The Joys of the PUL Makerspace

One of the best hidden gems I have discovered during my time at Princeton is the Makerspace! Located in the basement of the Lewis Library, the Makerspace is a creative technology space which serves as part of Princeton’s library system. The Makerspace provides many different forms of equipment such as 3D printers, sewing machines, 3D scanners, cutting machines, large format printers, video production equipment, and so much more!


Lage-Scale Printer in the Process of Printing a Poster
Makerspace Large-Scale Printer


I first discovered the Makerspace in my Sophomore year, after taking a podcasting class, during which I borrowed audio-recording equipment from the Digital Learning Lab. Fascinated by the technology that was made available to me, I eagerly inquired about other creative spaces that were available to students. It was then that I was referred to the Makerspace, and discovered all that it had to offer. 


In the second semester of Sophomore year, I would regularly borrow a DSLR Camera from the Makerspace to photograph Princeton’s cycling team during bike races. Over time, I was able to hone my photography and editing skills, as I learned how to use the equipment. My favorite discovery at the Makerspace, however, was the 4x3-foot Large Format Printer. These printers, which are available for students for one large print job per month, enable me to print out large-scale artistic creations at no cost.


A Congratulations Poster for a Cyclist
A 3x4' Poster I created in the Makerspace for a friend 


In my Junior year, I took a wonderful class which merged scientific teaching with artistic expression. For our final project, we were tasked with creating an artistic piece to express a scientific issue that we had researched. My group took advantage of the resources of the Makerspace to create a 6x8-foot collage detailing the adversarial health impacts of pesticide use. Dividing our collage into quadrants, each corresponding to one large-print poster, we were able to create a grand exhibition for our project, which is now on display at the Lewis Center for the Arts. It was so rewarding to present such a magnificent project knowing that we were supported in bringing our ambitious ideas into a tangible reality.


Final Collage on Display at the LCA
Final Collage on Display at the LCA


Learning about the resources that Princeton offers to students has been an ongoing component of my experiences here. It feels like every month, I learn of something new that is available to me as a student. I hope that new students are likewise able to take advantage of the Makerspace and bring their creative visions to life!  

Amor Fati: Embracing my Path Through Princeton


Amor Fati. It means “love of one’s fate” in Latin. 


While a phrase I’ve studied well through stoicism, I’ve unexpectedly come across this phrase again through a conversation with a friend. It’s made me reflective about my time here at Princeton, and my “love of fate” thus far.


So where am I on my Princeton journey? I’m currently writing this blog post at 11:18pm on May 1st, 2024 - it’s the start of reading week which means a tremendous amount of work for most students here. My days recently have been void of classes yet filled with the slow and often frustrating pace of studying. It’s the end of my sophomore year, and the only word I can use to describe this year would be: unpredictable. 


This year has been filled with struggles I never encountered during my freshman year. My COS (Computer Science) classes have gotten harder. I’ve started to have more anxiety. Socially too, friends and groups have shifted. And that’s not something I expected - however it is part of fate that things change.


All of this is to say that my sophomore year has been overwhelming, and quite the contrast to the blooming, beautiful first year when I arrived at Princeton. I thrived my first year - socially and academically. Initially, this dichotomy between my freshman and sophomore year worried me. I wondered: “Am I not enjoying my time here?” “Am I getting the most out of Princeton?” 


I share this because I’m sure many students feel this way. But my perspective changed when I remembered the words of an alum that I heard during my orientation two years ago.


“Everyone moves through Princeton at their own pace, and on their own path.”


It is normal for things to change. And it’s normal for your path at Princeton to look vastly different from your friends, or even the path that you had the year before. It’s important to remember that Princeton will be unpredictable. You will likely face challenges you didn’t even conceive of facing. And that’s okay! I don’t actually believe in “fate”, but I believe in it as a general concept of the things given to you outside of your control. I find myself grateful for the fate I’ve been given at Princeton - whether the experience was positive or negative. And that is Amor Fati. A true love of one’s fate - a love for the good and the bad that happens. Because from each of these experiences, I’m given an opportunity to grow. And with this, I hope any incoming students can take something from my perspective. That the challenges you will face are valid and unexpected. But you must embrace it all, and simply go along on this wild ride.

Access to Top Leaders

Access to the top can mean a variety of things; in this case, it means being able to speak with industry leaders. 


Princeton is home to a wide variety of opportunities, from study abroad and internships to performances and art shows. It is truly hard, if not impossible, to find a resource or opportunity that Princeton does not support. There are always super cool opportunities taking place each week. My favorite way to stay updated is via Princeton University’s instagram account where they make a story post at the start of the week informing everyone about campus events. Outside of these, I have found student organized events to be my favorite. 


This past semester I was granted the opportunity to become the Vice President of Professional Development for the club Scholars of Finance. The club focuses on promoting education and ethical practices within the finance industry. My role is to plan, promote, and execute events for the ‘Speaker Series.’ The focus of these events is to bring leaders in the finance industry to give talks available to the club and Princeton community. Just this year, we have hosted CEO’s and other C-suite executives from firms like Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, and Goldman Sachs, among others. These opportunities are hosted in a small to medium group setting and allow for direct access to these speakers. Being able to talk with successful individuals about your career aspirations and what advice they may have is truly invaluable. 


When I first came to Princeton, I could never have imagined the opportunity to connect with these types of leaders. Something I found out very quickly was that this is a regular thing here. The ability to network and connect with these individuals is truly unparalleled. Their overall willingness to help you out is also something that was unexpected. My original perspective was that a CEO would not respond to me or make the time to meet. Boy was I wrong. While certain people may be hard to reach out to/ get in touch with, generally speaking, people will make an effort to connect with you if you approach them. My advice is to not be afraid and be respectful. You never know how far a simple conversation can take you! 


In addition to clubs, the Center for Career Development hosts numerous networking/ information events with leading companies across many industries. I have personally gone to a lot of the finance/consulting ones, which have been super helpful in my career aspirations. While this happens at other schools, I wholeheartedly believe that Princeton does it best. Between club speaker events and the Center for Career Development, Princeton builds connections for students of all interests. 

Printing My Thesis!

As I reached the conclusion of writing my thesis, it was time to begin the exciting process of printing and binding it! In my department, it's traditional to present a bound copy to your advisor and an unbound copy to your second reader. I also wanted a copy for myself, so I ordered two printed theses and printed an unbound copy at Frist Campus Center.


There were more printing decisions to make than I initially anticipated. To begin, I headed to the Princeton Pequod website to place my order for the goldstamping (cover) and interior pages. Among the covers, I could select Traditional Hard Binding (most expensive but classic option), Laserfoil Suede Hard Binding (similar and slightly less expensive), or one of three soft cover options. At the Pequod printing center on campus, I was able to view examples of each of the cover types. I liked the Laserfoil Suede option best.


Then I could choose the paper type, which ranged from the budget "Regular White" to the pricey "100% Cotton Bright White," as well as which pages, if any, I wanted printed in color. I decided to go with the intermediate "25% Cotton Bright White," and I opted for the $10 upgrade to have four rather than three title lines so that my complete title would print. Printing a thesis is a bit like buying a car, in that the list price can really rise once you start selecting the add-ons...


The thesis printing service is surprisingly fast. Goldstamping must be ordered 24 hours ahead of time, but the interior pages can be ordered up until 9:00 a.m. on the thesis due date. To account for any printing mishaps or other potential delays, I printed my thesis on the Thursday before the Monday due date. I placed my order for both goldstamping and the pages at around 10 a.m., and it was ready for pickup by 2:00 p.m. On Monday morning I'll deliver a copy to my advisor, Professor Bourg, and I'll deliver the unbound copy for my second reader to my department's main office.


This marks the official end of my undergraduate thesis, but not yet of the research project—I'm working with my advisor to submit it to an academic journal, so I'll continue refining the manuscript in the coming weeks. The printing was an important milestone nonetheless, and I'm pleased with the final product!


Thesis lying on table open to page showing colored figures

My First VIS Class at Princeton (Visual Arts)

This past fall semester of my junior year, I was able to take my first ever class in the Visual Arts (VIS, for short) Department. Two of my best friends at Princeton are pursuing the VIS certificate and always raved about their classes. As someone interested in the arts, I knew I just had to take at least one VIS course before I graduated.

Now, VIS classes are infamously known for being hard to get a spot in. They tend to be capped at only 10 to 12 students each in order to ensure an intimate learning environment. Luckily, I was able to snag a spot in VIS216: Graphic Design: Visual Form!

Taught by Professor David Reinfurt, the course was absolutely everything I wanted and more. It was so refreshing to have a class that was hands-on and project-based, especially to balance out my very reading and writing-intensive curriculum for my concentration.

One of my favorite assignments was when we were tasked with coming up with two new symbols that were meant to represent “stop” and “go.” We had to think outside of the box and figure out how we could communicate these definitions, without relying on the usual colors of red and green or the octagonal shape of a stop sign. I ultimately came up with the two symbols below:

Two black-and-white square symbols next to each other

Can you tell which is which? I hope so! I genuinely enjoyed creating these and seeing what else my peers came up with. Throughout the semester, we also got to learn the basics of using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, how to make animated GIFs, as well as how to present our ideas during class critiques.

Our final project was to reimagine the recycling symbol and system. Over the course of four weeks or so, we each brainstormed solutions to the recycling crisis, graphically or otherwise. I especially appreciated how open the project prompt was because it didn’t tie us to any one medium. I ended up designing an incentivized app similar to Fetch, where you could scan a QR code on recyclables to earn points and redeem rewards! I was really excited about my idea, and during our final critique, Professor Reinfurt brought in several of his colleagues to listen to our presentations and offer us feedback. Their insight and advice were invaluable.

Reflecting back now that the semester has ended, VIS216 was an incredible experience! Even though I wouldn’t consider myself to be the most artistically inclined person, I’m super grateful that I had the opportunity to take this class. I’d highly encourage anyone with even an inkling of interest in art to try a VIS course. The department is made up of renowned faculty, there are tons of facilities and resources available to students, and it’s ultimately fun to have a class that lets you think a little differently than classes for your concentration. Take advantage of all that VIS has to offer!

An Honest Reflection of Junior Fall

By the end of sophomore year, I felt confident as a Princeton student. I’d already been through several semesters and I had gotten used to Princeton’s social and academic environments. But as junior fall approached, I felt increasingly nervous. I didn’t know what to expect out of Junior Independent Work, I was nervous to be taking mostly department courses for the first time, and I was worried I had taken on too many new leadership positions.

When junior year finally started, a lot of my nerves persisted. Although I was taking the standard four courses as an A.B. degree student, my workload quickly piled up in a way that it simply hadn’t before (which was saying a lot). I’d enrolled into each of my classes with great enthusiasm, but as the semester progressed, I felt let down by certain aspects of a few of the courses, whether it was the way class discussions were organized or the general selection of readings each week. On top of dealing with a variety of personal matters and other extracurricular responsibilities, I often felt extremely overwhelmed.

Now that the semester has ended, though, I’d still refrain from dismissing junior fall as a “bad” semester.

Writing my Politics Research Prospectus was, as anticipated, a different kind of challenge. For a while, I struggled to find a topic because I was afraid to pick the “wrong” one, but I quickly learned this simply was not possible. Although I struggled with not receiving frequent feedback on my project, in the end, my research prospectus became the highlight of my fall semester. I decided to study migrant caravans through the lens of social movement theory, and I am beyond excited to continue developing my research during the spring.

I also took one of my favorite classes in the Politics department last semester, POL360 Social Movements and Revolutions. In terms of structure, it was a pretty standard Politics class: a midterm, a research paper, and a final. However, Professor Beissinger was an engaging and knowledgeable lecturer, and his selection of readings was always great. I had never looked at social movements from a theory-based perspective before, and it was actually this class which helped inspire my independent work topic. I’m looking forward to studying contentious politics more during the rest of my time at Princeton.

And of course, my semester was far from devoid of good memories and times with friends. I love the communities that I have found within my co-op and extracurriculars. Among some of the highlights of the semester are celebrating my 21st birthday, taking a day trip to NYC funded by our student government, and eating from way too many cheese boards with my friends. I discovered I love cappuccinos, and I continued to be amazed by my peers.

Even amidst the chaos of deadlines and responsibilities, I was pleasantly reminded that Princeton can always surprise you—and that’s a good thing.

Six Princeton students stand smiling in front of Nassau Hall.

The Last First Day

A chilly morning in late January, with gray but otherwise clear skies, marked the first day of classes of the spring semester. For the class of 2024, this first day was particularly special, as it was our LFDOC (last first day of classes). There is always a photographer on McCosh walk at the beginning of each semester to take FDOC photos, but our class government organized a special session with a unique poster to celebrate the particularly significant LFDOC.

This is indeed my last first day of undergraduate classes, but it's not quite the end, since I will continue to have first days of classes as a graduate student. Even when I'm no longer a student, though, there will continue to be first days: a first day at a new job, followed by a first day in a new position, and then a first day at a new institution or company. There are first days outside of career as well, like your first day in a new apartment or first day in a new city. While the LFDOC marks the end of the student era of your life, there will continue to be first days, in one form or another, throughout life.

To me, it is reassuring to know that there will continually be opportunities for fresh starts throughout my professional and personal lives. A new beginning signals a chance to break out of a particular rhythm, shake up your routine, and learn new habits. It's a chance to meet new people, learn new strategies and information, and expand your horizons of what you're capable of. Some aspects of a new role will be improvements from before, maybe a better schedule or more independence, while others will be less welcome, like a longer commute or a difficult boss. The novelty of the new challenges, though, is exciting in and of itself, and you may surprise yourself in your ability to handle the elements that are more difficult than those in your previous position. There is always hope for the future when you know that things can change over time, and that there can always be another first day.

Huzzah for the LFDOC, and here's to an auspicious start to the last semester!

Two students dressed in winter gear holding LFDOC banner

Crafting Creativity: Exploring Princeton University's Creative Spaces

As an engineering student with a passion for artcraft, I've always found joy in creating things with my own hands, exploring various methods and techniques to bring my ideas to life. So, when I arrived at Princeton and discovered the wealth of resources available for creative exploration, I was absolutely amazed. From the moment I stepped into the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Machine Shop to the countless hours spent in the Studio Lab and makerspace, my journey with Princeton's creative spaces has been nothing short of transformative.

My first experience in the MAE Machine Shop was the MAE 321 Engineering Design course. In the course’s labs, we delved into the art of design and manufacturing, utilizing advanced machinery like milling machines and CNC machines to craft intricate designs. From engineering a flywheel cart and bottle opener, to creating an airplane wing from scratch, the MAE Machine Shop is where imagination meets precision, providing students with hands-on experience and technical expertise.

bootle openerCart

Another vibrant hub of creativity is the Studio Lab, home of the Council of Science and Technology and a playground for artistic expression and experimentation. Here, students can explore a diverse array of mediums, from traditional embroidery to cutting-edge video game design. Equipped with incredible tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters, the Studio Lab empowers students to turn their ideas into reality. Workshops ranging from cryo painting tote bags to origami engineering foster a culture of collaboration and innovation, inspiring students to push the boundaries of their creativity.


Finally, Princeton's makerspace offers students the chance to delve into a multitude of crafts and technologies. From designing custom stickers to crafting intricate bead jewelry, the makerspace provides a hands-on learning environment where creativity knows no bounds. Students can also rent a variety of tech gadgets, from projectors to VR sets, allowing us to bring their visions to life with professional-grade equipment.

If you're someone who loves getting their hands dirty and bringing ideas to life from scratch, Princeton is the place for you. And for those who've yet to dip their toes into the waters of creation, who knows? Maybe Princeton will be the place where you uncover a newfound hobby.

A Look Into Independent Research: The Politics Junior Paper

When I first got into Princeton the idea of conducting independent research was a faraway idea—a requirement to graduate I knew I was signing up for, but an idea I didn't quite grasp in its entirety until it was my turn to start my Junior Paper (JP).

Within the Politics Department, students have to write two pieces of independent work during their junior year: a research prospectus in the fall (a 12 to 15-page research proposal on a topic you can expand on in spring semester), and a Spring Junior Paper (which is typically between 20 and 35 pages). All Politics juniors enroll in a required class about research methods in Political Science alongside a research seminar on a topic of their choice. For example, I took one on Migration and Forced Displacement, meaning my fall JP had to broadly focus on this theme.

My fall prospectus sought to ask why Central American migrants made the choice to join migrant caravans. Although I excelled in this project, by the time spring semester came around, I realized that my fall topic would be infeasible to carry out: I simply did not have access to the kind of evidence that I would need to answer the question within the time I had. By late February, I felt a bit panicked about my JP and the prospect of having to start over.

During the spring semester, Politics juniors select a JP Advisor from the Politics faculty. This professor becomes your primary point of contact for all questions related to your project, providing guidance along the way and ultimately contributing to the grading of the final product. Luckily, my advisor, the lovely Professor Nancy Bermeo, provided me with guidance and extremely helpful advice early on. By early March, I was back on track and ready to do research for my JP before the draft deadline at the end of the month.

My Spring JP is still a study of migrant caravans, but the focus of my research has shifted to understanding why the caravan of late 2018 achieved relatively more success than other caravans in the surrounding years. I have spent the last two months conducting an analysis of various books written by individuals who traveled alongside the caravan, interviews with caravan participants, press releases from the Mexican government, and newspaper articles from both the U.S. and Mexico. Although many students pursue more quantitative methods in their research, I have learned that I really enjoy conducting qualitative research in my own work. This topic has allowed me to build on some of the research that I had already conducted in the fall, and it has connected with a topic of interest that I had studied in the spring of my freshman year. (One of my papers freshman year analyzed how Mexico-U.S. relations have shaped Mexican immigration policy in the 21st century.) When I began to connect the dots across these different topics, I felt what I can describe only as a full circle moment.

They say that the senior thesis is the culmination of your four years as an academic here at Princeton, but as an outgoing junior, I am already beginning to feel that way about my JP. So many of the academic interests I have spent so long researching and taking classes on—immigration, Mexican politics, collective and contentious action—are coming together in this project to create something I am genuinely excited and proud to be working on. Understanding who I am as a researcher and discovering the topics I am most passionate about have been some of the most rewarding aspects of my time as a Princeton undergraduate.

Maybe in a year I'll be writing about my senior thesis, whatever that might look like—I think I'm learning the uncertainty is the best part. Until then, however, I'll be working away in Firestone Library, thinking of summer but enjoying every bit of hard work that will go into my JP.

A Day in The Life (Short Film)

“I wish Princeton felt like this.”

A comment from my fellow classmate after my short film (shown above) was screened for my digital animation class.

I think it’s fair to say my animation has quite a calming undertone. I wanted to capture the monotonous yet beautiful moments of my days here at Princeton - the simplicity of studying in Firestone Library during the early mornings, my bike rides across campus, and the much needed coffee breaks at Coffee Club. 

While I love to honor these small moments, I think many students, like my classmate, often experience a very different day in the life of Princeton. What I see at Princeton, which is often a love for these small moments, is not what everyone sees. But what I’ve learned during my time here is that Princeton can be so many things - too much to sum up in a day. 

Incoming freshmen often want a description of what a “day in the life” looks like at Princeton. Of course I could generalize my experience as stressful and overwhelming while simultaneously everything I could ask for in a college experience. It’s hard to describe the beautiful stressors, challenging moments, and new experiences that go on here. Ultimately, Princeton is a very unique college experience inside the “orange bubble” - an almost alternative universe on campus where you're swept up and time passes in odd ways.

But there are so many nuances in an experience. The description above, and further my own animation, fall short of describing so many aspects of Princeton: days where you’re in Firestone from sun up till sun down studying, memory making late night chats with roommates, or even how campus comes alive in spring as students flock to Cannon Green for picnics and frisbee games.

Princeton is too large to sum up in one day or one animation. Further, I think it’s important for incoming students to realize that Princeton is not a “day in the life”. No experience is. Despite being in the same academic and physical environment, everyone experiences college differently - hence the disparity between how I view Princeton through my animation and my classmate’s reaction.
But with this comes an important lesson; the reason we experience things differently is partly due to how we choose to perceive life around us. Our own experiences are ultimately what we make of them. At the end of the day, Princeton is what you make of it. So how do I answer the question: “what is a day in the life like at Princeton University?” It’s up to you to tell that story - my only advice, remember the sky's the limit.