Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Libby Tolman ’15

Norwich, Vermont • Physics View Profile

A potluck, family, a beautiful campus, and other marvelous things...

Free time in Princeton during the summer

As I explained in my last blog entry, I'm spending this summer working at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and staying on Princeton's campus. This gives me the opportunity to see Princeton from a point of view different from what I experience during the school year. While school-year Princeton bustles with an overwhelming number of performances, lectures, study breaks, fitness classes and other events, campus life dies down considerably during the summer, when the vast majority of students leave Princeton. Free Tango lessons happen every Monday, but that's about it—and in some ways, this is a good thing. Without many structured events, there's plenty of time to reconnect with friends and enjoy parts of Princeton that go unnoticed during the year.

People splashing in a fountain
Enjoying the Fountain of Freedom on a warm summer evening

Two weekends ago, for example, I decided to host a potluck dinner with two of my friends, Eli and Paul, who are also working at PPPL this summer. We invited all of the physics majors on campus who are doing research or working for professors, and hosted the event at Terrace, Paul's eating club. Eli baked fresh bread and purchased an impressively large papaya, Paul cooked a huge batch of clam chowder, and I cooked a chicken pot pie, which unfortunately collapsed as I moved it from my kitchen to Terrace. Nonetheless, it tasted good.

A squirrel eats on a Princeton walkway
Even the squirrels enjoy summertime in Princeton

About eight people showed up. We had fun catching up and talking about our classes from last year and the many decisions we have to make as rising seniors. Most of us are planning to apply to graduate school for physics, and we're all in different stages of deciding which professor to work with for our senior thesis project. I'm currently considering doing my thesis with my second JP adviser, the black hole physicist Herman Verlinde; others are planning to work with new professors. It was a fun and delicious evening that ended with brownies cooked by Dan and ice cream provided by Rachel.   

A zebra-striped  backhoe
Princeton uses the summer to make changes to its campus. Here, creatively-decorated equipment fixes a walkway by McCosh.

This weekend, my family visited me, and we had fun walking around Princeton and experiencing the beautiful campus. My sister just finished her junior year of high school, so she has her own big decisions to make as she applies to colleges.  I don't think she'll be following me to Princeton, but it's exciting to hear her ideas about the future and to remember how far I've come since I was in her shoes. I first visited Princeton during the summer almost exactly four years ago, and I still remember standing among the flowers in Prospect Garden as my friendly, passionate tour guide ended her tour by saying that the worst part of Princeton was that it only lasted four years. I decided then that I wanted to apply. I'm very glad that I did.

Flowers in Prospect Garden
Summer beauty in Prospect Garden