Looking at Qualitative Research through Junior Papers: An Interview with Albert Lee ‘24

Headshot of Albert Lee standing in Colonial Club, wearing a blue suit.

Albert Lee ‘24 is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Chair at Colonial Club, a member of the Students for Prison Education, Abolition, and Reform (SPEAR), and former Senior Writer for The Daily Princetonian.

As a junior, a hot topic for many of my friends lately has been their junior research and senior theses. In brainstorming ideas for this piece, I also thought about the incredible amount of learning that takes place in just a semester. That’s when I got the idea for this paper—to hear from seniors about their recent experiences conducting research for their Junior Papers. So, I reached out to Albert Lee ‘24, a senior majoring in Sociology and pursuing a certificate in Journalism.

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Preparing for ORGO, Overcoming Fear, & Rejecting Effortless Perfection: Interview with Tom Silldorff, Part 2

Tom Silldorff goofily posing for a photo while underwater scuba diving.
Organic Chemistry TA, RCA, and graduating senior Tom Silldorff ’23 reminds us that life is not about the outcome, but the fun we had getting there.

In partnership with the Princeton Perspectives Project (PPP), we’re back for Part 2 of our interview with Organic Chemistry TA Tom Silldorff ’23. While organic chemistry, or “Orgo,” may have earned its notoriety for its exceeding complexity, demanding exams, and time-intensive study, this does not mean that students have to struggle the whole way through. In our first interview, we discussed how Tom found his passion for Orgo and some of his key takeaways from tutoring on how students can grow throughout the course. This time, we’re tackling some of the deepest challenges students face while taking Orgo: What actually gives Orgo its difficult reputation? What can prospective Orgo students do now to prepare for the course? How did Tom face his own struggles with the demand for effortless perfection? If you’ve ever wondered how you can maximize your growth from Orgo or even academics more generally, then read on for one final reflection on fear, failure, and the beauty of Organic Chemistry with graduating senior, Tom Silldorff. 

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PPP from a Student’s Perspective: An Interview with Alexis Wu

I really enjoyed Alexis Wu’s introduction to our seasonal series with the Princeton Perspective Project (PPP) – if you haven’t read it already, you should definitely check it out. Alexis was kind enough to agree to an interview to answer some further questions about her experiences as a member of PPP. Read more below!

Colorful infographic with the statement "Don't let failure bring you down."
A promotional image from PPP’s ‘We All Face Rejection’ Campaign.
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Reflections on Fear, “Failure,” & the Beauty of Organic Chemistry Part 1: Thank You ORGO LEGEND Tom Silldorff

Organic Chemistry TA and Princeton Senior Tom Silldorff poses in front of a chalkboard after a long night of tutoring at the NCW dining hall.
Princeton Senior and Orgo TA Tom Silldorff offers numerous tutoring sessions in Choi Dining Hall (Yeh/NCW) for all students in Organic Chemistry.

As part of our collaboration with the Princeton Perspectives Project (PPP), we’re exploring how the idealized notion of “effortless perfection”—the idea that a path to success must be free of failure—obscures the reality of both the research process and mastering a new subject. For many students, there are few better examples of this phenomenon than the Organic Chemistry course. Almost regardless of who is teaching or how it is taught, “Orgo” has earned near-universal notoriety for its complicated labs, unconventional approach, and the immense, complex breadth of material that students must learn to conceptualize and then apply. Orgo students must learn to think in an entirely new way, and this process can be uncomfortable. Challenges, mistakes, and “failure” are bound to occur along the way. Yet, often, it is through confronting these very challenges that students grow not only as future academics, engineers, or doctors—but as people. 

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Introducing the Sophomore Research Seminars: An Interview with Professor Emma Ljung

Image of Professor Emma Ljung teaching a seminar
Professor Emma Ljung teaching in a seminar.

With course selection coming around the corner, the sheer number of opportunities can be overwhelming. Choosing courses can be doubly challenging for rising sophomores who are finishing up their prerequisite courses and trying to figure out what they even want to major in. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce a new and exciting opportunity for students interested in research—the Sophomore Research Seminars.

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Exploring Places and Creating New Spaces: An Interview with Nal Xaviera ‘25

Nal Xaviera, class of 2025

On campus, Nal Xaviera ’25 is a member of Engineers Without Borders: Kenya, Community House After School Programs, and an assistant for the Visual Resources Department.

College is a wonderful place to explore your interests. It’s a time to meet new people, engage with different disciplines, and explore what you’re truly curious about. Perhaps one of the most apt examples of such opportunities is the Office of International Programs’s International Internship Program (IIP).

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No Experience Necessary: An Interview with Delaan Nedd ’25

Delaan Nedd '25 and the Bocarsly Lab

Delaan Nedd ’25 (second from the left in the top row) and the Bocarsly Lab. Photo from Bocarsly Lab News.

As we enter December, it seems like summer is far, far away, but it’s a good time to start thinking about summer plans if you haven’t already. If you’re interested in research, there are numerous summer research programs whose applications are currently open (the Office of Undergraduate Research has a great list here).

For students with no experience with research, just getting started can be daunting. I wanted to hear from students whose first hands-on exposure to research was through Princeton’s research programs, so I interviewed Delaan Nedd ‘25. Delaan spent this past summer in the Princeton Department of Chemistry’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Chemistry (SURF-C) program. SURF-C is a nine-week program for first and second-year undergraduate students to work on cutting-edge chemistry research alongside Princeton faculty, post-docs, graduate students, and other undergrads. What’s exciting is that the research Delaan contributed to during SURF-C was recently published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Dalton Transactions journal—check out the full paper here!

In this interview, we discuss his experience with on-campus summer research both in and out of the lab, as well as how the summer further informed his academic and career interests.

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Tips for Talking About Your Research

Sharing the discoveries you’ve made is not just extremely rewarding, but a necessary part of the research process because it ensures your findings can be put to use. Writing about your research is a tough obstacle to tackle in and of itself, but what I want to focus on today is the arguably more intimidating half of sharing your research: speaking about it. Both formats require demonstrating your command of the subject while also being engaging. Unlike writing about your research, where you generally have a well-defined goal from the get-go, you will find yourself speaking about your research in an enormous range of contexts. Here are three of my tips for talking about your research, whether summarizing your findings for your grandma or giving a formal presentation to a group of experts.

A woman giving a presentation
A presentation given in Princeton’s beautiful J-Street Library.
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A Budding Field: Finding Opportunities in Psychedelic Research

The logo for the Princeton Science of Psychedelics Club. A large three-dimensional ring with blue radiating ovals.
The logo for Princeton’s Science of Psychedelics Club (PSPC), a student-lead organization seeking to educate students about psychedelics, discuss current trends in psychedelic research, and provide opportunities to other students interested in pursuing psychedelic research. If interested in joining, contact PSPC@princeton.edu or President Camilla Strauss ’23 for more information.

One goal for any budding researcher is to see their work have a tangible public impact. But, with endless hours spent in a lab or hunched over a computer, there are times where research can feel abstract or removed from reality. Neuroscience, in particular, faces this stereotype. True, many (including myself) believe that neuroscience holds the key to understanding our conscience and, by extension, our modern predicament. But the question remains: where can an aspiring neuroscientist find the life-altering research they seek?

Ironically, the answer might just lie in reality-altering substances. From neuroscience to public policy, psychedelics is a budding topic across many different fields of research. While Princeton itself is yet to enter the field, the Princeton Science of Psychedelics Club (PSPC) serves as the hub for all students interested in this emerging field. I sat down with PSPC and senior Neuroscience Major President Camilla Strauss to talk about how students interested in psychedelics research could learn more. 

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Independent Work Seminars as a COS BSE Student: An Interview with Shannon Heh ‘23

Image of Shannon Heh '23

Shannon Heh ’23 is currently Co-President of TigerApps, a member of KoKoPops dance team, and a member of Colonial Club

At Princeton, B.S.E.* computer science students are required to complete at least one semester of independent work (IW) during their junior or senior year. Students may either take an IW seminar, where a small group of students work on larger projects under a given theme, or a one-on-one IW, where students work and meet with their advisers independently.

Seminars had weekly meetings and provided more structure for students than a typical one-on-one project would; students were asked to choose their project ideas early and received valuable feedback through presenting and having their ideas workshopped by their peers in the seminar.

I met with Shannon Heh ‘23, a senior in the Computer Science department, to discuss her experience in an independent work seminar. Spring of her junior year, Shannon took COS IW 09: You Be the Prof, advised by Professor David Walker. Students were to produce a web-based platform, app, or tool to aid in teaching a particular topic, skill, or concept.

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