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.
Whether you’re trying to free up your summer to enjoy one of Princeton’s other fully-funded programs, or maybe pave the way for more advanced summer or independent research opportunities, it’s understandable why you might want to get a head start on research during the academic year. But, with jam-packed class schedules, multiple labs, essays to write, and hopefully squeezing in some time for yourself, it can feel impossible to do research on top of life at Princeton. So, how do students do it? Can you really spend 8-10 hours per week on research and still find work-life balance? In short, it depends. The number of classes you’re taking, extracurriculars, and your own unique circumstances all factor into whether research during the academic year is sustainable for your class schedule. For some, research can be a valuable addition to their academic schedules. But, like anything at Princeton, it requires careful planning, time management, and clarifying your own values. Here are three tips for striking balance with research during the academic year.
In this post, I share my experience of requesting resources from Princeton’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library for a research paper in ART102/ARC102: An Introduction to the History of Architecture. I took the Spring 2022 iteration of the course, taught by Professor Basile Baudez and Professor Samuel Holzman. The course provided an overview of architectural history from ancient Egypt to the modern-day through key monuments and architectural movements.
One of my favorite parts of ART102 was our semester-long research project. Students have the opportunity to delve deeper into the history of any building in the Princeton community. My peers covered a wide range of buildings, including Firestone Library, the Graduate College, and the University Chapel. Inspired by my involvement with the Princeton University Art Museum as a student tour guide, I chose to research Bainbridge House (now repurposed as Art@Bainbridge, one of the Museum’s gallery spaces on Nassau Street).
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.
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.
Having no knowledge about Neuroscience at the time, I did not expect my experience taking Advanced Placement Psychology to amount to more than an interesting elective. However, I discovered my passion for research through Dr. Volpicelli-Daley, who came to our class to give a presentation about her research on Parkinson’s Disease with mouse models. She invited us to apply for a position as a research assistant in her lab, and I ended up getting the job. I worked with the Volpicelli-Daley research team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school and then again over my gap year before coming to Princeton.
As anyone who has taken one of Princeton’s introductory statistics courses can tell you: informative statistics and figures can and will be incredibly useful in supporting your research. Whether you’re reworking your R1, writing your first JP, or in the final stages of your Senior Thesis, chances are you’ve integrated some useful statistics into your argument. When there are a million different positions that one can take in an argument, statistics appear to be our research’s objective grounding. The data says so, therefore I must be right. Right?
When I finally got rejected from the international internship in Portugal I applied to, I was crushed. I had worked so hard on the application, done practice interviews, and had relevant work experience. I felt that surely I would at least get an interview, and probably be welcomed into the program with open arms. I had chatted with someone else who did the same program and loved it, and I imagined myself strolling the glorious halls of the cutting-edge research facility I would work in. But then the notification date came and passed. “Oh well,” I thought, “I applied to some High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) internships in cool places, surely one of those would work out!” Nope. With the summer break growing ever nearer, it seemed I was officially out of luck. It felt like all of my friends had these grand plans in places around the globe I never even imagined traveling, but I was stuck.
There are many reasons why I chose to major in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), ranging from the impact that we have through service and the focus on policy and law. One unique feature of SPIA is the ability for concentrators to take more qualitative courses such as SPI333: Law, Institutions, and Public Policy and quantitatively-based courses, such as POL346: Applied Quantitative Analysis. During the Fall of my junior year, I wrote a more qualitative junior paper on risk assessment tools in the pretrial adjudication system and analyzed whether or not they make more biased decisions than do humans (see here to read more about my experience). Headed into my junior spring, I was presented with the choice of writing another qualitative paper or joining a quantitative research lab. Thankfully, I felt confident in my coding abilities due to past courses I had taken which prepared me for this moment (see here to read about how I gained a quantitative background in R as a SPIA major). I chose the lab without hesitation and my spring semester independent research journey began.
As I dive into my second junior paper, I’ve begun to realize how much more serious this paper is than the first one. Gone are the safety rails once provided by Princeton’s History department; instead of a course with concrete deadlines, I am now in the metaphorical Wild West, negotiating with my advisor on a whole bunch of elements: deadlines, research content, framing, among others. Even though it is only February when I write this, the April deadline eyes me ominously. With four classes and an array of extracurricular activities, whatever will I do to survive my second JP? How can I even anticipate the thesis?
At PCUR, we’ve done plenty of reflections on our prior research experiences. The more I think about it, the best thing to do is to reflect on my first JP. In that paper, I explored the attitudes and ideologies of consumption that post-war consumers held, particularly in relation to an acute shortage of nylon stockings. Sifting through dozens of articles in local newspapers, I identified many letters to the editor that female consumers sent in to voice their opinion about how nylons should be distributed, who deserves them, and how the shortage was affecting their everyday lives.
Although I am undoubtedly proud of the final product, there were many things I could improve about it. From the way I kept sources and my reading schedule to my writing method and the final editing process, I could enumerate an endless list. For now, I will highlight two of the biggest takeaways from my first JP, which will be particularly useful given the abbreviated timeline of the second paper.