Caroline Snowden’s first brush with the sciences at Princeton occurred when she visited the campus soon after being accepted to the Class of 2017. She sat in on a quantum physics class and listened attentively as the professor explained orbital shape and motion. When she returned home, she gushed to her AP chemistry teacher about the lecture.
Her enthusiasm did not cool after enrolling. In her first year, she took the integrated science curriculum, one of the reasons she chose to attend Princeton. The curriculum breaks down the traditional barriers among the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology and computer science, using mathematics as the unifying element.
Professors team teach in the curriculum, depending on the topic of the day. Within her first few weeks of class, she recalls a soft-spoken professor walking to the front of the room and introducing himself. “He said, ‘Hi, I’m Professor (Eric) Wieschaus, and I will be your professor today.’ I didn’t know who he was at the time, but then my friend leaned over and pointed to his computer screen, and it said he was a Nobel laureate in biology. It was very cool.”
The integrated science curriculum has a reputation for being difficult but rewarding. For students who are straddling the sciences and are unsure where to focus, it can also help them choose a major. In Snowden’s case, she came to Princeton thinking she wanted to major in molecular biology, but began to waver after exposure to computer science. The integrated science curriculum helped her settle comfortably back into molecular biology. “I missed my proteins,” she says.
Snowden describes herself as “a grab bag of interests.” She loves English literature, has enjoyed her courses in Shakespeare and early Christianity and especially liked her Spanish cinema class. She tries to sprinkle her heavy load of science courses each semester with humanities classes, which she regards as treats.
Another treat for Snowden is the Institute for Chocolate Studies, a student-run chocolate-making enterprise. Every week she goes to the bakeshop at Mathey residential college to grind, roast and winnow chocolate beans. She and other students process the chocolate, put it in molds, package it and distribute it on campus.
Her leadership posts also keep her busy. Snowden is on the student board at the Center for Jewish Life and works on the recruitment committee. She is a treasurer on the Class of 2017 Council, where she has been active on such social projects as the Orange and Black Ball, a formal ball that was resurrected by class government in 2011 after being dormant since the 1960s. It is the kind of school spirit activity that revs her up.
When asked what has surprised her most about Princeton, she says it is the diversity of the student body, including the differences in interests, races, geography and religion. “On paper, it was all there, but really experiencing it and living it for me has been incredible,” she explains.
She describes a conversation she was having with friends about religion. Included in the conversation were Jewish, devout Christian and atheist students.
“I learned about what their Christianity meant to them and how the same principles and teaching could be important to them for very different reasons than for me. That was one of those moments when I thought, ‘Wow, there are very few places where you could have this kind of diversity and have this kind of conversation.' That’s my favorite part about Princeton.”