Saving Time in Lab

Last semester, I hurried out of MOL lab every week to make it to late meal. This past summer, I hurried out of lab at my summer internship to catch my train home. Now I hurry out of orgo lab to finish my reading for precept.

Whether you are working in a lab for your senior thesis or for an intro science class, every period is a race with yourself to complete your work promptly. The key to finishing early is not rushing through your procedure, but rather working efficiently in the lab.

This summer, I worked at a bioengineering lab on campus researching methods to engineer the metabolic pathways of yeast cells to produce large quantities of target biofuels. Normally, yeast cells produce ethanol during fermentation. My goal was to shift the production of ethanol to other biofuels- such as isobutanol- that have a greater potential to be alternative sources of energy. In this post, I will give tips on how to effectively use your lab time by describing a typical day in the lab at my summer internship.

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Career Services: One of Princeton’s Many Gems

Career Services is a great resource for students!

I have been madly in love with Career Services for quite some time now, but after asking a few people about their thoughts, I realized that not everyone shares the same sentiment. Some people have had negative experiences, and others have simply never utilized the service. I, on the other hand, have been to Career Services countless times, and I was lucky enough to be paired with the greatest adviser of all time. Ever since then, I’ve only ever gone to this one adviser. She always makes me feel proud of what I have accomplished so far, and excited for what is to come. Hopefully this post will show you exactly why you should take advantage of this incredible resource!

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Summer 2019 Cheat Sheet

Princeton is full of opportunities–it should be easy to plan a cool summer, right?

Sure it should. But in reality, just thinking of summer 2019 is overwhelming.

You just finished fall midterms and already everyone is talking about what they want to do next summer. Your inbox is swamped with emails that mention dozens of programs. Campus is littered with posters throwing deadlines around, but it’s nearly impossible to make any sense of it all, especially while managing a Princeton course load!

If you haven’ t thought about summer yet do not stress. This time last year,  I was still undecided about my major, and trying to simply decide what extra-curriculars to be a part of. And yet, I had a great summer:

Summer after my first year at Princeton,  through the International Internship Program, I interned in Kathmandu, Nepal at a contemporary art gallery. This was my first time abroad, and I had a phenomenal experience. During my internship, I designed a catalogue, shadowed the gallery’s director,  and even designed/installed my own exhibition. Though the internship was unpaid, my summer was fully funded by Princeton.

Summer after my first year, I interned at an art gallery in Kathmandu, Nepal through the International Internship Program (IIP).

The point is, I think its completely unnecessary to start stressing for May in October. So, to calm any nerves and make planning a rocking summer a bit easier, here’s a brief overview of some popular summer ideas for underclass students. Included are deadlines, brief descriptions and testimonials from past students.

Disclaimer: This is NOT a complete list. Just a list of popular options and those that my friends have explored. Also, these opportunities are not limited to first-year and sophomore students.  Juniors and seniors may also take advantage of some of the programs mentioned below. 

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Starting New Research: How to Learn What You Don’t Know

“I don’t know what I don’t know.”

That is what I was thinking when my summer internship mentor asked me if I had any questions. Having only taken MOL214 and CBE245, I was uncertain about what research at a bioenginnering lab on campus would be like. After attending a lab meeting the first day of my internship, I was overwhelmed by all of the new information I was receiving and thought I would never understand metabolic engineering. By the end of my internship, however, I was working independently and designing my own experiments.

When beginning a new research project, particularly in a new field, getting up to speed can be challenging. But if you approach the project efficiently, you will find that this task is not as daunting as it sounds. These are a few strategies that helped me when I entered my summer internship.

Understanding complex mechanisms was challenging, but these strategies helped me along the way.

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Active Engagement and Mentorship on the Juneau Icefield

For over 70 years the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP) has run an eight-week field research expedition on the glaciers spanning Juneau, Alaska and Atlin, British Columbia. JIRP is the longest continuous glacial monitoring program in North America. But what truly sets the program apart is its commitment to active student participation and mentorship: all of the summer research is carried out by students, ranging from high schoolers to Ph.D. candidates, and mentored by field staff and faculty from around the world.

Active participation and mentorship are vital aspects of all student research. In my experience, I learn way more from engaging with research in the real world than from reading, listening to lectures, or completing recipe-type lab exercises. So, when I got the opportunity to join JIRP this summer, I jumped at the chance.

Research in action! The author drilling an ice core (credit Alex Burkhart) and identifying alpine vegetation (credit Hannah Mode) with fellow ‘JIRPers’ on the Juneau Icefield.

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Looking for an Impactful Summer Research Internship? PEI Delivers

The summer after my first year, I worked for the Pringle Lab as an ecological research assistant in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. I have always loved the natural world, and my internship in Gorongosa allowed me to combine that love with my passion for scientific research. Camping for eight weeks amongst vervet monkeys, warthogs and baboons, and working with researchers in the savanna amidst antelopes, elephants, and lions made the internship a dream come true. That dream was made possible by the Princeton Environmental Institute.

The author, knee-deep in a seasonal waterhole in Gorongosa National Park, dredging the water in search of a downside to his internship… he still hasn’t found any!

Each year, PEI offers numerous established internships in locations around the world. These opportunities cover a range of environmental topics that address complex global issues related to energy and climate, sustainable development, health, conservation, and sustainability. All the internships last at least 8 weeks, are funded by PEI, and are mentored by a professional organization or Princeton professor. In addition to established internships, PEI also offers an opportunity to design your own internship with a professor if you are interested in a specific research topic.

My PEI internship provided me with real world experience in topics I was learning in classes and taught me how research works in the field.

My PEI internship provided me with real world experience in topics I was learning in classes and taught me how research works in the field. I worked alongside three Princeton Ph.D. students, studying the diet of large mammalian herbivores, identifying trees on termite mounds, and surveying floodplain vegetation protected from herbivory with enclosures. Working with the small community of researchers in the park, I developed research skills such as how to plan field projects and take thorough field notes, while also strengthening my interpersonal skills. Much of our work related to the restoration of Gorongosa’s ecosystem following the ecologically catastrophic civil war in Mozambique, and I witnessed first-hand many of the issues that impact modern conservation and humanitarian efforts in developing countries.

If you likewise have a passion for environmentally related research, you can find detailed internship descriptions and application information on the PEI website. The final deadline for established internships is March 27th, but applications are considered on a rolling basis until positions are filled–so apply as soon as possible!

While it takes a little more effort to make a non-established internship happen, it really is all about taking initiative. My internship in Gorongosa was student-initiated and began simply with a couple of students asking Professor Pringle after class if we could intern with his lab. So if you are interested in creating a student-initiated internship, don’t be afraid to ask–talk to a professor or graduate student about creating an internship and get the ball rolling, and read about past internship projects to get ideas and understand what type of project will succeed. For advice on connecting with faculty members, see this recent PCUR post.

For students who are interested in summer research opportunities in non-environmental fields, the office of undergraduate research offers a student-initiated internship program over the summer called OURSIP. The priority deadline is March 1st, then applications are accepted on a rolling basis until April 1st.

— Alec Getraer, Natural Sciences Correspondent

Advice on Reaching Out to Faculty

Sitting in the back of a lecture can make your professor seem distant. Reaching out via email, discussed below, can help you get to know them better.

In my last post, I ended with a suggestion: reach out to faculty members. This post is an assortment of advice on how to go about doing that. More precisely, this post is about how to get in touch with faculty for the first time. Yes, dear readers, today we discuss the joy that is the cold email.

There are several situations in which cold emailing can be in your interest. You might want to get to know the faculty member better, or to do research with them. You might also want their advice on research at other institutions, summer programs, or independent work. Whatever your individual case, however, certain general principles apply when reaching out to faculty.

If cold emails are new or intimidating to you, fear not. The advice contained below will (hopefully) make this menacing task feel much more manageable.

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Mapping the Stars: An Interview with Reilly Bova ’20

Reilly Bova ’20 is a Bachelor of Science and Engineering (B.S.E) Computer Science (COS) major with a strong interest in Physics. He spent this past summer conducting research in Princeton’s Physics department. His work included the visualization of deep universe galaxy clusters.

A snapshot from Reilly’s work of the Cosmic Microwave Background projected onto the edge of the observable universe.

Reilly took data on some of the oldest and farthest discovered galaxies (several billion light-years away) and mapped them onto a computational model of the observable universe. He also added to the visualization extremely precise maps of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), which is radiation from about 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Right after the Big Bang, the universe was so hot that nothing—not even photons—could travel unimpeded, which rendered the universe opaque. Around year 380,000, the universe had cooled enough that neutral atoms could form, rendering it transparent (i.e., photons could now travel through it) and releasing an enormous amount of energy which we now call the CMB. This Cosmic Microwave Background has been traveling through the universe for billions of years. As the universe expands, the wavelength of the CMB radiation lengthens (i.e., “redshifts”). We can generate a map of what the universe looked like very early in its life by measuring  these redshifts.

I recently had the exciting opportunity to interview Reilly and find out more about his research experience.

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Internship Step One: Reaching Out

A few weeks ago, I participated in an event hosted by Princeton’s Peer Career Advisers called an “Insider’s Look at Internships.” I was there as an ambassador for OURSIP—the Office of Undergraduate Research’s Student Initiated Internships Program. OURSIP makes it possible for Princeton students to pursue unpaid research opportunities over the summer, such as my own, by providing funding to cover anticipated expenses.

Use professors and advisers as resources to help find summer opportunities

The unique thing about OURSIP is that it asks students to take it upon themselves to secure their own internship before asking Princeton for help with funding. As opposed to other Princeton programs, like PICS or IIP, which also assist students in the internship search process as part of the program. As students came up to speak to me about OURSIP at the event, I found that their first question was always, “So what is OURSIP?” and after hearing my description their second, more hesitant question was always, “But how did you find your internship?”

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Why Research Immigration? Recapping Previous Experiences and Moving Forward

What I’m most passionate about is immigration. How do people move? Why do they move? And what can we do to assist immigrant communities? While I’m not an immigrant myself, I’m the child of Chinese immigrants who came at a time when Chinese immigration was almost entirely restricted on a racial basis. When my grandparents came to America, only 105 Chinese immigrants per year were permitted entry into the United States. While I acknowledge that I speak from a position of natural-born citizenship, it is the struggles of modern undocumented immigrants that truly fuel my desire to research this field of policy.

The author’s grandfather came to America on this ship in 1949.

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