Art as a Way of Knowing: Integrating the Art Museum in Your Research and Studies

If you were to take a tour of Princeton’s campus, your tour guide would point out various things that are unique to Princeton’s campus. For example, we have the third largest university chapel in the world, and Frist Campus Center used to be Einstein’s laboratory. But, something that is incredibly special about Princeton’s campus–and I feel we don’t talk enough about –is the fact that Princeton has an amazing art museum directly on campus.

The Princeton University Art Museum (PUAM), whose collections hold works by artists ranging from Cézanne to Basquiat, is a great spot for tourists and community members to visit. However, it is arguably an even greater spot for students.

This week I share a little bit about my experiences at the art museum and interview Juliana Ochs Dweck, the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Engagement, to talk about the different ways the PUAM can serve as a resource for research and studies at Princeton. After all, as Dweck notes about the university museum, “the whole point is to be a teaching museum.”

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Collaborating with Graduate Students

Sometimes graduate students are the older siblings you didn’t know you had.

In my Orange Key tours, I always emphasize how exciting it is to be an undergraduate student at Princeton. Unlike many other leading research institutions, Princeton maintains a strong focus on undergraduate teaching. This results in an unusual dynamic between undergraduates and graduate students on campus. In general, the two populations are pretty segregated. Aside from the preceptor-student relationship (and, of course, the ReMatch relationship), I haven’t encountered a whole lot of avenues for collaboration between undergraduates and graduate students in our research projects.

Map of Northeastern Native tribes (ca. 1710), the subjects of my JP research

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Graduate Student Reflections: An Interview with Jonathon Catlin

This semester, in our spring series, PCURs will interview a graduate student from their home department who either is currently a graduate student at Princeton, or attended Princeton as an undergraduate. In Graduate Student Reflections: Life in Academia, interviews with graduate students shed light on the variety of paths one can take to get to graduate school and beyond, and the many insights gained along the way from research projects and mentors. Here, Rafi shares his interview.


Jonathon Catlin, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History.

Jonathon Catlin is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History, focusing on intellectual responses to the Holocaust. Before beginning at Princeton, he earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago in Jewish Studies and Fundamentals: Issues and Texts and his M.A. in philosophy from KU Leuven in Belgium. A few days ago, I sat down with him in Chancellor Green café to hear about his research journey and some of what he’s learned along the way.

How did you arrive at your current research topic?

I was a junior in high school and, for whatever reason, I decided to take a course called “The Holocaust in History, Literature, and Film” at Harvard Summer School. Why I chose it I don’t know, but the rest is history. Holocaust representation and its intersections with philosophy, religion, literature, film — all in a sort of historical context — is essentially what I’ve been working on for about eight years now, bouncing around multiple disciplines.

My dissertation is hopefully going to be on the concept of catastrophe in modern European thought – a project I’ve been working on since my first year of undergrad. I guess the newest thing for me about coming to Princeton is that I’m in a history department now, which is just totally different than the interdisciplinary humanities focus that I was used to.

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Yoga and Research

The 2017-2018 Yoga and Meditation Fellows at the Divine Life Society Ashram, Rishikesh, India.

Greetings from Maharashtra, India! It’s just a few hours into 2018 here, and I’m on a bus bound for Mumbai with 15 other Princetonians as part of the 2017-18 Princeton University Yoga and Meditation Fellowship. As our time in the country comes to a close, I’d like to share some of my reflections from this immersive experience.

At first glance, it might not seem like there could be any possible overlap between yoga and research, or even academics. After all, yoga is just a bunch of exercise postures for hippies or suburban moms, right?

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From Perfection to Passion: An Update

Last February I wrote a post about reconciling my love for STEM with my humanities major. The summer before my junior year, I made a compromise with myself: take at least one quantitative course a semester. I thought this to be the most realistic plan to stay on track with my French major while keeping a promise to cultivate my inner Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I’m kicking off this plan with taking Intro to Data Science this fall.

RStudio and French literature get along better than I thought!

This compromise is useful on an academic level, given my new interest in Digital Humanities, a field that combines both humanities and technology. I am hoping to prime my quantitative side to explore this field, potentially for my senior thesis.

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What is Digital Humanities? An Interview with Jean Bauer, Associate Director for the Center for Digital Humanities

A researcher presenting a project at CDH’s open house last year

Last spring, my friend, now alum, told me she was going to study Digital Humanities at Stanford in the fall. This was the first time I heard of the field. She had discovered it through the Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) at Princeton, an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to embracing technology as a way to understand the human experience. I spoke with Jean Bauer, Associate Director for CDH at Princeton, to see what this seemingly contradictory field was all about, and how students can engage with it.

Elise Freeman: For people who aren’t familiar with the field, can you give an explanation of what Digital Humanities is?

Jean Bauer: Digital Humanities is an international community of scholars who are interested in one of two things, or both of them. One way to get into Digital Humanities (DH) is to look at the record of the human experience and put that in conversation with digital computational methodologies that are being developed primarily but not exclusively in Computer Science. Think of things like network analysis, geospatial analysis, and data visualization and see what new questions you can ask of those sources and if there are any older questions that you can get a little more purchase on. That’s one kind of DH. The other kind is taking the training that we get as humanities scholars and using it to critique current technology and the ways in which it does or doesn’t account for things like disability, queer identity, race and other factors.

Continue reading What is Digital Humanities? An Interview with Jean Bauer, Associate Director for the Center for Digital Humanities

A writer’s window: How poetry is changing how I see the world

In honor of National Poetry Month, my professor, Marie Howe, suggested writing a poem every day for the month of April. “Who’s up for it?” she asked our Advanced Poetry class. “It can be just a few lines. I’ll do it if you do it.”

I was in.

My bedroom windowsill - which, this April, has become my bedroom poetry windowsill.
My bedroom windowsill – which, this April, has become my bedroom poetry windowsill.

I decided to write a poem right when I wake up each morning – figuring this is the only way I’d consistently get it done – and to forego my computer (and its associated, infinite distractions) in favor of a pencil and notebook. Every morning, I roll out of bed, perch myself on the wide windowsill of my ground-floor room, and write a poem.

I was shocked by how easily I could reshape my early-morning habits, and how much doing so affected the rest of my day. With this new routine has come a kind of freedom: my first thought of the day is no longer my calendar or breakfast or to-do list, but something creative and unlimited. I bring this creative lens with me through the rest of the day: watching milk gush over my cereal, stepping out into the April air, listening to a lecture about respiration across the animal kingdom. Continue reading A writer’s window: How poetry is changing how I see the world

LAST CHANCE to be in Princeton Research Day!

By now, you might have seen posters, social media advertisements, and even blog posts by Stacey and Melissa about Princeton Research Day this May. Princeton Research Day is a university-wide “research fair”: a day for students to present their research and learn about others’ work. PRD is for student research at all levels– whether a freshman seminar paper or a senior thesis project. The application deadline is THIS FRIDAY at 5 pm, so I wanted to write a post about the value of PRD and the ease of the application!

This could be you if you apply NOW to present at Princeton Research Day!

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The Project That Made Me a Researcher: Beatniks, Buddhists, and Me

Over the course of the semester, PCURs will explain how they found their place in research. We present these to you as a series called The Project That Made Me a Researcher. As any undergraduate knows, the transition from ‘doing a research project’ to thinking of yourself as a researcher is an exciting and highly individualized phenomenon. Here, Vidushi shares her story.


“Walk around the classroom,” he said, without glancing up from the class roster, “and select a photo. Choose carefully.”

A slight murmur arose in my high school US history classroom as we slung our backpacks in a corner and surveyed the U-shaped desks papered with old ink photographs. My teacher, a stout volunteer firefighter with a white-flecked beard, gave away only a slight smile. As he called time, I hastily grabbed a picture of a judgmental-looking man in tortoise-shell glasses.

“The picture in your hands will be the subject of your semester-end term paper,” my teacher announced. “Choices are final.”

Thus began the first project that made me feel like a researcher, and one of the most valuable intellectual experiences I had in high school.

A high school project started my journey — but the journey continues on campus!

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