The Year in PCUR

This is Space Mountain, an indoor roller coaster at Disney World. The ride is basically in complete darkness — so those twists and turns reeeeally blur together.

The 2015-2016 school year is finally over, and it’s been quite a ride. You might even call it a roller coaster. Think about it: The year had highs. It had lows. It probably had loops where you weren’t sure what was going on. But you were buckled up for the long haul, and you finished with an excited smile (and/or a sigh of relief). The whole thing was so dizzyingly fast that, in retrospect, all its twists and turns seem like one indistinguishable blur.

PCUR was on that roller coaster with you. We also see the past eight months as kind of a blur. But, we wrote about the twists and turns of research as they were happening – creating a lasting record of our paths, and how they intersect with yours.

You’ll remember feeling like we did in key moments throughout the year:

Posts like these remind us how research can be frustrating and confusing, but also exciting and impactful. That’s a pretty neat summary of PCUR’s message. And, starting this summer, it’s no longer confined to the academic year. Because many undergraduates tackle research experiences during the summer, we’ve decided to post occasional updates from our summer internships, fieldwork, and research-related activities. There will be twists and turns, for sure – but there will also be written records of how we work through them.

We hope you’ll follow along with our first ever summer series. And, we hope it’s okay that summer posts will be less frequent than posts from the academic year. It’s only because we need some time to do fun vacation things, like go to amusement parks – and ride roller coasters.

— Melissa Parnagian, Chief Correspondent

(P.S. Best of luck to our graduating seniors Bennett, Jalisha, and Stacey. We can’t wait to hear about all the amazing things you’ll do!)

Princeton Research Day: Something for Everyone

Looking through the recently released program for Princeton Research Day, I am reminded that research is not just conducted by people in lab coats. It is conducted by everyone.

The 162 projects represent over 50 departments and programs. Nearly 200 dfr_pfd_newsletter_masthead_4x6undergrads, grad students, and postdocs will present — everyone from artists to biologists to computer scientists to sociologists to policy makers. And that’s not to mention all the interdisciplinary overlap!

I know that we are all busy this Reading Period, writing papers and studying for exams. But give Research Day a chance! There is such value in stepping away from our own work to appreciate the passion and dedication that these students are putting into theirs. I’m not going to push any one project on you. But, why not take a look for yourself? Skim the program and see if any presentations spark your interest. Come see a few of them as a well-deserved study break on May 5th. Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a topic you never knew you liked. I can promise you that, at the very least, you’ll learn something new by attending #PRD16.

— Dylan Blau Edelstein, Humanities Correspondent

Sophomores: Get Ready for Independent Work

If you’ve never completed an independent work project, you probably have questions about how the process works. As usual, if you’ve got questions, PCUR has answers. Join me, Zoe, and others for an informal discussion about independent work tomorrow night (Tuesday, April 5) from 9-10pm in Butler College (1915 room). Check out the flyer below:

Are you ready for independent work

— Melissa Parnagian, Chief Correspondent

Apply to join PCUR! What Correspondents do and why YOU should become one

Spring is coming quickly, and with it, graduation –  which means Stacey, Jalisha and I will become PCUR alumni. So, PCUR is looking for new correspondents to pick up where we leave off. If you are (A) a Princeton Freshman or Sophomore, and (B) literate (I hope that’s redundant), then you should apply to blog with us!

Let’s get some questions out of the way first:

Research can happen anywhere – as my fellow correspondents know well

What’s PCUR?

You’re reading it! As you can tell from the header, it stands for Princeton Correspondents on Undergraduate Research, and that’s what we do. Our posts can vary a lot – from interviews to essays to listicles of anything from baby photos to renaissance art, but everything we do is about discussing and illuminating the life of undergraduate researchers at Princeton.

Continue reading Apply to join PCUR! What Correspondents do and why YOU should become one

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 

Speak to the World: Communicate your work to others at Princeton Research Day

The audience for your research is the world.
The audience for your research is, quite literally, the world.

By now, you’ve probably received one of the numerous campus-wide emails promoting Princeton Research Day, a new initiative by the University to celebrate student research right here in the Orange Bubble. I must admit that even though I spend a large amount of time talking about my own research for the PCUR blog, I was initially hesitant to apply. It’s odd to think that I feel more pressure having to present my work in layman’s terms to the larger university community compared to presenting to the professors in my department for a grade!

Still, when I stepped back and considered the number of times I’ve talked about my thesis in regular conversation, I felt reassured that I’d be prepared for Princeton Research Day. As a senior, I’ve noticed the standard ice-breaker among my classmates has become “So what are you doing for your thesis?” Even though my thesis is certainly something that’s constantly on my mind, I still have to think about the best way to describe my work in 10 seconds to make it interesting enough for a conversation. It’s hard to get into all the details and nuances of a continuously evolving project (that I’ll spend the entire academic year working on!) while highlighting what’s important and relevant about it.

I think that’s really why Princeton Research Day is appealing to me. This is what research is all about  conveying your work to peers and fellow researchers, who often might not have a good idea of why you’re doing what you are. Continue reading Speak to the World: Communicate your work to others at Princeton Research Day

PCUR podcasts are here!

Whether you read PCUR from your laptop or from your phone, neither option is particularly useful when you’re on the go. Why? Reading and walking usually don’t mix. But listening and walking go hand in hand, which you probably know from blasting your playlist on the way to class. PCUR wants a spot on that morning playlist: We’ve just launched our very own podcasts, perfect for those times when reading isn’t an option. Listening to our brief, informal conversations will start your day on a good note.

Check out the first podcast now – it’s an interview with a Rutgers Psychology major turned Master’s candidate in K-6 education, who happens to be my sister.  How did independent work influence her journey? Listen below to find out.


— Melissa Parnagian, Chief Correspondent

Getting that On-Campus Feeling (and that Research Advice)

With banners raised and schedules posted, it’s safe to say Princeton is ready for another school year. But how do you know when you’re ready – when getting (back) to campus finally feels like being on campus?

This little guy counts as another important sign that you're back in the Orange Bubble.
This little guy counts as another important sign that you’re back in the Orange Bubble.

For returning students and first-timers alike, this transition is hard to verbalize. Maybe it occurs when you hug your family goodbye. Maybe it’s when you empty your last suitcase. Or maybe it’s when you organize everything from that suitcase – pillows neatly thrown on the bed, pictures of summer adventures hung with wall-safe tape. The 2015-2016 school year couldn’t begin without these moments…but I don’t think any of them bring that being-on-campus feeling. I actually think all of them do: Being here is a collection of moments that somehow combine to make sense.

At PCUR, we’re all about making sensible combinations from smaller parts. In our own research, we analyze data from engineering, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to reach coherent conclusions. In our blogs, we filter through rumors about the research process to share universal truths – and universal pitfalls – that we’ve learned from experience. As students ourselves, we know what you’re feeling. We’ve felt it. We’re currently feeling it as the fall semester gets underway. Our goal is to make research less stressful and more exciting, which is why we hope you’ll to subscribe to our research-related musings (using the box at the top right). If each PCUR post is a moment, then the overall blog is a collection to guide you through independent work. Continue reading Getting that On-Campus Feeling (and that Research Advice)

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

I recently met a professor who said he finds Princeton especially interesting this time of year because, all of a sudden, people are constantly “constructing things” across campus. Teams of facilities workers string cables from buildings. They drive fences into the ground. They erect massive tents and lay dance floors and stages underneath.

Farewell for the summer from the Princeton Correspondents on Undergraduate Research!
Farewell for the summer from the Princeton Correspondents on Undergraduate Research!

Yes, Reunions and Graduation are a few short days away. Strangely, it seems that while students are winding down—finishing exams, heading off to summer programs or perhaps beach trips for “dead week”—the university undertakes elaborate, if temporary, projects in preparation for the pomp and circumstance of late May and early June.

With the start of summer, there will be a respite in our blogging work at PCUR. But before we “sign off,” it’s worth taking a glance back at correspondents’ contributions. This year, the blog’s first, our team of students has shared experiences and insights of both depth and breadth. They offered tips on making your way through the writing process and enumerated the dos and don’ts for drafting funding proposals or completing IRB applications. They interviewed students about senior thesis projects. They proposed creative strategies for choosing a major or getting started on a new project. We even got the chance to hear from a correspondent during her semester abroad about how to continue developing research skills at a new institution. Continue reading Looking Back and Looking Ahead