Professorship and Mentorship: An Interview With Professor Bernadette Pérez

This winter, for our seasonal series entitled “Professorship and Mentorship,” PCURs interview a professor from their home department. In these interviews, professors shed light on the role that mentorship has played in their academic trajectory, including their previous experiences as undergraduate and graduate students as well as their current involvement with mentorship as independent work advisers for current Princeton undergraduates. Here, Rafi shares his interview.

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Professor Bernadette Pérez is a Lecturer in the Council of the Humanities, History and American Studies and a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow in Race and Ethnicity Studies in the Society of Fellows.

I met Professor Pérez last semester as a student in her course on Commodity Histories. Throughout the semester, I was inspired by her commitment to interdisciplinary research and her focus on subjugated histories. I was excited to hear about her personal research journey and any advice she might have for a confused undergrad like me. 

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Professorship and Mentorship: An Interview With Professor of Religion Anne Marie Luijendijk

This winter, for our seasonal series entitled “Professorship and Mentorship,” PCURs interview a professor from their home department. In these interviews, professors shed light on the role that mentorship has played in their academic trajectory, including their previous experiences as undergraduate and graduate students as well as their current involvement with mentorship as independent work advisers for current Princeton undergraduates. Here, Shanon shares his interview.

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Professor Luijendijk holds several appointments at Princeton, including Professor of Religion, Chair of the Committee on the Study of Late Antiquity, and Head of Wilson College.

As part of our seasonal series on faculty research, I sat down with Professor of Religion Anne Marie Luijendijk to discuss her work in Early Christian History through the study of papyrus manuscripts. Having taken a course with Professor Luijendijk before, I must say that she is one of the most enthusiastic educators I’ve ever met. As such, it was definitely a privilege to speak with her about her own research. You can read our conversation below. If you’re interested in advice for working with a faculty adviser, the importance of taking walks, or the historical study of ancient religious manuscripts, then read on! Continue reading Professorship and Mentorship: An Interview With Professor of Religion Anne Marie Luijendijk

Professorship and Mentorship: An Interview with Geosciences Professor Frederik Simons

This winter, for our seasonal series entitled “Professorship and Mentorship,” PCURs interview a professor from their home department. In these interviews, professors shed light on the role that mentorship has played in their academic trajectory, including their previous experiences as undergraduate and graduate students as well as their current involvement with mentorship as independent work advisers for current Princeton undergraduates. Here, Alec shares his interview.

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Princeton takes great pride in its focus on undergraduate independent work, and the expectations of original research and mentorship define the academic experience of juniors and seniors. However, everyone has their own model for mentoring and their own ideas of what undergraduate research should focus on. As part of our Winter Seasonal Series, I interviewed Geosciences Professor Frederik Simons to understand the role of mentorship in his life and share his perspective on undergraduate research at Princeton. I know Frederik from our many conversations in the GEO department and I took his class GEO 422: Data Models and Uncertainty in the Natural Sciences. He is the second reader for my independent work.

Mentorship is a state of mind… You need to get into someone’s mind and understand their perspective. If you see someone who is distressed or struggling, help out a little bit.

Geoscience Professor Frederik Simons enjoys mentoring students: “It makes me feel good.”

What role has mentorship played in your career, and what role does it play in your life now?

I was blessed with mentors throughout my career, a willingness to listen to advice, and the audacity to ignore it. I experienced mentorship in the form of many people looking out for me; it’s essentially about providing opportunity. Mentorship is lifelong; you are still being taken care of by other people whatever you achieve. Now I try to teach undergraduates what I think they should know and connect graduate students with opportunities.

Mentorship is a state of mind. ‘Mentor’ is from the Latin ‘mens’ for mind. You need to get into someone’s mind and understand their perspective. If you see someone who is distressed or struggling, help out a little bit. I have always enjoyed explaining stuff and helping out; it makes me feel good.

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How to Get to Know Your Department

Every department offers wonderful opportunities. For instance, departments offer seminars, special lectures, opportunities for internships or grants, study abroad programs, amongst other things. But to take advantage of these opportunities, it is important to know your department well. As a sophomore, one of the biggest challenges for me this year has been familiarizing myself with my own department, chemical and biological engineering (CBE).

In this post, I will provide some tips on how to get to know your department by describing how I engaged with CBE.

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Advice on Reaching Out to Faculty

Sitting in the back of a lecture can make your professor seem distant. Reaching out via email, discussed below, can help you get to know them better.

In my last post, I ended with a suggestion: reach out to faculty members. This post is an assortment of advice on how to go about doing that. More precisely, this post is about how to get in touch with faculty for the first time. Yes, dear readers, today we discuss the joy that is the cold email.

There are several situations in which cold emailing can be in your interest. You might want to get to know the faculty member better, or to do research with them. You might also want their advice on research at other institutions, summer programs, or independent work. Whatever your individual case, however, certain general principles apply when reaching out to faculty.

If cold emails are new or intimidating to you, fear not. The advice contained below will (hopefully) make this menacing task feel much more manageable.

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How to Become a Better Sleuth: Connecting with Faculty through Online Directories

Like many people my age, I am an uncertified, yet impressively efficient sleuth. Give me a name and some time, and I should be able to pull up at least two sources of information on any given person.

We know the process well: start with Google, aim for Facebook, and click on everything in between: Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, news media, public tax records, etc. – not to mention the terrifying wonders of Tigerbook.

You probably already have your sleuthing system all figured out, but have you considered applying it to research? Continue reading How to Become a Better Sleuth: Connecting with Faculty through Online Directories

Mentorship in Research: What’s “networking” all about?

Over the course of the semester, PCURs will reflect on the professors, advisers, and friends who shaped their research experiences. We present these to you as a series called Mentorship in Research. Most undergraduates have met, or will meet, an individual who motivates and supports their independent work. Here, Bennett shares his story.

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When I say “networking,” what do you think of?

Affluent, well-dressed extroverts? Annoying emails from the LinkedIn account you signed up for Freshman year (out of a vague sense of professional obligation)? Shallow, self-serving conversations? The old boys’ club?

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There’s a lot going on at this career fair, but networking doesn’t have to be intimidating

There are a lot of negative associations that spring up around the word “networking.” And I understand that – there’s definitely something reflexively uncomfortable about conversations where the participants have ulterior motives. As someone who shuns both uncomfortable social interaction and formal wear, it would be understandable if I wrote networking off as an awkward, greedy affair.

But here’s the thing – that’s not what networking is.

One of the best ways I’ve heard it put goes as follows: what if instead of calling it “networking” we called it “learning from each other”?

Because that’s what networking is. And that’s why this post is part of the mentorship series – if you think of networking as finding and consulting mentors, it becomes a lot more approachable and a lot less uncomfortable.

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Human Resources for your Independent Work!

It’s JP crunch time! Many students like myself are working feverishly on campus on their junior papers as winter break approaches. This week, I’m going to share advice about the single most useful resource I’ve found on campus as I work through my own junior paper: Princeton professors. Scheduling a meeting or two with faculty relevant to your work, whether you know them or not, will help you greatly in your path to a great research paper.

First, some background: many departments have different guidelines and setups for junior independent work. Most departments require two junior papers; some require one. In the philosophy department, all juniors take a small (4-5 person) topical junior seminar in the fall to guide them into the process of writing independently. This fall’s topics were Consequentialism & Common Sense Morality, Newcomb’s Problem, and Skepticism, Reason, & Faith. In seminar sessions, students discuss issues central to these topics.

I spent my semester in Consequentialism & Common Sense Morality reading Shelly Kagan’s Normative Ethics and debating features of the text with my classmates. The literature was vast, spanning metaethics (what are the fundamental bases of ethical theories? are they valid?), normative ethics (what are relevant factors that make actions good or bad?), and applied ethics (what are answers to moral questions people face in their lives?). Any one of these categories holds thousands of unanswered, often-debated questions. So by the second half of the semester, when it was time to choose a junior paper topic, I felt predictably lost.

I’d be lying if I said I’ve never gotten lost on campus…but feeling lost on a research paper is much scarier!

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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?

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Realizing the Global Impact of Princeton Professors

The work of Princeton professors is recognized around the world! (slide credit: Bahador Bahrami. photo credit: Jalisha Braxton)
The work of Princeton professors is recognized around the world! (slide credit: Bahador Bahrami)

Something incredible happened the other day in class here at University College London (UCL). My psychology professor was lecturing on the topic of attention and awareness when, suddenly, a familiar name appeared on the screen: Matthew Botvinick, Professor of Psychology at Princeton University! I was struck with surprise, amazement, and joy at seeing his name on the board, feeling fortunate to have taken a neuroscience course with him the year before. A sense of pride washed over me as my European classmates & I learned about one of Professor Botvinick’s experimental studies on conflict monitoring. However, I also felt a wave of regret. Why had I not known about this study before? Shouldn’t I, a student in the Psychology Department at Princeton, know about the amazing research that my professor had conducted?

Most students at Princeton are well aware of the fact that the school’s faculty members are highly accomplished. However, while the merits of some professors are published by CNN on a daily basis, the accomplishments of other professors are less publicized. Nonetheless, many of the individuals who stand before us each and every day have and continue to produce incredible research that is highly regarded around the world.

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