Considering how fast things seem to move here, you might have already forgotten about it – that’s how I felt when I turned in my R3 my first year.
However, I ended up taking another look at my R3 to prepare my presentation last spring for the Mary W. George Research Conference – the biannual writing conference – (tips on doing that here). During that process, I recognized some significant changes and expansions I could make on my R3, but I didn’t think much of it at the time.
After presenting my R3, I was encouraged by my writing
seminar professor and some of my peers to expand my work and submit the
manuscript for a conference or for publication. After submitting to a
conference and to multiple research journals, here are some of my takeaways from
the publication process:
We spend a lot of time finding and deciding what internships and jobs to pursue over the summer. There are quite a few posts on this blog alone that help with that process, including this one. After exploring my options, I think I know what I’ll be doing this summer: staying on campus to do research in a neuroscience lab (an experience I’ll talk more about in a future post).
knowing what I’ll be doing this summer isn’t all there is to finalizing my
summer plans. For one, I don’t know how my experience will actually be funded. Second,
I’m unsure where I’ll be staying for the duration of my research.
To better finalize my plans, I turned to SAFE, the Student Activities Funding Engine. SAFE is a website where students can apply for funding for internships and other activities. In addition to finding a relevant funding source for my summer plans, I came across many other interesting funding opportunities for students who have secured unpaid internships over the summer. I’ve gone ahead and summarized a few of them below.
In the fall of my first year I wanted to join a neuroscience research lab. I was hoping to contribute to meaningful research, network with helpful mentors, and develop new skills and qualifications. In retrospect I should have waited to adjust to Princeton and my new course-load before even beginning to think about labs. I didn’t, though, and as I sent a flurry of emails to lab directors, I soon ran into a barrier: I found it incredibly difficult to be accepted into a lab.
In their response to my email, one lab director told me that they preferred students with significant experience in the programming language Matlab. Although I’d used Matlab before, my trial subscription had long expired. Using the free software links available through the Office of Information Technology (OIT) website, however, I was able to download and use Matlab once more. I soon realized that a laboratory setting wasn’t necessary for me to conduct my own research. In fact, I actually felt empowered by the ability to choose my own research topic.
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.
Independent research at Princeton has given several students the opportunity to conduct exciting new studies, including traveling to other countries in order to get first-hand experience engaging in other cultures. Just a few months ago, I even flew out to Los Angeles to interview television producers for my thesis. While the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their life-stories is undoubtedly a transformative experience, these types of projects wouldn’t be possible without one particular group’s approval: the IRB.
To conduct any research that involves human subjects, Princeton’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) has to review your study in order to ensure the safety of the participants. For instance, if a study involves at-risk individuals (e.g. children or prisoners) the IRB will need to check the parameters of the study in order to make sure no one gets hurt or feels coerced into participating. But with 15 sections worth of information to fill out, the IRB form can be quite intimidating to go through–it even scared me away from including human subjects in my junior paper! But after some encouragement from my adviser, I partnered with a fellow SOC major and worked through the seemingly endless document.
Having completed the process, here are a few tips that I think will make the form easier to navigate:
I made a goal this year to take more time to relax and gain new perspectives outside of campus. This means different things for different people. For me, it entails jumping on opportunities to step away from the insulation and pressures of Princeton. As much as I love going to NYC and Philly for daycations, SEPTA and NJ Transit costs add up, both in time and money.
Instead, I’ve been actively looking for alternative ways to escape campus, without ever setting foot off of it. Let me explain.
Since I study French and International Relations, my schedule is packed with humanities and social sciences classes. This leaves little room for natural science courses. Therein lies a problem—I’ve had a passion for space since I was a kid. But I don’t have the room in my schedule or the prerequisite knowledge necessary to take an astrophysics course. Solution: I bought several books to feed my curiosity. Reading about astronomy allows me to momentarily escape the limits of my Princeton schedule while cultivating a longtime personal interest.
After eight amazing weeks in Europe, I’m back in the U.S. and just starting to process my time abroad. Interning at the European Roma Rights Centre taught me so much about Roma people and the systematic racism many of them face. I also learned about efforts to combat this racism through litigation and advocacy. I greatly value the knowledge I gained through this experience — and now, as I prepare for another year of research at Princeton, I’m also thinking about the process behind the knowledge. Some of the most useful and thought-provoking lessons from my time abroad concerned how to effectively prepare for field research.
During my second-to-last week in Budapest, I went with four colleagues to a conference in Belgrade, Serbia. The three-day conference functioned as a training workshop to prepare seven organizations to conduct field research on stateless Roma (Roma individuals who aren’t legally affiliated with any nation.) These organizations were based in countries all throughout Eastern Europe and the West Balkans, where statelessness is a particularly significant issue among Roma populations. The ERRC led the workshop — and I got to play a role in the research trainings. Continue reading My Lesson in Research Rehearsal
Mechanical Turk, more commonly known as “MTurk”, is a popular site created by Amazon to help researchers collect data from human subjects. As a student who had never heard of this site before starting my thesis, I’ve decided to share my knowledge about what the site is and how it can be helpful for independent research at Princeton.
What exactly is MTurk?
MTurk is basically a marketplace where researchers can upload various tasks and have other people complete them for money. These tasks range from having people take a survey to having people grade responses or transcribe segments of text. Basically, anything that someone can do on a computer can be turned into a task on MTurk.