Navigating Princeton in COVID-19 Isolation

      Although things have been looking brighter on campus, with a decrease in COVID cases and happier weather, the threat of COVID-19 still remains and can be a daunting obstacle. I tested positive for COVID-19 last month, and I was lucky enough to get through it, but an extra stressor was definitely keeping up with my classes while being in isolation. Everyone’s experience is different, especially when it comes to symptoms and classes, but I hope that my advice can help you get through a tough time if it ever comes to it.

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How to Cancel on Someone, the Right Way

Earlier this winter, I received an email inviting me to a day’s worth of interviews for an MD/PhD program. This invitation included a schedule with Zoom meetings that extended much later into the day than I expected. As a result, these meetings conflicted with some of my classes as well as a meeting for an extracurricular activity.

We’ve all been there: something comes up and we can no longer make it to a class or meeting on our calendars. Whatever the reason, there’s a special kind of stress that comes with realizing you’ll need to cancel on someone. When will you have a chance to make this up? Will your colleagues and professors be upset with you?

I’ve also been on the other side of the equation: as a supervisor for Murray-Dodge Café, I’ve received my fair share of emails from students needing to miss a shift or a meeting. While the best way to handle these situations is to avoid them altogether, that isn’t always possible, so in this article, I’ll share some of my tips for handling these sticky situations!

Displaying a secondary time zone on my Google Calendar really helped me stay on top of my interviews and course schedule!
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A Week in My Life Doing Materials Science Research

This semester, I am doing junior independent work in the Arnold lab group at Princeton, which is based in the MAE department but also focuses on materials science, which is what I am interested in. My project investigates creating graphene aerogels from protein precursors, which basically means that I get to select different proteins of interest, freeze-dry them, pyrolyze them, and then see if they create graphene by examining them under a scanning electron microscope (SEM). These graphene aerogels are interesting materials because of their high porosity and conductivity, making them promising for applications to energy storage, which is why we are interested in researching them.

I thought it might be interesting to highlight a week in my life (well, actually two weeks) to give some insight on what lab-based independent work can look like during the school year. I want to note that this is only my experience as a CBE major, and independent work can look very different for other majors. If you’re an underclassman interested in doing junior independent work or just curious about what that could entail, I hope that this post can provide some insight.

The inside of Bowen Hall, the hub of the Princeton Institute of Materials and where my research lab is.
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Tips on Effectively Learning Vocabulary Words for Foreign Languages

As a senior concurrently enrolled in two Persian classes and working on completing a minor in German, I am no stranger to learning vocabulary words. To be frank, however, I have rarely enjoyed this process. From awkwardly jotting down words in the middle of conversations to hunting for their precise definitions and usages, I have found learning vocabulary to be more difficult and painstaking than the simple memorization task it is made out to be. The worst of all has been forgetting a vocabulary word I have studied or even failing to correctly identify a word, realizing after the fact that I ‘knew’ what it meant but couldn’t tease out the meaning in the moment.

There’s more to vocabulary words than memorizing terms themselves, as exhibited by the Persian word for attention, ‘ta-va-joh’. While we say we ‘pay attention’ to something in English, we more often ‘have attention’ or ‘do attend to’ something in Persian.
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What are First-Years Researching? An Interview With My Legendary Zees

My zees (Kyung and Jaehee) and I getting ready for Clash of the Colleges. Whales love research!!!!!

     On campus, I am a Residential College Adviser in Whitman College. It is by far the most meaningful part of my Princeton experience and I am thankful every day to have such amazing advisees (zees). In the fall, I decided to interview some of my zees on the incredible research that they have done on campus and how they became involved in this research. My freshmen show that research does not always mean working in a lab or on a senior thesis like many often assume. There are so many different ways to become involved with research on campus, whether it’s through writing a paper or joining an academic club. My hope is that seeing the research that my zees did last semester will inspire you to do your own and also show you what research on campus can look like for first years. So, without further ado, here is the research conducted by the most legendary zees of all time:

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Now is the perfect time to build your personal portfolio!

Have you ever left an interview wishing you remembered to mention that project you did in class? Or do you have a broad range of interests and experiences that do not fit on a one-page resume? Have you ever built something really cool and wanted to show everybody but were not sure how? You can answer all of these issues with your own personal portfolio.

A portfolio is similar to a resume in that it showcases your work and achievements, but it is more flexible in that it can take different forms and include all types of media. It can be helpful to share with recruiters and interviewers during your career search, and you can ensure recruiters come across it by sharing a link to it in your resume! It is probably the most underrated career search material, and taking the time to craft your own portfolio is already a huge step to making yourself stand out. 

Sample Research Experiences page in a portfolio
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Planning For Advanced Elective Courses at Princeton

One of the most exciting parts of the academic experience at Princeton is undoubtedly getting to take advanced (3-400 level) elective classes in your concentration. While all classes at Princeton are valuable, elective classes can provide a unique opportunity to have a more personalized learning experience – the classes are often much smaller, with some classes having as few as 5 students – while getting to learn about somewhat more niche disciplines that professors are both specialized in and are more passionate about. However, sometimes the embarrassment of riches can be a problem. The sheer number of truly incredible and interesting advanced courses that are offered at Princeton can make it difficult to choose which courses to take, especially when your course slots are taken up by concentration and certificate requirements as well as either the AB or BSE general requirements. I went through such an exercise myself, and in this post, I hope to offer some insight on how to choose courses based on my experiences at Princeton.

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Dear First Time Coders, You Can Do It

As a SPIA major, I was worried about coding for the first time. But, after taking POL345, I realized that I actually love statistics and computer science.

      “I can’t code,” I told my friends when I realized that I had to take a statistics course for my major that required coding. “I don’t understand it,” I told them. I had never coded before and the thought of creating algorithms on a computer sent shivers down my SPIA spine. I loved math in high school, and coding always seemed interesting to me, but rumors about Princeton math courses, as well as computer science courses, had me sprinting away from Fine Hall. But then, I realized I had to take a statistics course for SPIA. I had to face my fear of R, or the programming language that most SPIA statistics courses use for statistical computation. I didn’t think that I could do it, but I did. And, I ended up loving it. I faced my fears, learned how to code, and you can too.

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NCBI: An Invaluable Tool for Life Sciences Classes and Research!

Have you ever come across something in class that you wish you could get a better Have you ever been wondering more about how proteins are made in the body? Or have you ever been looking for a specific type of lab experiment protocol for your independent work? If yes, then look no further than the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website! It contains dozens of resources, some of which I have found to be very handy in my own research and school experiences. The site is tailored for students in the life-sciences field, but there is a lot of breadth in the resources available—you’ll be able to find useful tools regardless of whether you’re a MOL or CHM major, or if you’re interests lie in researching chemically synthesis mental health, or neurodegenerative diseases.

The NCBI Logo, as it appears on the website

A very useful tool on the NCBI website is Bookshelf. There is a search bar at the top of the website where you can input some topic, book title, or field name, and the program will return a variety of different reference materials relating to the query, including full scientific textbooks, book chapters, studies. On the side, there are often figures and graphs that may relate to your search. 

Some sample search results within Bookshelf if I look up “synaptic plasticity”
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Back to the Classroom: How to Readjust to In-Person Exams

With midterms being in full swing this week, you’ve most likely started reviewing concepts and studying for these exams. However, another crucial part of the preparation process is to readjust to the in-person exam experience. After a year and a half of taking exams virtually, it is important to recognize that exams in the classroom will look and feel very different, so don’t let that take you by surprise. Whether you are studying for midterms or want to start thinking about final exams, here are a few key tips when it comes to taking exams at Princeton in person:

McDonnell A01, a large lecture hall where one of my midterms is taking place this semester
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