Princeton in Washington: Creating Community and Exploring Careers in Public Service in the Nation's Capitol

Every summer, a great number of Princeton students, both undergraduate and graduate, move to the nation’s capital for internship, job and research opportunities. They pursue a wide range of positions, from working for members of congress, getting hands-on policy experience to getting involved with nonprofits.

The Princeton in Washington (PIW) program, which is run by the Center for Career Development, supports students and young alumni in the D.C. area spending their summers living out Princeton's informal motto: "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of humanity." I had the unique opportunity to serve as the student coordinator for PIW this summer.

PIW runs throughout June and July, offering Princetonians in Washington, D.C. unique opportunities to connect with alumni in government and policy, technology, law, nonprofit, journalism and more. As a part of PIW, participants are able to meet high-profile alumni at the top of their fields, learn more about various career paths and make meaningful connections not only with alumni, but also other students. Attending alumni panel discussions, visiting some of the most renowned institutions for change and participating in casual social events — all of these things gave us, Princeton students and young alumni in D.C., a chance to build our own community in the city over the summer and create new friendships.

Round table classroom discussion
“Princeton was a transformative experience for me and to be able to talk to folks who had walked a certain path before I had when I was a student was incredibly helpful. To be able to do that on the other side now, twenty years later, is really exciting.” - James Cadogan '03, Executive Director, National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, NBA & PIW 2023 speaker

Some of the highlights of PIW 2023 include a visit to the Federal Reserve with Chair Jerome Powell '75, conversations with various members of Congress including Terri Sewell '86, Jeff Merkley *82, John Sarbanes '84, and Derek Kilmer '96, a roundtable discussion with General Mark Milley '80 at the Pentagon, and a tour of the ESPN studios with investigative reporter Tisha Thompson '99. Through these events, participants were able to ask questions, hear about the speakers’ career paths and any advice they may have, and connect with them to expand their network. 

large group of students poses with 'Princeton in Washington' banner
“It's a really special program because you get to meet tons of people, whether it's politicians, lawyers, journalists, ESPN reporters — and you get to meet them in the span of a single summer. What I love about it is that you can do it on top of internships, so you get the benefit of coming to D.C. and working on something you're passionate about, and then in the evenings getting to go to all these events and expand your horizons.” - Kathy Yang '24, PIW participant

As the student coordinator, it was an honor to be able to design these programs and offer a series of events for the summer to help other Princeton students in their career paths. Behind the scenes, I reached out to alumni and coordinated events and logistics, created content to promote programs, and communicated with the PIW community — all of which helped improve my organizational and interpersonal skills. Also, invaluably, I had the privilege to attend every event as PIW coordinator, which deepened my interests in the fields of public and international policy.

group of students look upward inside the Capital Building rotunda
"My favorite PIW event by far was the night Capitol tour with Representative Derek Kilmer '96. He was super personable, he showed us multiple parts of the Capitol that we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. We got to sit on the House floor, watch him cast a test vote, and discuss reforming Congress. It was really amazing.” - Braiden Aaronson '25, PIW participant

My biggest takeaway from PIW is that there is not one set path, one set answer, or a correct major, internship, or fellowship to pursue. Many of the alumni who we looked up to during these events for inspiration, did not have a complete idea of their careers from the beginning. Instead, it was trying new things that allowed them to succeed. We, as college students, often face constant pressure to have everything figured out and have our career path mapped out to minute details to be successful, so it was relieving to hear this kind of advice from Princeton alumni, and this reassurance is one of the many takeaways from PIW, on top of the relationships built with not just the alumni but also with other Princeton students. 

Behind the scenes on television news set
“We have a multitude of speakers who come from different industries and backgrounds who are willing to devote an hour or two of their time to us, and it's extremely valuable. The informal setting is great. You just don't get this type of engagement anywhere else.” - Ben Crewe '24, PIW participant

The 10 Steps to My First Solar Energy Conference

I just came back from Puerto Rico, where I gave a talk on my junior paper at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Photovoltaic Specialists Conference. It was an incredible experience, and I learned a lot about both the field of solar photovoltaics and the history and culture of Puerto Rico. Here are the steps I took to arrange the trip, as well as the wonderful Princeton people who made it possible (a special thank you to Dr. Barry Rand, Dr. Sigurd Wagner, and Moira Selinka of Princeton's Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment).

Step 1: Find the right conference

How do you choose a suitable conference for your work? The best person to ask is usually your advisor, who is familiar with the scope of different conferences. I asked Drs. Rand and Wagner, my project advisors, and the one that immediately came to mind for them was the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference. Given that my project is about the adoption of rooftop solar panels in the U.S., this sounded like a perfect fit.

Step 2: Write and submit your abstract

To submit to a conference, you usually have to write an abstract or extended abstract on your findings. For this conference, they asked for a 3-page extended abstract. Be aware of deadlines, as they are usually far in advance of the conference itself. For PVSC, the abstract was due in January while the conference was in June.

Step 3: Find funding and make travel arrangements

I heard back that my abstract was accepted for a poster presentation in mid-March, and I applied through for funding through the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE) to head to Puerto Rico.

Step 4: Create and print your poster

I designed my poster, and I sent an email to Print Services to have it printed. (I found out later, though, that students can print two free posters per month in the Engineering Library. Now I know.)

Step 5: Learn that you won't actually need your poster

Two weeks before the conference, I found out that my abstract was selected for an oral presentation instead! I put together a set of Powerpoint slides, which I presented to Professors Rand and Wagner. They helped me revise and refine my presentation so that I felt well-prepared to deliver my talk.

Step 6: Travel, arrive, and check-in

Come mid-June, it was time to fly to Puerto Rico! I arrived late Monday night, and Tuesday morning I went to the convention center to familiarize myself with the presentation room and equipment before my session.

White stone and glass exterior of the Puerto Rico Convention Center
The Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan

Step 7: Present!

My presentation was the last one scheduled for my session, so I listened to several other presentations before it was time for mine. It was interesting to hear about related solar research. I was slightly nervous before my talk, but I think it went well. The audience seemed engaged, and they asked questions that showed that had followed along and absorbed the key points.

Step 8: Explore the surrounding area

After the conference, I explored the island. I visited the citadel, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, and the only tropical rainforest in the U.S., El Yunque. I also saw incredible flora and fauna, like a three-foot iguana that crossed the sidewalk while I was out for a run.

Parking lot with broken school bus and low-rise building in the El Yunque rainfores
A view of the parking lot before entering the El Yunque rainforest

Step 9: Submit receipts 

When I got back home, I submitted the receipts of my various expenses for the conference (flight, airport taxi, registration fee) in order to be reimbursed.

Step 10: Reflect

Stepping outside the Orange Bubble and contiguous U.S. immersed me in a completely different culture. I learned about solar research from scholars in other states and countries, and I explored the landscape and history of a place to which I had never been, which gave me a more global perspective on both research and lifestyle culture. The experience was truly amazing, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity.

Ecology is Everywhere: An Adventure in Summer Thesis Research

You might have heard that seniors at Princeton have to write a (dundundunnn!) thesis before we graduate, and to some that can seem like an overwhelming prospect; crafting a culminating piece of original work is no small feat! But I’m here to tell you that, thanks to Princeton’s incredible support, it’s really not as scary as it sounds. And the process can even be – dare I say it – fun! 

This summer, I spent seven weeks in Irvine, California studying the impact of wildfire on large mammal community ecology for my thesis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB). Due to the COVID pandemic, I hadn’t yet been able to do ecological field work, so diving into it for the first time was exciting. I loved being able to apply the theoretical concepts I had learned in my EEB classes on campus to the dynamic, real-world landscape I found myself in. Being out in the field was incomparable – everywhere I looked there was something new to see and learn about. 

Seniors at Princeton can apply for funding to cover research (on- or off-campus) during the summer before their senior year. I received funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research, EEB Department, and High Meadows Environmental Institute. Thanks to their generosity, I was able to travel across the country to study something I’m interested in for my thesis, and didn’t have to worry about whether I could afford it. 

Living on my own far from the Orange Bubble was at first a bit overwhelming, but I was grateful for the support I found once I got there. Each senior at Princeton is matched with a faculty advisor before beginning their thesis work, and my advisor, one of the leading experts on wildlife conservation, connected me with the director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, a nonprofit land management organization in Southern California where I did my research. Having that network of support was helpful and I knew that if I ever had a question on aspects of my research I had several people I could turn to. 

Image of a mountain lion walking towards the left
A mountain lion, one of several species of mammals I studied for my thesis

As with any research project, I encountered obstacles while out in the field; malfunctioning cameras, waking up at 5am every day, and even an encounter with a rattlesnake! But it was all worth it when my data collection started and I began seeing footage of mountain lions and other elusive mammals, getting to think more deeply about their interactions and how human influences are changing the way that they relate with their habitat. It’s exciting to me that my research could possibly have larger implications for land management and wildlife protection as the climate changes, and this motivated me to continue despite the setbacks I faced. This is one of the reasons that, in my mind, the Princeton thesis is so special; you get the chance to take a topic that’s excited you academically during your time here and bring it to the next level, contributing your own original research to the field. 

My experience this summer was one I won’t forget, and I’ll take with me everything I learned as I venture into the field of ecology going forward. Though being back on campus this fall had me missing the sunny California weather, I’m (actually) excited to dive into analyzing my data and finishing writing my thesis. The senior thesis truly is the capstone of your college experience here, and I’m grateful that Princeton has given me this opportunity for learning and discovery. 

Image of the ocean with a sunset and two birds flying overhead
Though this summer was a busy one, I still had time to enjoy some beautiful California sunsets.

Working Princeton's 65th Reunion

Last summer, I was fortunate to receive a highly coveted spot as student crew member for Princeton reunions. My crew worked Princeton’s 65th reunion, setting up headquarters in Forbes next to the Old Guard Crew. As a crew member, I had several jobs and responsibilities, including check-in, table set-up, bartending, and transporting alumni around campus. As student employees, we had permission to engage with certain reunion events such as talks from famous alumni, group meetings, and fun activities.

Reunions crew sitting together at the bar
The 65th Reunion Crew and our Bar

Over the course of reunions, I grew close with my alumni group, greeting them with a smile every day as they showed up for activities. Transporting alumni across campus in golf carts was my favorite part of the job. Golf cart drives were great opportunities to get to know alumni through deep conversation. I learned about what it was like to attend Princeton in the 1950s. I thoroughly enjoyed conversing with the 87-year-old alumni, and was fascinated to learn about their experiences and memories from Princeton.

As a first-year student, it was incredibly rewarding to experience Princeton reunions. Witnessing Princeton’s close-knit alumni community has endowed me with a strong sense of belonging at Princeton. It was moving to see that so many people hold such a love for this school and still return to visit, sporting their finest orange and black attire, many years after graduation. Reunions quite literally ending with a bang, as we all gathered in the football stadium to watch a grand fireworks display. Looking up into the brightly-colored sky, I reflected on my work over the weekend, the alumni I had met, and the friends I had made. I take these experiences with me, knowing that one day, I too hope to return for the festivities of reunions as an alumna myself.

A group gathers to watch the fireworks
Alumni Gathering to Watch the Fireworks

Service Focus 101

Princeton offers students many ways to get involved outside of the classroom with its 500+ different student-run organizations and activities. For those interested in service and social impact, I have just the group for you! Housed within our Pace Center for Civic Engagement, the Service Focus program is intended for rising sophomores looking to make a difference and learn a little in the process. It runs from the spring of your first-year to the spring of your sophomore year and is made up of 3 major components:

  1. Summer Service Experience/Internship

During the summer between their first and second years, all Service Focus students engage in some sort of funded service experience or project that aligns with their interests. For instance, I got to intern with award-winning documentary specialist and Princeton professor Purcell Carson. With her organization, The Trenton Project, we recently released a new documentary titled “What’s in a Name?”, which centers around the history of desegregation at Trenton’s Hedgepeth-Williams Middle School. Our team of six interns was involved in all aspects of the film’s creation including: storyboarding, conducting interviews, editing, etc. It was truly an unforgettable experience, and I learned so much.

And if you don’t know where or how to find a summer service internship, no worries! The Service Focus program is there to help guide you in finding one, whether that be through a Princeton program, like mine, or one with an outside organization.

  1. Service Cohort

When you sign up for Service Focus, you can indicate what area(s) of service interest you most, with options ranging from Sustainability to Health & Care to Race, Migration and Belonging. (Note: it doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your summer service experience!) This helps you eventually be placed into a cohort, where you’ll meet other students that share your passion. Given my personal experience with educational opportunity, I opted for the Education & Access Cohort.

Over the past few months, my cohort has met weekly to discuss some of the most pressing educational issues today and how we might alleviate them. We’ve also engaged in fun activities like watching episodes of ABC’s "Abbott Elementary" and listening to podcasts. Not to mention we get free food each meeting from a local restaurant! Our group really offers an informal way to discuss service ideas, while engaging with other members of the Princeton community with similar passions who we might not have met on-campus otherwise!

  1. ProCES Course

The last element of the program ties in the academic curriculum to our commitment to service. Service Focus members are required to take at least one ProCES-designated course sometime during their sophomore year. ProCES is the nickname for Princeton’s Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship. On their website, you can not only find a list of these ProCES classes, but other service-oriented projects and opportunities that students can partake in.

Service Focus students also have the option to petition a course that isn’t officially indicated as a ProCES course, but that they feel presents opportunities for community engagement and service learning. What’s great about this is that it both encourages student advocacy and allows us to identify other creative ways that classes may connect to service. And, once again, the course you take doesn’t even necessarily have to be related to your summer experience or your cohort topic. For example, for my ProCES course, I’m currently thinking about taking SPI387: Education Policy in the United States, or I may branch out and try DAN306: Introduction to Radical Access: Disability Justice in the Arts. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even take both! 

Overall, Service Focus truly offers a unique chance to infuse your service interests with your academic experience, and I highly encourage any student even slightly interested to apply. Visit the Service Focus website to learn more!

Princeton in Pisa: Taking a Summer Class in Italy

Home to me is Buenos Aires, capital of (world-champion in football) Argentina. So studying abroad is, technically, nothing new to me— I’ve been “studying abroad” since the first day of Princeton’s international orientation. Yet, the summer school I did through Princeton in Italy was one of the best experiences of my life. 

During the school year, my Italian class professor, Anna Cellinese, a woman who speaks with her hands and conceives wine as religion, along side our co-instructor Luca Zipoli, began promoting the idea of taking a summer course in Italy’s Tuscany. It didn’t take long to convenience me, and soon enough I was on an airplane on my way to Pisa. 

Known for its tilting tower and vibrant youth life, Pisa’s beauty captivated my eyes immediately. The city felt lively and awake, but breathed the same slow-burnt pace of life of most Italian towns. Our home was the Scuola Normale Superiore, one of Italy’s most renowned universities, famous for its academic rigor and residential life. Our dorms were great and had stunning views to Pisa’s Piazza dei Cavalieri. My roommate, Sara, and I would wake up to a sun-kissed room of fresh air, and we’d begin our days singing, dancing and jumping from bed to bed while listening to the Mamma Mia album. 

Group of students getting ice cream
First day! We went out with everyone in the program for some gelato!

Residential life aside, the class was also fun and incredibly engaging. We had literary lessons about old books like Dante’s Inferno and more modern texts like Tondelli’s Altri Libertini. There were also classes about contemporary issues in Italy, where we learned about the immigration crisis, the concept of beauty and the idea of arts as an urban lung. 

Student and professor posing in the mountains having fun
Anna, our professor, was an intelligent, sharp, and kind instructor and travel guide. We had a ton of fun. She's the best!

But what was the best thing about the program? The out-of-the-classroom learning experience. The course stepped beyond the university campus and onto the city's historical, cultural and gastronomical landmarks. We had a class sitting on a public park once, we went to a gallery that had a comic-centered exhibition about immigration, we interviewed figures like the city’s governor, and we even had a cooking class and a wine-tasting evening! Learning was happening through our five senses as we explored the 360-dregrees of Italy. 

Two students posing with a woman
A classmate and I got to interview Pisa's vice mayor for a course project. Amazing opportunity!

On a personal note, a meaningful takeaway from the trip were the moments I had with my bike. I got it second-hand during the first week, and I’d use it to get to the beach every day after class. It was a countryside bike path that traversed sunflower fields, the parallel-running Arno river, old castles and distant mountains. I’d sit on the rocky Mediterranean beaches for hours, with ink and notebook to my side. I ended up finding my love for journaling, writing and poetry! 

Hand writing over the sea
After writing so much, I now have an add-ink-tion!

My experience traveling abroad with the University through Princeton in Pisa couldn’t have been any more impactful. It left a trace in my hobbies, my identity, my notions about beauty, time, culture and love. 

Visiting the Princeton Farmers' Market

New Jersey is known as the Garden State, and you truly appreciate how the state earned its nickname when visiting a summer farmers' market. The abundance of fresh produce and flowers harvested just several miles from campus is astounding. Grab your tote bag and sunhat as I take you on a tour of the vendors at the weekly Princeton Farmers' Market, open at the Dinky train station from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Thursday through November.

Two white tents with customers lined up beneath inspecting produce and flowers for sale

Our first stops at the market are the produce booths to stock up on fruits and vegetables.

The offerings from the multiple produce vendors, including Chickadee Farms and Terhune Orchards, change weekly depending on what is in season. Several of my June favorites are the strawberries, kale, and lettuce. July is when the market really shines, as the peaches, plums, blueberries, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, and summer squash are ready.

a table with beets with leafy green stems attached

After getting the produce essentials, it's time to find some decor to spruce up your dorm room or apartment. There are several vendors, including Longview Flower Farm, who sell a variety of cut flowers arranged in artful bouquets. I think that the July sunflowers would make a cheery statement centerpiece on a dining room table.

A variety of bouquets for sale under the white tent of Longview Flower Farm

Next up are the specialty vendors. Davidson Exotic Mushrooms sells, you guessed it, a wide variety of mushroom types, while Pickle Licious sells traditional pickles (of course) in addition to pickles on a stick (not my favorite, but must be appealing to others) and olives.

A table covered with a gingham-print tablecloth and cardboard pint containers full of various mushrooms on top, beneath the white tent of Davidson Exotic Mushrooms
A table covered with a black tablecloth and plastic containers containing pickles, beneath the white tent of Pickle Licious


Following these unique booths are several stops for prepared foods, like fresh-baked bread from Lost Bread Co., granola from the Granola Bar, and soups from the Soupeteer. There are also several vendors selling hot empanadas.

A vendor laughing as a customer departs with a paper bag from the Lost Bread Co. booth

To round out your shopping trip and add some pomp to your cooking and dining, you can select among different olive wood serving spoons and cutting boards from Mediterranean Delicacy. A more affordable option to bring the Mediterranean home with you, though, might be to purchase one of their olive oils instead.

Wood cutting boards and serving spoons arranged on a black tablecloth beneath a white tent

Lastly, Barking Good Bakery sells treats for four-legged friends. If you know any dog owners in Princeton, you could pick up some gourmet desserts for their pets here.

Smiling vendor in green shirt standing at table covered in green tablecloth with paper bags of dog treats arranged on top

This concludes the market tour! I'll load my finds into my bike basket and pedal back to my apartment. Visiting the market is a great way to take advantage of living in the Garden State during the summer.


Giving a Tour of Princeton

On a recent Sunday, my friend Hannah took the train from New York City to visit me in Princeton. In planning our itinerary, I considered what sites would be essential to give her the complete Princeton experience. I wanted to show her the traditional Princeton sites and give her a feel for what a typical day of traversing campus for classes, meetings, and activities is like for me. These are the locations I decided to include on the tour, and we had a lovely time exploring them throughout the afternoon.

1. The Dinky

Silver train stopped at the Dinky train station in Princeton, NJ

The first stop was meeting Hannah at the Dinky train station. The Dinky is a short rail line connecting campus to Princeton Junction, which is a major train station hub with connections to cities like Philadelphia and New York. Once off the Dinky, Hannah entered the Wawa there to grab a coffee while she waited for me to arrive (who was caught off guard by how fast the Dinky was, and consequently late!)

2. My residential college

white hotel exterior of Forbes College

After leaving the Dinky station, our first tour site was naturally Forbes college. Forbes, my residential college, is located just across Alexander Street from the Dinky. I explained that the building was formerly the Princeton Inn, and I showed her where my dorm was.

3. Nassau Hall, Firestone Plaza, and Blair Arch

Author standing with camera and arms outstretched in welcoming pose in Firestone plaza

Next up on the tour were several historic sites without which no Princeton tour would be complete. We walked up to Nassau Hall, the iconic ivy-covered building just past the front gates, passed through Firestone Plaza, and posed for a photo in front of Blair Arch (cover image of this blog), the famous steps of which used to welcome visitors off the train (the train station was moved a quarter mile south, to its current location near Forbes, in 1918). With my camera and map in hand, I think I looked much more like a tourist than a student here!

4. Fountain of Freedom

Children and adults wading in reflecting pool of the Fountain of Freedom

It was a very hot day, so we decided to cool off by the Fountain of Freedom. The breeze blows a spray of water as you pass by, which was cooling and much appreciated that afternoon. There's also a reflecting pool in which children play and swim, and it was so hot that I took off my shoes and decided to wade in too! It was a much-needed refresher.

5. Eating Clubs

The cannon and lawn in front of the historic mansion that is the Cannon Dial Elm eating club

I'm not a member of an eating club, but I still felt a Princeton tour would not be complete without a stroll down Prospect Avenue to see the eleven historic buildings. We appreciated the architecture and peeked through the windows to see inside the (summer-emptied) clubs.

6. Palmer Square

Brick and wood façades of storefronts in Palmer Square

After exploring campus, I took Hannah down Nassau Street to see the town. We window shopped in Palmer Square (a high end shopping and dining square in the heart of town), and we actually shopped at my favorite thrift store, Nearly New. I'm pleased to report I found some Princeton socks for $3.

After exploring campus and town, we walked back to the Dinky and Hannah departed suburbia to return to the big city. There are certainly more sites to see, but I think my tour provided a nice overview of the campus and town.

Research, Within and Outside of the Lab

Over my summers, I've performed research at Princeton through internships funded by the High Meadows Environmental Institute. I've really liked both experiences so far, but they've been incredibly different, not only being in different departments but requiring very different skill sets. Two summers ago, I worked remotely from home with the Interfacial Water Group in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department running simulations of contaminants in water and air. I connected to the Princeton computing clusters from my laptop, and Professor Bourg taught me over Zoom how to create files to run and submit to the supercomputer. This past summer, I worked in the Rand Lab in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department to try to create energy-efficient OLEDs. This work required using specialized equipment like the spin coater and thermal evaporator located only in lab B427. The two internships have been useful in allowing me to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of coding lab work and manual lab work.

For both types of research, there was a steep learning curve at the beginning. For molecular dynamics simulations, I had to become familiar with the coding language of the software LAMMPS, in order to create input files to run, and with the scheduling language "slurm" as well as the Linux command line for submitting files to the supercomputer. In the Rand lab, a different set of abilities are required. The lab demands physical dexterity that is not required for running simulations, such as being able to insert my hands into the gloves that enter the nitrogen glovebox (easier said than done) and handling the fragile glass substrates with tweezers through the thick glovebox gloves. It also demands a certain vigilance, as one wrong move could spill an acid onto the floor or disturb someone's multi-day experiment.

I like the convenience of running simulations, in that I can work at it whenever I choose and from any location with a VPN connection. And at an earlier point in my OLED internship, I'm was much more familiar with running simulations than working in the lab, therefore simulations felt much more comfortable to me than the newness of the Rand lab. But there is something rewarding about seeing tangible and physical results that I achieve in the lab, like handling a shiny and finished OLED or viewing the color transformation of a compound I synthesize. I don't get quite the same feeling from seeing a display on a computer screen of a simulation I run as when I can hold the physical result of my work.

a gloved hand holding a glass OLED device emitting a green light
Observing the light emitted by a fabricated OLED device
a tri-panel figure showing a glass vial containing a frothy white liquid, a dark blue powder in a filter paper, and a gloved hand holding a small glass vial of a dark blue liquid

One of the solutions to be deposited on an OLED in various stages of synthesis, from a) the initial mixture to b) the powder after drying in the vacuum oven to c) the final solution dispersed in ethanol

There are other similarities between the two types of research aside from the learning curves. For instance, both lab groups hold weekly group meetings where a few members of the group give updates on their projects, asking the Head Principal Investigator (PI) and the other group members for feedback. There is a strong sense of community among the different graduate and undergraduate students in each group, revealed in the thoughtful advice they offer to one another. For instance, at a group meeting I spoke about my attempt with my mentor, Jesse, to synthesize a certain solution to use as one of the layers of our OLEDs. I described our problem getting the powder to fully disperse in alcohol. One of the graduate students mentioned that she knows several researchers from a group in France who work specifically on synthesizing solutions like the one we're attempting to create, and she offered to put me in contact with them. I'm really grateful to have had the chance to work in two very different fields.

A Guide to Free & Cheap Things at Princeton

I think people fail to emphasize the “broke” part of the phrase “broke college student.”

That is why I am writing this article: I was once you, young grasshopper. Now, I am happy to share what I have learned in my year of navigating Princeton and discovering the best ways to procure free and cheap things around campus. 

To start, here is a list of things I’ve gotten for free (or cheap) during my time at Princeton: a mountain bike, a bike helmet (to go along with the bike), a sewing machine, a six piece glass Tupperware set, an iron, clothes hangers, a mini fridge, a fake plant (which is thriving), a real plant (which started dying the minute I bought it), a saucer chair and multiple mirrors.

I do not list all of these things to flex (I just did), but rather to showcase what is possible.

A fake plant that has large, green leaves and is in a white pot.
Doesn’t she look so ALIVE!? Email name suggestions!

Here are the resources I’ve used:

1. TigerRetail

TigerRetail is a website where Princeton students can sell items they don’t want/need. If you pay attention to the listings, there are often items listed for free, or whole moving sales being advertised.

It is easy to fall into the trap of buying things I didn’t need just because it was a good deal, but otherwise I love TigerRetail.

2. Move-In Resale

At the beginning of each school year, Student Government puts on a resale event, where they sell second-hand dorm items. The only things to keep in mind are that the sale tends to sell out fast (so you need to stand in line at least 1-2 hours in advance) and if you intend to buy large furniture, make sure to bring people with you who can help you carry it.

3. Helping Seniors Move

Of COURSE you should help seniors/your friends move out of/into their dorms just out of the goodness of your heart. That said, it’s also a sweet bonus that while you are helping them move, you’re in the prime position to alleviate them of any items they may no longer need. 

4. Move-out

Move-out is the perfect time to score any of the bigger/more fragile dorm items (think mini-fridges, mirrors) if you’ll be staying on campus for the summer or you have a place to store them. The key here is to wait a couple weeks after people start sending “summer sale” emails if you want anything for free: eventually these dorm items will just be discarded all around campus and you will be able to take them for free.

5. The Free Food Listserv 

This listserv is a gift from the heavens. All it is an email list where people send out emails whenever there is free food being given away. Google “the Princeton freefood listserv” once you have a Princeton email to find instructions on how to subscribe.


I have two tips when it comes to these resources: First, negotiate, negotiate, NEGOTIATE! If an item on TigerRetail or someone’s student sale says that it is negotiable, don’t be ashamed to suggest a different price and see what happens. Second, when all else fails, ask around to any group chats you’re in to see if someone may be selling/giving away the item you desire.


That’s it from me, folks! Which of these resources are you most excited to utilize? If you end up using any of them to get free stuff, I’d love to know!