This semester, I took my first graduate seminar in philosophy–Rationality & Irrationality with Professor Thomas Kelly. I went into the class without any knowledge of epistemology and some apprehension about my meager philosophical background compared to other students.
At the same time, I wanted the challenge and growth opportunities of an environment where students were fully invested in the material and subject matter covered. As a senior, I also wanted to see if I would want to pursue graduate work in philosophy. So, I swallowed my hesitations and enrolled.
As a second-semester senior, one thing seems to be taking over my life: my thesis. I eat thesis. I sleep thesis. I breathe thesis. The only other thing really going on in my life is interviewing for graduate school programs, and remarkably enough, the main thing that interviewers want to hear about is…yep, you guessed it: My thesis. Continue reading Graduate School Interviews: How My Thesis Stole The Show
“My friends, family, and classmates sometimes ask me why I do the things I do,” muses Ph.D. student Cara Brook in a recent NatGeo blog post. “Why do I spend so much time in remote corners of the world, tracking lethal viruses in enormous bats?”
In its broader form, this is a question all researchers can relate to: not just why she is so passionate, but how she found such passion for her particular research. How can we ever choose one question, of all the world’s exciting unknowns, for a thesis, or Ph.D., or career?
Cara and I met up in a campus coffee shop – each of us, like good ecologists, bringing a reusable mug – and I asked Cara how she came to her research. Over the past four years, Cara has spent more time in Madagascar than in Princeton. In the field, she camps in the remote wilderness, traps fruit bats, and collects samples of their blood, hair, and (sometimes) teeth, to trace the paths of pathogens through populations. Cara has sacrificed much – warm showers, wi-fi, and uninterrupted sleep, to start – for her research. How did she find a question that drives her so deeply? Continue reading The Search for Life Work: Netting Bats in Madagascar
As I’ve muddled my way through three years of college, the questions people have asked me about my studies have changed. It started with possibility and exploration – “what are you studying?” and “ooh, chemistry was my worst subject!” – but when I returned home this summer, the question “and what are you going to do next?” reared its ugly head.
Grad school, followed by academic research, had always been my default answer. It’s what my dad did with his psychology degree, it’s very close to what my mom did with her English degree (until she turned off on a veering path through secondary education, administration, web development, and consulting). Perhaps more importantly, it’s the path most visible to students actually in university, surrounded as we are with, well, grad students and academics. Especially at Princeton (where research in even the “applied” sciences tends towards the theoretical), there’s a dearth of visibility of other paths.