The first annual Princeton Research Day, a campus-wide celebration of student research, will be held on Thursday and features over 160 presenters who have been selected to give talks and show their independent creative and artistic works.
This event differs from other type of undergraduate or graduate research poster session because the event aims to give students the opportunity to explain their research in everyday language, rather than in specialist, technical terms. Undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from all disciplines will be presenting at the event, from Chemical and Biological Engineering, to Anthropology and Sociology.
Director for the Office of Undergraduate Research Pascale Poussart, Dean of the Graduate School Sanjeev Kulkarni and Pablo Debenedetti, dean for research, were not available for comment at the time of publication.
Victoria Lin ’16, an economics major, will be presenting her thesis research about maternity leave and its economic effects, entitled “Take It or Leave It: An Empirical Study of OECD Maternity Leave Policies and Female Labor Market Outcomes.”
Lin said that poster sessions are not very common in many non-STEM fields including economics, so this will be her first time presenting via this format for this type of event.
“I think it’s a really good way to basically demystify what can be complex – well not complex technical theses – and make it accessible to a range of fields,” Lin said.
Lin said that when she talks to her friends about their research, particularly in STEM fields, they usually say that it is too complicated. However, she said that she is excited to see their posters at Princeton Research Day and see how they explain their projects to a non-technical audience.
“I definitely want to see everyone’s posters. I have a lot of friends who are presenting as well, and they’re mostly in the STEM fields, so those are among the people who do poster sessions more regularly,” she said.
Lawrence Liu ’16, a major in the Wilson School with certificates in Values and Public Life and East Asian Studies, explained that his project, titled “Constrained Legality: A Theory of Authoritarian Law in China,” is about a theory he has developed on the way that authoritarian states create their legal systems, using China as a case study.
He said that Princeton Research Day is a great way to get everyone in the same room, which is important because it builds bridges between people that often might not talk to each other. Liu said both he and his thesis advisor thought it would be a good idea to get some experience talking about his research with different groups of people, which is one of the reasons why he applied.
“What it emphasizes is that research should be relevant. I think often times, we get siloed into our specific disciplines or our specific departments and we only talk to those individuals, and that’s often a criticism of academia,” he said.
Princeton Research Day will also be a space to exhibit creative work that students have produced.
Wesley Cornwell ’16, an anthropology major with a certificate in theater, said he will be presenting his creative independent work in theater design, which includes of all the designs he has been working on this year for various thesis show productions.
“In the same way that I’m going there hoping to introduce people to a side of theater that they might not be familiar with, I’m hoping that I will be able to learn a little bit about research that other students are doing that I have had no exposure to,” Cornwell said.
Theater design at the University is relatively new, he added.
“I wanted to represent or contribute a different aspect to Princeton Research Day, one that’s arts-driven,” he added.
Cornwell added that when most people think of theater, they think of the performance aspect, so he wanted to be a voice for a different side of theater-making.
“The idea of making research accessible to non-specialists I think is a fantastic and important skill,” he said.
In his presentation titled “Designing a Story: Exploring the Relationship between Narrative and Theatrical Design,” Cornwell will be be showing model boxes – scale replicas of the designs he has made for various productions this year – as well as visual research, which encompasses the development process that leads from a theatrical text to the fully realized production. He said that he will also include realized production photos, as well as small samples of the floor or backdrop so that people can see the material.
“The best academia in general outside of the context of Princeton Research Day is academia that takes complex ideas and renders them clearly and simply,” Cornwell said.
Cornwell said that as he is applying for jobs, part of that process involves explaining the research he has done at Princeton, whether theater or anthropology work, to people who don’t necessarily have a background in either of those fields.
“The exercise of explaining research to people who don’t have the same background as you is important in both the context of Princeton and as a skill going into a professional job after Princeton,” Cornwell said.
Although the majority of students presenting are seniors who have recently finished their thesis, there are also quite a few students from other classes who will also be presenting at the event.
Selena Kitchens ’17, a classics major, will be talking about the poetry of Sulpicia, a female poet in the Roman world, in a genre that is traditionally associated with male poets. Her project is titled “Sulpicia Writes Herself: A Female Author in the Roman Literary World.”
Kitchens has presented at academic conferences at the University before, including the Freshman Research Conference her freshman year, and has been back to talk about her research experience as an alum of that program as well.
“I really think that taking the time to work through your research in speech form and trying to make it as accessible as possible is an exercise in learning how to write better,” she said.
She explained that she was not convinced that her JP from last semester was quite as accessible as she wanted it to be, so she figured that preparing for Princeton Research Day would be a good way to push herself further in that direction.
“Nobody wants to write something that nobody’s going to read,” Kitchens said.
She added that Princeton Research Day is interdisciplinary and aimed at bringing scholarship to a wider audience, which is valuable both for audience members who are exposed to scholarship that they normally wouldn't otherwise be exposed to and students who are able to think about what it takes and means to write accessible scholarship.
“I tend to think that the whole point of scholarship is you’re having a conversation in the wider world about things that you think matter and you’re trying to make other people care,” she added.
Princeton Research Day is sponsored by the offices of the Dean of the College, the Dean of the Faculty, the Dean of the Graduate School and the Dean for Research. The event will be held on May 5 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Frist Campus Center and is open to the public.