Since coming to Princeton, I’ve become involved in diverse publishing and editing opportunities. One of the first undergraduate publications I joined was PURJ, the Princeton Undergraduate Research Journal. As a member of the Peer Review Board for PURJ, I learned more about the peer review process in academic research publications and had the opportunity to review manuscript pieces spanning incredibly diverse disciplines from the undergraduate body. In contrast to some other more specialized journals I’m involved in, such as Unfound, Princeton’s Journal of Asian American Studies, PURJ is a truly multidisciplinary publication that showcases work from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and arts.
To learn more about the perks of being involved in a research journal, I interviewed Jasper Lee ’21, the current Co-Editor in Chief of PURJ. A molecular biology major, he first joined PURJ as a member of the Peer Review Board and then took on the role of Managing Editor of Peer Review. Here’s what Jasper shared about his experience with PURJ:
As a sophomore planning on declaring in neuroscience, I’ve been wondering a lot about the types of research projects neuroscience majors do for their independent work and senior thesis. To get a better feel for these projects, I’ve been reaching out to neuroscience faculty, sometimes via cold emails – a task made easier with the help of this post. However, I recently wanted to reach out to one of my current neuroscience professors in particular, both to hear more about his undergraduates’ research projects and to develop a better relationship with him.
Building positive relationships with your professors is important and rewarding. It’s easy to regard getting to know professors as a purely professional opportunity: that is, for the purposes of soliciting a recommendation or finding a lab position. However, this process is rewarding in other equally important ways: for example, I enjoy when professors explain the trajectory of their own careers, since it has helped me clarify my own academic and extracurricular interests. Often times my meetings with professors have developed into personally meaningful friendships that I hope will extend beyond my time at Princeton.
Although most of us would agree its important to build relationships with professors, it can be more difficult to know how to accomplish that. How do you approach a professor? Where and when do you meet? And what do you actually say to them? All of these questions ran through my head as I wondered how I would go about meeting the neuroscience professor I mentioned above. Meeting professors can be nerve-wracking – that’s why I’ve put together the eight tips I used that streamlined the process.
It is easy to get caught up in everything going on on campus. Between classes, extracurriculars, and other activities, it feels as if there is no time for anything outside of Princeton. However, in a post at the end of last year, I mentioned the importance of attending outside academic conferences and other enrichment opportunities as a way to strengthen your academic experience. After a great learning opportunity at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) conference in April, I made it a goal for myself to attend more of these events this year. Thus, when I received an email from the Princeton University Mentorship Program (PUMP!) about attending the DISCOVER Summit in Philadelphia on September 13th, I immediately accepted. In this post, I will further expand on how the summit affirmed the importance of looking beyond the “orange bubble”.
Research does not end at simply conducting experiments or making a mind-blowing discovery in your academic field. It’s just as important—or perhaps even more so—to share your findings with others and to hear their thoughts on what you’ve discovered. Throughout your time at Princeton, you will come across multiple opportunities to present your research–whether it’s presenting at Princeton Research Day, drafting independent work proposals for advisors, showcasing your research from summer internships, or even just preparing presentations for class. Sharing your research is thus a common and necessary step in creating scholarly conversation, and can be a very rewarding and enlightening experience for you and for others. However, it can be challenging to find the most effective way to convey your knowledge and work to your audience.
This past April, I participated in the Mary W. George Freshman Research Conference, where I presented my paper “Racism in K-pop: A Reflection of South Korea’s Racialized Discourse of Beauty.” My paper was 16 pages long, and in the beginning, I had no idea how I would synthesize this into a 10-minute presentation. How do you condense a paper that long into just 10 minutes without losing the key points of your argument? Everything in my essay felt critical to my thesis, and yet I knew I couldn’t include every single point in my 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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
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.
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 heardfrom 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.
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!