In the second part of the interview with Professor Zaidi, the discussion gradually veers away from his career, and we go into his advice for students, the courses he loves teaching, and what he learned about making plans and still being flexible.
For those who missed the first part of the interview, please read it here.
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:
Before this summer, I had never heard of Zotero, Mendeley, or any reference management applications, and instead, I usually turned to APA or MLA style guidelines and did my citations by hand. However, it can be cumbersome to manage all the references at once, especially when writing papers that have a seemingly never-ending list of references. This is where Zotero or Mendeley can help out. I first started using Zotero during my summer internship when I was writing two biomaterials review papers, which I mentioned in my last post. Both of these papers had around 120 references, making a reference manager like Zotero an essential tool for keeping track of all the citations.
I would highly recommend using a reference manager for longer projects or papers, such as for junior independent work or senior theses, because it helps with organization and saves you time when adding references. In this post, I put together a guide for using reference managers, specifically Zotero because I am most familiar with it. However, take a look at this previous post on using Mendeley if you want to learn more about that.
An important part of research is writing and publishing papers in peer-reviewed academic journals. Through a Princeton-alumni sponsored internship last summer, I was fortunate enough to co-author and publish two materials science review papers, one in a journal called Gels and the other in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, both a part of the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, or MDPI. Since the publishing process was entirely new to me, I thought it would be helpful to give some insight into what publishing looks like, which is helpful especially if you are interested in pursuing research in graduate school. I will note that although having published papers is helpful for admission to graduate school, it is by no means required.
This past summer, I conducted research remotely with the Global Health Internship program in the Metcalf lab working with Dr. Marjolein Bruijning from the EEB department. While Dr. Bruijning guided me extensively throughout the project, I was given a lot of independence on the research topic I wanted to explore within the internship area of the effect of microbes on health. I have been able to continue my summer project throughout the semester, but I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my experience as a research assistant and the process of starting a project, which is becoming especially relevant as I start my Junior Independent Work. This post summarizes some of the insights I gained and the lessons I learned that I hope will be helpful in making the most out of your next research experience.
Students who are interested in research – especially junior- and senior-year students preparing for independent work – are often encouraged to master the use of a fully-featured statistical software like Stata or R in order to help with their statistical analysis. For example, in the Economics program at Princeton, Stata is often the software of choice for classes like ECO 202 (Statistics and Data Analysis for Economics) or ECO 302/312 (Econometrics). Similarly, other departments (for example, for the Undergraduate Certificate Program in Statistics and Machine Learning) offer SML 201 (Introduction to Data Science) or ORF 245 (Fundamentals of Engineering Statistics) to prepare students in the use of R. Usually, students end up developing a preference for one or the other even if they eventually grow proficient in both. While our coursework (rightly!) emphasizes the statistical methods, we, as students, are often left to navigate the intricacies of the statistical tools on our own. This post is a primer of some of the core packages in R that are used for advanced statistical analysis. As you begin to search for tools in R that can help you with your analysis, I hope you will find this information useful.
When most people think of summer, they think of warmer weather and longer days filled with newfound time to relax, travel, or to try something new. However, for many Princeton students, one summer topic that might be a source of both excitement and stress is summer internships. The summer can be the ideal time to pursue opportunities related to your interests in a more hands-on way, and summer internships provide (potentially paid) opportunities to do so. Many internships also provide avenues for Princetonians to do extensive and meaningful research, which, given the pace and workload of a typical Princeton semester, may be difficult to find time for during the academic year between classes and other extracurricular commitments.
The internship search process may be overwhelming, especially for freshmen and sophomores, who are still learning about the abundance of opportunities that Princeton has to offer. This post focuses on setting yourself up for a successful internship search by outlining popular programs, resources, and deadlines to ensure that you are able to find experiences that will enrich your (summer)time at Princeton. This list is not exhaustive and focuses on internships that include aspects of research, some combined with community service and professional development.
Whether you are thinking about applying to summer programs or graduate school, you most likely will need to ask for letters of recommendation for the application. Last year, I applied to various summer programs, but I didn’t start thinking about letters of recommendation until January, although most of my deadlines were in mid-February. Having only a month to ask for letters of recommendation was barely enough time, so this year, I am beginning to think about asking for letters of recommendation much earlier. Recommenders usually appreciate not being rushed, so don’t wait too long if you are also thinking about asking for letters of recommendation – one month is the minimum time. Here are some additional tips that are good to keep in mind when thinking about asking for letters of recommendation.
In the summer of 2021, I participated in a virtual global seminar in Cyprus entitled Conflict, Borders, Multilingualism, Translation. I was particularly drawn to the idea of learning about Cyprus’ history and culture through the lens of multilingualism and translation. Personally, language has always played a key role in my understanding of identity and culture. Three languages are spoken in my home (Filipino, English, and Chinese Hokkien), and growing up in this way has made me very conscious of language-culture influences, code-switching, and nuances in connotation.
Applying to this global seminar was a spontaneous decision; I major in MAE and am more used to spending my summers doing research and technology. However, when I read about this seminar in an email, I knew that it aligned with my personal interests in the social sciences. Because of the great time I had during the seminar, I am writing to motivate people to take advantage of the breadth of courses offered by Princeton and try studying something totally spontaneous and new!