Student Perspectives

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Allison Hall

As an undergrad, I worked with snakes; my research was not focused on molecular biology.  While I gained experience with the techniques used in molecular biology during my time as a lab coordinator between undergrad and grad school, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to study during my graduate school career.  That is one of the biggest reasons Princeton was such a great fit for me.  The Molecular Biology department represents a wide variety of interests and it is easy to explore them.  During lab rotations you have the chance to investigate things that you may never have known were of interest to you.  The department is ideally diverse, but also small enough that it isn’t overwhelming.  Because of the small size of the department, too, it is easy to feel at home and become an active participant in many things outside of your lab. While interviewing for other programs there was another thing that struck me about Princeton, and that was how much value was placed on educating its students.  The long-standing joke is that graduate students are simply a source of cheap labor, but that is absolutely not the case at Princeton.  It was clear even from my interview that the faculty put emphasis on their students learning how to be great scientists first and foremost.  At Princeton you are constantly surrounded by people who want to learn and teach, people who are genuinely interested in science and are more than happy to help you along the way.  The academic experience at Princeton is wonderful, but one of the things that I have enjoyed the most is the people I have interacted with.  The Molecular Biology department is full of fun and interesting people and it is very easy to find your place.  Princeton is a small town, but there are plenty of things to do.  We are close to Philly, NY and DC so it is easy to get away to a larger city when you’d like.  All in all Princeton is a fantastic place to learn, live, and become a scientist. —Allison Hall

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Matthew King

The Molecular Biology Department at Princeton is a fun but productive place. Admittedly, I assumed these qualities to be mutually exclusive before coming here, but the department exists at a happy median in many regards. For example, it is large enough to have a breadth of research, but cozy enough that almost everyone knows and addresses each other by first name.  Coming to Princeton from the post-doc heavy National Institutes Health, I was struck by the value placed on graduate students. Graduate students make up the bulk of the research force on campus and thus have access to high priority projects and produce high impact work. Additionally, graduate students are in a unique position to assist in Princeton’s dedicated education of undergraduates, while receiving a world-class training for themselves. Princeton, and our department in particular, is a truly wonderful community of scholarship and fun. We are a fraternal group of graduate students who have their pick of interesting projects. We know how to let loose and when to buckle down; and there’s an abundance of resources for both. The result is an impressive output of research from a small cluster of buildings situated in the middle of NJ, in the middle of the east coast research belt, at the forefront of knowledge. —Matthew King

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Conrad Tenenbaum

My work in a Drosophila genetics lab as an undergraduate was undoubtedly priceless. Among other inspirations, it left me with a strong appreciation for the importance of gene regulation in fostering phenotypic variation. At the same time, day-to-day lab experiences also piqued my interests in Drosophila behavior, while coursework kept me thinking about the evolutionary context of the life as we know it. As I began considering graduate schools, I had to wonder: how could I reconcile all of these interests? It became clear I would need to find a program which emphasized an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to research. On paper, many seemed to fit the bill. Yet, after flying around from one university to another, I could tell that one program truly delivered on that advertisement. Much more than anywhere else I visited, Princeton's Molecular Biology department seemed to hold an unabashedly interdisciplinary view on science while encouraging a collaborative atmosphere between students and faculty. To me, this meant that the program could allow students to explore innovative research across disciplines without being so large as to lose them in a crowd. One year later, I have to say my impressions didn't lead me astray! Academics and research aside, I've found that graduate student life at Princeton has been all I could ask for! Where can I begin? The department provides a generous stipend; the housing is safe, affordable, and close to campus; the campus is beautiful in all four seasons with opportunities for outdoor recreation abound; shops, international restaurants, and dessert parlors are all found on Nassau Street; and cities, beaches, and mountains are just a short drive or train ride away. In short, I couldn't have picked a better place for graduate school. —Conrad Tenenbaum