How to Make a Successful Research Presentation

Turning a research paper into a visual presentation is difficult; there are pitfalls, and navigating the path to a brief, informative presentation takes time and practice. As a TA for GEO/WRI 201: Methods in Data Analysis & Scientific Writing this past fall, I saw how this process works from an instructor’s standpoint. I’ve presented my own research before, but helping others present theirs taught me a bit more about the process. Here are some tips I learned that may help you with your next research presentation:

More is more

In general, your presentation will always benefit from more practice, more feedback, and more revision. By practicing in front of friends, you can get comfortable with presenting your work while receiving feedback. It is hard to know how to revise your presentation if you never practice. If you are presenting to a general audience, getting feedback from someone outside of your discipline is crucial. Terms and ideas that seem intuitive to you may be completely foreign to someone else, and your well-crafted presentation could fall flat.

Less is more

Limit the scope of your presentation, the number of slides, and the text on each slide. In my experience, text works well for organizing slides, orienting the audience to key terms, and annotating important figures–not for explaining complex ideas. Having fewer slides is usually better as well. In general, about one slide per minute of presentation is an appropriate budget. Too many slides is usually a sign that your topic is too broad.

GEO/WRI 201 teacher Amanda Irwin Wilkins introduced me to the iceberg analogy: like the iceberg, the vast majority of research stays ‘beneath the water’; only a select portion is visible to audiences. Achieving this balance is not easy. It can be frustrating to present only a fraction of your work and difficult to identify which aspects belong above water. But in the end, you want to be presenting with the happy penguins on top of the ice, not flailing in the water.

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How to Get to Know Your Department

Every department offers wonderful opportunities. For instance, departments offer seminars, special lectures, opportunities for internships or grants, study abroad programs, amongst other things. But to take advantage of these opportunities, it is important to know your department well. As a sophomore, one of the biggest challenges for me this year has been familiarizing myself with my own department, chemical and biological engineering (CBE).

In this post, I will provide some tips on how to get to know your department by describing how I engaged with CBE.

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Energize Your Learning: Academic Conferences on Campus

Want to explore something new, with absolutely no accountability? To meet a famous academic whose work you’ve used in class? To spend time with your favorite graduate students and professors outside of class? Try attending an academic conference at Princeton.

Columbia University professor Jack Halberstam recently delivered an unforgettable lecture at the Reading Matters conference on campus.

At any given time, at least one Princeton department or campus group is probably hosting a conference. Typically, these multi-day events gather leading academics, activists, and thinkers from around the world to discuss a particular issue or theme. Despite the significant cost of these conferences (and the tables full of free food), they are almost always free of charge and open to the public. Regardless of your department or academic interests, there is definitely a conference somewhere, sometime that will interest you.

Yes, it can be hard to drag ourselves to yet another hour of lectures and academic discussion – especially after a long day or week of classes. But conference presentations are often energizing in a way that classes aren’t. Presenters typically share their own work and opinions, rather than summarizing and explaining others’. And because they’re surrounded by their colleagues (and intellectual rivals), they often work to present their material in an engaging, memorable way. Many of the academic moments I remember most from the past few years took place at conference presentations.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended one of the best lectures I’ve ever heard at the Department of Comparative Literature’s Reading Matters conference. On Saturday evening, Professor Jack Halberstam from Columbia University delivered a lecture titled “Exit Routes: On Dereliction and Destitution.” He walked the audience through examples of “anarchitecture” (anarchist architecture), including a fascinating little-known feminist film, “Times Square,” about two rebellious women in 1980s New York. Weeks later, my friends and I are still discussing the talk (and rewatching the trailer for Times Square).

The nice thing about conferences – unlike classes – is you don’t have to go for the whole time. You can just pick your most favorite panel or lecture and attend for as long as you can! Typically, conference talks don’t last longer than an hour – and it’s completely okay to leave once the Q&A starts (I almost always do). I also try to sit in the back so it’s easy to leave early if I have to.

To find out about the conferences on campus, make sure to check your department’s bulletin boards and listservs regularly! You can also ask your professors or graduate student friends to send conference information your way when they come across them. The Princeton Events calendar features many campus conferences as well.

–Rafi Lehmann, Social Sciences Correspondent

Art as a Way of Knowing: Integrating the Art Museum in Your Research and Studies

If you were to take a tour of Princeton’s campus, your tour guide would point out various things that are unique to Princeton’s campus. For example, we have the third largest university chapel in the world, and Frist Campus Center used to be Einstein’s laboratory. But, something that is incredibly special about Princeton’s campus–and I feel we don’t talk enough about –is the fact that Princeton has an amazing art museum directly on campus.

The Princeton University Art Museum (PUAM), whose collections hold works by artists ranging from Cézanne to Basquiat, is a great spot for tourists and community members to visit. However, it is arguably an even greater spot for students.

This week I share a little bit about my experiences at the art museum and interview Juliana Ochs Dweck, the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Engagement, to talk about the different ways the PUAM can serve as a resource for research and studies at Princeton. After all, as Dweck notes about the university museum, “the whole point is to be a teaching museum.”

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Highlights and Reflections from the Andlinger Center Annual Meeting

Every year, the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment organizes a conference where students, faculty, and industry professionals discuss research and innovations related to clean energy and other environmental solutions. The event features keynote speakers, faculty panels, poster presentations, amongst other sessions to introduce and highlight the work of different professionals. The purpose of this event is to educate students and professionals on new advances in energy technologyand to encourage even further research.

This year, I attended my first annual meeting, where I learned more about the clean energy research at Princeton and in New Jersey. In this article, I will reflect on some of the highlights from the event.

Phil Murphy’s Keynote Address

Along with fellow students from New Jersey, I met with Phil Murphy as he spoke about our role in energy and environmental research in the state.

This year, the keynote speaker was Phil Murphy, the Governor of New Jersey. In his speech, Murphy addressed challenges in clean energy reforms, and suggested that innovation is essential to create environmental advances. He encouraged people to work together, because at these conferences, individuals can share ideas. Others can then step in and say “we can help.”

At the address, I sat next to fellow students from New Jersey, the CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), Ralph Izzo, and the Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Emily Carter. Seeing individuals from different backgrounds coming together around a common goal reminded me of the importance of collaboration in research. While one lab cannot solve all of the energy problems in the state, the efforts of multiple people can. As institutional researchers, we are responsible for driving innovation and developing new technologies in our fields, thus it is important for us to collaborate in the lab and across the academic sector. 

Faculty and Industry Panels

Kris Ohleth from Orsted speaks about current work on wind energy developments in New Jersey.

Amongst the discussions, faculty in various departments spoke about their research. Representatives from other universities and companies such as Orsted and ExxonMobil were also present to speak about energy visions and advances at their companies. The topics discussed ranged from ocean wind turbines to innovative approaches to produce biofuels and even new technologies for clean transportation. These panels were useful to observe where we stand in energy research and where we plan to go.

Poster Presentations

The event concluded with poster presentations where undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs presented their research.

 

Undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdocs from different engineering and natural science departments presented their research in a symposium-style poster session. I presented on the research I did during my summer internship with the Andlinger Center.

Throughout the event, I spoke with some of the presenters situated around me. I heard from a postdoc in the mechanical engineering department, Guang, about research in fluid dynamics to harvest energy. I also heard from a senior in the chemistry department, Gabriella, about electrochemistry reactions related to energy. In addition to learning about interesting research, I learned that Guang had been a TA for MAE305, a course which I am currently taking, and Gabriella had taken multiple courses in the Portuguese department, where I am interested in getting a certificate.

As I heard this, I thought back to what Phil Murphy had mentioned. The purpose of academic conferences is to connect people and encourage collaborations. Not only are we researchers, we are also students that continue learning from others.

The Andlinger Center Annual Meeting is designed to further conversation on research and innovation. Regardless of your academic background, these issues impact the community as a whole, and it is important to learn about the future of energy and environmental concerns.

If you could not attend (or even if you did), I hope that my reflections serve to inform you about some of the conference highlights and I encourage you to attend events at the Andlinger Center throughout the year. In addition, learning through collaboration in research is not limited to the science field. You can also look for similar events and opportunities to learn through collaborative research in other departments by visiting the Office of Undergraduate Research event calendar

–Saira Reyes, Engineering Correspondent

Last Chance to Apply for Princeton Research Day 2018!

Are you looking for an opportunity to share your research with members of the University community? If so, Princeton Research Day (PRD) could be the perfect event for you. This annual initiative, which will take place this year on May 10th, brings together undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and other non-faculty researchers to present their work. PRD offers researchers the chance to practice communicating their findings, attend professional development workshops on poster design and presentation skills, and connect with a diverse group of fellow researchers. PRD participants also have the opportunity to win one of several awards that recognize exceptional presentations.  Read about PRD in more detail on the event’s website and in past PCUR posts!

Don’t miss this opportunity to share your most exciting work with the Princeton community!

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Behind the Scenes at Princeton Research Day: A Call for Student Judges

Last year, I was invited to be a judge for Princeton Research Day (PRD) as a veteran of the Mary W. George Freshman Research Conference.  If there was one thing I loved about this conference, it was hearing my peers’ interesting research conclusions. I was excited to see this happen on an even larger scale at PRD, but I was also nervous; I felt that I had little authority to judge the work of upperclassmen (and graduate students!) with only a semester’s worth of experience under my belt. However, the event organizers were incredibly encouraging in this respect, valuing our nonspecialist input.

One of several poster presentations taking place at Frist!

Before PRD, the judges held a brief meeting to go over logistics and judging criteria. I felt that, rather than encouraging harsh criticism, the criteria really emphasized the purpose of PRD as a celebration and opportunity to share the hard work done by Princeton researchers. Scores were mostly based on how well people could relay information, translate their complex findings (no chart goes unexplained!), and engage an audience that has no experience in their field. This criteria eased a lot of my apprehension: I might not be able to judge the correctness of a data set, or rebut conclusions about culture in Georgian England, but I can judge how well these were communicated to me.

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Lessons from Princeton’s Day of Action

Over the past few months, students and academics across the Princeton campus community have been reckoning with the new reality of America under the Trump presidency. To encourage productive post-election dialogue, the Princeton Citizen Scientists sponsored a Day of Action last Monday, March 6th. The Day of Action brought together hundreds of students, faculty, and community members for dialogue with teach-ins on topics ranging from Intersectional Activism to Science in the Public Sphere. Local organizations like the Citizens Climate Lobby and the Coalition for Peace Action also tabled for the event.

My involvement with the Day of Action began early in the morning, as I was walking to class when I noticed a woman carrying a large basket of books and pamphlets near my room. We chatted on our way to Frist, where she was tabling with Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national network that organizes white people to fight with multi-racial minorities for social change. After I showed her to the campus center, I cocooned myself in a library to prepare for my own teach-in at the Day of Action, “Making Political Disagreement Productive: Mitigating Confirmation Bias.”

Participants at my teach-in during the Day of Action. Photo by Jonathan Balkind.

My teach-in was the first time I had presented my thesis to a public group. The motivation? Partisan antipathy and political polarization has doubled among both Democrats and Republicans, with about forty percent of members of each party reporting “very unfavorable” opinions of the other. Polarization exacerbates unproductive political disagreement, as partisans succumb to confirmation bias and immediately discount positions counter to their own. I presented lessons from psychology and philosophy to explore the causes of, and possible mitigants to self-serving political bias.

Sharing space on the Day of Action program with names like Cornel West and Max Weiss, I expected only a handful of people at most to attend my teach-in. I was stunned–and happy– when I entered the room to find a full audience of students, professors, and community members. During my ~20 minute presentation, I was interrupted often by questions. When I couldn’t come up with answers, I found new angles to examine my own work from.

The discussion flowed freely after my talk. People from Tennessee and Missouri shared personal stories and advice about engaging with their family members about politics. A conservative student and a liberal professor of Religion had a wonderful exchange about the need to reach across the aisle to those from the other side who are willing to listen. A Princeton resident alerted me about a political discussion project in the town library, and another student pointed me to a book that I’ve since found helpful in my work. My experience at the teach-in embodied the collective knowledge-sharing that the organizers of the Day of Action were aiming for.

I left the room buzzing with energy and thankful that I had decided, on a whim, to participate in the event.  I had spent so long discussing my thesis only with a few professors and friends that I had not realized how valuable publicly presenting it could be for my thought process and motivation. Seeing my academic research received with such enthusiasm in a collaborative environment reaffirmed my desire to continue pursuing the offshoots of my thesis work after graduation. Consider presenting or participating in a future Day of Action or finding other ways to showcase your academic work on campus too, like the annual Princeton Research Day each spring.
— Vidushi Sharma, Humanities Correspondent

Princeton Research Day: Spotlight on Costume Designer Julia Peiperl ’17

Princeton Research Day (PRD) is an annual celebration of the research and creative endeavors by Princeton undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The campus-wide event serves as an opportunity for researchers to share their work with the community and includes research from the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, the arts and humanities. In this post series, PCUR correspondents cover a range of topics relating to PRD and highlight the valuable lessons this event has to offer.

This year, PRD will be taking place on Thursday, May 11, 2017. You can learn more about participating in or attending Princeton Research Day by visiting the official PRD website here.

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The idea of research often conjures up images of scientists with microscopes and lab coats. But, for many researchers, the process looks very different. Take theater student Julia Peiperl ’17, for example. Rather than wearing the coat, she designs it.

An example of the research that went into Julia’s designs for Elektra.

“Lots of people don’t realize how much research goes into theatrical design,” she told me as we sat down to chat about her experiences at Princeton Research Day last May. Presenting on her costume designs for the Lewis Center’s February 2016 production of Sophocles’ Elektra — which she had developed in a class on Advanced Theatrical Design — she hoped to showcase the detail and research that goes into such a creative endeavor. As an actor in the play, I was excited to learn more.

As a maid in the Greek Chorus, I was lucky enough to wear one of Julia’s costumes!

 

Clothing, after all, tells worlds about a person. A costume designer may spend weeks or months researching images that suggest a time period, an archetype, or even an emotion. For Elektra, a Greek tragedy, Julia found inspiration in the image of a 1950s “brush doll” provided to her by the lead actress: brush on the bottom, doll on the top. Much like a document might inspire a historian to turn to the archives, this image led Julia to do more pictorial research, eventually settling on a time period (the 1950s) and a color scheme (pastels). After designs were presented to the show’s director, they were given to the Lewis Center Costume Shop to make a reality. This was not the end. In the coming weeks, just as a researcher continues to make changes and discoveries throughout the writing process, Julia worked with each cast member to refine the pieces and make them comfortable to wear. For my character — a maid in the two-person Greek Chorus — the director wanted me to seem “otherworldly.” Hoping to convey this through aesthetics, Julia would bring in new costume and makeup ideas, even in the few days leading up to the show.

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Presenting at Princeton Research Day 2017!

Princeton Research Day (PRD) is an annual celebration of the research and creative endeavors by Princeton undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The campus-wide event serves as an opportunity for researchers to share their work with the community and includes research from the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, the arts and humanities. In this post series, PCUR correspondents cover a range of topics relating to PRD and highlight the valuable lessons this event has to offer.

This year, PRD will be taking place on Thursday, May 11, 2017. You can learn more about participating in or attending Princeton Research Day by visiting the official PRD website here.

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This May will mark the second Princeton Research Day (PRD), a campus-wide celebration of undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral research. PRD allows researchers and artists to hone their presentation skills and share their work with the campus community, with the chance of winning awards for excellent presentations.

In anticipation of this year’s application cycle, I asked three students who participated in the inaugural PRD last year about their experiences. I interviewed Allison Simi, a graduate student in CBE who won the Gold Research Talk Award last year, PCUR alumni Stacey Huang ’16 who presented an electrical engineering project, and Jared Lockwood ’19, the only freshman to present.

Kujegi Camara ’16 presents work at the first annual Princeton Research Day. 

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