Reflecting on my first year, I think about how quickly time flies. I’ve thought about how much I’ve changed over the course of a year and how my discussions with my peers and professors already began to shape the way I viewed the world. As an engineering student, Writing Seminar was especially memorable because it opened the door for me to engage with research in the humanities.
All first-year students are required to take a Writing Seminar. My seminar, WRI146 – Constructing the Past, taught by Dr. Emma Ljung, centered on the theme of how the past is closely intertwined with the present. In retrospect, one of my most pivotal periods in the course was the process of writing my R2, which focused on artifacts from the Princeton University Art Museum. Interested in delving deeper into my Chinese cultural background, I chose to work with the Guang, a dragon-headed bronze pouring vessel from the late Shang dynasty.
Pouring vessel with dragon-head lid (guang), China, Western Zhou dynasty, 11th century to 771 BC, bronze from the Princeton University Art Museum. Photo from Daderot on Wikimedia Commons.
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.
In my junior year of high school, through my conversations with more and more teachers and scholars, I thought I had come to understand the importance of one inevitable piece of the scientific process (or really any academic discipline):
Kasey Shashaty is a junior majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. She began working at the PULSe (Princeton University Laser Sensing) Lab in the summer of 2021 and has been working with them since. In this interview, Kasey and I discuss how she got involved in this lab through the ReMatch+ program, her experiences working in the lab both virtually and in-person, and where she is taking her experiences in the future.
In the fall of 2021, I worked in the Computational Turbulent Reacting Flow Laboratory under the guidance of Professor Michael Mueller. In the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) department, junior independent research is optional. I enrolled in MAE339: Junior Independent Work in the fall and am currently continuing my research this spring semester. Research was an integral part of my high school experience, and I was excited to start working on independent research in my junior year of college in a different setting. Now, I want to share a few of the lessons I learned from this past semester with you:
Have you ever left an interview wishing you remembered to mention that project you did in class? Or do you have a broad range of interests and experiences that do not fit on a one-page resume? Have you ever built something really cool and wanted to show everybody but were not sure how? You can answer all of these issues with your own personal portfolio.
A portfolio is similar to a resume in that it showcases your work and achievements, but it is more flexible in that it can take different forms and include all types of media. It can be helpful to share with recruiters and interviewers during your career search, and you can ensure recruiters come across it by sharing a link to it in your resume! It is probably the most underrated career search material, and taking the time to craft your own portfolio is already a huge step to making yourself stand out.
First-years, you’ve just survived everyone’s favorite time of year: your first Writing Seminar deadline. Over the course of the past few weeks, you’ve learned the difference between motive and thesis, discussed strategies for analyzing data, written a draft of your first essay, and finally, turned in your first piece of graded work: your R1!
The process of going from an ungraded draft to a graded revision may have seemed intimidating. In part, this is because most first-years have little to no experience with serious revision of essays. In high school, when standards were lower, I, like many others, got away with handing in first drafts most of the time. When I did make the time to revise, my “revision” consisted mainly of adding a few fancy words to my essay and tightening up my conclusion. So when I got to my Writing Seminar and was essentially told to rewrite my entire essay, I panicked.
Did I have to completely start over? Was all my D1 work wasted? As I had no experience with the revision process, I struggled to even begin the process of writing my R1. So if you felt the same way after handing in your R1, read on: I promise that your next two revisions will be made much easier (and dare I say, pleasant?) with the help of a few key strategies.
For this year’s Spring Seasonal Series, entitled Post-Princeton Life: The Experiences of PCUR Alumni, each correspondent has selected a PCUR alum to interview about what they have been up to. We hope that these interviews will provide helpful insight into the many different paths Princeton students take after graduation. Here, Raya shares her interview.
Teaching, travel, Congress, the Writing Center, political theory, Yale! Former PCUR chief correspondent Isabelle Laurenzi graduated from Princeton in 2015 with a degree in Religion. She has since gone on to pursue an array of adventures and projects. Most recently, Isabelle completed her first year of a Ph.D. program at Yale in political theory. For our seasonal spring series, I caught up with Isabelle to learn more about her time at Princeton and explorations after. In our conversation, Isabelle and I connected over our shared interest in interdisciplinary studies and the joy of pursuing one’s interests through varied avenues.
For this year’s Spring Seasonal Series, entitled Post-Princeton Life: The Experiences of PCUR Alumni, each correspondent has selected a PCUR alum to interview about what they have been up to. We hope that these interviews will provide helpful insight into the many different paths Princeton students take after graduation. Here, Alec shares his interview.
Jalisha Braxton ‘16 was a member of PCUR during her junior and senior years at Princeton. She concentrated in Psychology, with a certificate in Neuroscience. She is now a third-year PhD student in psychology at the University of Chicago, where she studies cognitive psychology with Professors Sian Beilock and Susan Levine. Her research focuses on math anxiety and math education. I spoke to Jalisha over the phone to discuss her work as a grad student, and how her experience as an undergraduate student at Princeton informed her post-grad plans. I found a lot of what she said to be quite helpful, as I personally am considering pursuing a PhD after graduation.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.