Starting the Semester: How to Stay on Top of Things

Princeton semesters are hard. For most people, the stress comes and goes throughout the semester.

Going into sophomore year, I wanted to try new extracurriculars (like writing for PCUR and being a writing center fellow) and to continue things that I’d done since my first year (like Princeton University Orchestra and Princeton Social Innovation), but I was worried about how to manage everything.

It’s hard to balance both coursework and extracurriculars.

Extracurriculars are such a crucial part of life here at Princeton, but we’re also students first. How could I try to start the semester off on the right foot?

This question became all the more pressing when classes started and I got a better understanding of the time commitment and effort that was required for each of my classes.

While it was extremely easy to feel overwhelmed, I tried to stay calm. Continue reading Starting the Semester: How to Stay on Top of Things

GEO/WRI 201: The Best Course on Scientific Research and Writing Offered at Princeton

“Any science major should consider this course…it is basically independent work guided by two top notch professors and supported by an entire seminar class.” – Anonymous Student Review

Every undergraduate studying the natural sciences at Princeton undertakes significant independent research projects in their Junior and Senior years. GEO/WRI 201: Methods in Data Analysis & Scientific Writing is a unique course designed specifically to teach students how to write an independent scientific paper. If you are a Sophomore or Junior looking to attain the concrete skills and confidence to tackle independent research, there is no better class to take.

In 201, you will learn how to design, research, write, and present original scientific research, all through the lens of measuring changing landscapes using satellite and drone-derived aerial imagery. Under the mentorship of Adam Maloof (GEO) and Amanda Irwin Wilkins (WRI), and with the support of your peers, you will: develop an original, well motivated scientific question; design effective field methods to test a specific hypothesis; quantitatively analyze data and imagery; and learn how to effectively communicate the results in a scientific paper and slideshow presentation. The highlight of the class is a nine day field trip across Utah, where students work collaboratively to implement their own field methods, piloting drones and collecting climatological data.

Will Atkinson ‘18 misses a beautiful sunset over Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah while taking notes on a geology lecture given by professor Adam Maloof during the class field trip. (Fall break, 2016)

Continue reading GEO/WRI 201: The Best Course on Scientific Research and Writing Offered at Princeton

Structuring Senior Year: Choosing Courses

The registrar will soon be releasing fall course offerings. Even as spring semester continues full speed ahead, many juniors are beginning to think about the coming year. Especially for A.B. seniors, who take only six classes, the questions of which to take, how many to take, and how to balance them with a thesis and post-graduation plans, all loom. Remembering how I, as a second semester junior, relied on advice from outgoing seniors, I decided to compile some of my own reflections on approaching coursework in senior year.

Three-three or four-two? For most A.B. students, senior year is the only time we take six courses, rather than eight or nine, to make more time for independent research. We may divide these courses in two ways: three each semester; or four in the first, two in the second. This decision may come down to a number of factors, including: your ability to plan ahead and pace your work, your spring extracurricular conflicts, and your research requirements (for some, scheduling lab work is an important consideration). Personally, I am so grateful for my decision to take four and then two. Especially since I have two theses — one for the Spanish and Portuguese concentration, and a thesis play for the theater certificate — I appreciate the lighter course load.

Final requirements? As you select final courses, narrowing down the choices can seem impossible. Before you make any decisions, first consult your departmental, certificate, and distribution requirements. Many departments have advising tools and calendars to help keep you on track. If you have any prerequisites left, check if these courses are only offered one semester. Senior fall, for instance, was my last opportunity to take ANT 300, a requirement for the Ethnography certificate. Having this in my schedule helped me limit my other choices.

One tool that might help with course selection is recal.io, which allows you to develop a potential class schedule. Here is the schedule I developed last year at this time for my senior fall.

Continue reading Structuring Senior Year: Choosing Courses

Why Independent Work is Different

And what is classroom learning good for, anyways?

It is Tuesday morning. From the back of the classroom, I squint at the pictures of fish being projected on the board, and scribble in a spiral notebook. Queen angelfish: yellow ring on head, I write as the instructor describes the species’ habitat. She flips to the next slide. Townsend angelfish, I write, less common.

A school of doctorfish (Acanthurus chirurgus) near one of the reefs I studied last summer. Doctorfish can be identified by the dark vertical bars lining the middle of their bodies.

Slipping into the room, with its rows of desks, overhead projector, and professorial monologue – had felt like donning my own old, well-worn clothes. Sixteen years of traditional education have made this role as a student a familiar one.

Yet this time, the circumstances are unusual, and entering the room as a pupil feels suddenly bizarre. It is mid-June, my third week on the island of Bermuda. Just down the hill from this classroom, the turquoise ocean plays against the research station dock. I am at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences to conduct a field research project assessing how polluted groundwater affects the chemistry and ecology of near-shore coral reefs. Over breakfast, someone had mentioned that a summer course instructor would be lecturing her class on fish identification today. I have been planning to conduct fish surveys on the coral reefs I am studying, but (rather critically) first need to learn to identify all the fish. The timing of the lecture couldn’t be more perfect, so here I am: hunched over a table in the very back of the classroom, listening and scribbling notes like my thesis depends on it.

Continue reading Why Independent Work is Different

Live Uncertainty- Learning Abroad in Brazil

I spent my fall break last week in São Paulo, Brazil, visiting a variety of art museums and community spaces with a focus on the 32nd São Paulo Bienal, themed Incerteza Viva—live uncertainty. The trip was part of my art history seminar, Contemporary Art: The World Picture. University-sponsored travel, whether through classes, workshops, or independent work, has been the highlight of my Princeton experience, and my time in Brazil was no exception.

A view of the São Paulo Bienal from above!
A view of the São Paulo Bienal from above!

Continue reading Live Uncertainty- Learning Abroad in Brazil

Taking Thematic Classes Abroad

Greetings from Dunedin, New Zealand, my home till June this semester as I study at the University of Otago!

I flew in yesterday morning after a quick orientation in Auckland, where I met the other students in my study abroad program, run by the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University. During the orientation, our friends and mentors from New Zealand (called “kiwis”!) stressed the importance of taking at least one class related to the culture, languages, or history of New Zealand. In retrospect, this seems obvious– but I hadn’t thought about this throughout my Princeton course approval process.

A peek inside a Maori meeting house in the Auckland War Memorial Museum!
A peek inside a Maori meeting house in the Auckland War Memorial Museum! Image by Vidushi Sharma. 

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Choosing Classes: Things to Think about & University Resources

Spring courses were recently released on the university registrar, which means it’s time for many of us to start considering some difficult decisions. Choosing the course arrangement that best fits your priorities/schedule is crucial to ensure that you have a fulfilling spring semester. 

Over the past four semesters, I’ve used many tips passed on by wise upperclassmen to help choose my own courses. Here are some of the best ones, followed by some resources that are helpful for choosing classes!

What books will be on your shelf next semester?

Continue reading Choosing Classes: Things to Think about & University Resources