Student Perspectives

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Rick Baker

Since the moment I arrived on campus I have been part of a large, extended family – the Molecular Biology Department.  The department is engaging, collaborative and truly dedicated to the success of every member. Academically, I couldn’t be happier with my first year as a graduate student.  In a given day I can have class taught by a leader in bacterial genetics, do research in a cutting-edge biophysics lab, and attend a guest lecture from a world-renowned scientist.  In both the classroom and laboratory I am challenged to go further and reach higher, but every person in the department makes sure that I have the support needed to succeed. The Graduate School is also superb and services for the general graduate population are second to none. Graduate student housing is safe, affordable, and extremely close to campus.  There are many events for graduate students, including socials and parties at the graduate bar and even trips to New York City to attend Broadway shows.  Princeton is located an hour from both Philadelphia and New York City, as well as only a short drive from the Jersey shore or the Pocono Mountains.  The town boasts a wide array of restaurants and other shops to keep students busy, not to mention the many homemade ice cream parlors, a Princeton favorite.  Princeton has been an excellent choice for me and I hope all prospective students consider the department for his or her graduate studies.  If you have any question, please contact me. —Rick Baker

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Kelly LaRue

Before embarking on my whirlwind interview schedule, my undergraduate research advisor gave me one last piece of advice.  She told me that instead of making this decision with my head, it was time to start listening to my heart. She was sure that I would fall in love with one program; I was skeptical.  The interdisciplinary programs that I interviewed for were very similar.  They all touted the breadth and depth of their research and the collaborative environment of the university.  Though all of the institutions were beautiful, well-funded and performing valuable research, the weekends seemed to blend together, no program was “the one.” Then it was time to interview with the Molecular Biology Department at Princeton University.  The moment I arrived on the gorgeous campus, I already knew that it would be a step above the rest.  It is located in a beautiful and safe area in New Jersey, just an hour away from cities, beaches and mountains.  The labs are doing top-notch research on a wide variety of topics.  They offer a lucrative stipend along with affordable and comfortable housing.  It was immediately apparent to me that the department is collaborative; they did not need to tell me, I could sense it.  Professors and graduate students knew each other both personally and professionally and the program seemed to encourage theses that bridged labs.  This interview stood out among the rest and after this visit, it was hard to ignore my heart screaming that I had found what I was looking for!  As a first year, I have found that graduate school is not hard; it is extraordinarily hard!  Princeton has provided me with daily challenges unlike anything I experienced in my undergraduate studies.  However, it is the support and encouragement that I receive from my peers and professors and the love I have for this department and institution that makes the pursuit of my Ph.D. the most rewarding experience of my life. The Molecular Biology Department is truly a scientific community that fosters an environment filled with excitement, high intellect and success. —Kelly LaRue

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Abigail Trarbach

I worked for several years in the performing arts before deciding to pursue a science career. When choosing a graduate program, I weighed the exceptional quality of faculty, collaborative environment, and research happening here. Primarily, though, I was swayed by conversations with students and faculty who were genuinely interested in me, holistically, as a potential scientist. People here seemed to recognize both the value of my seemingly unrelated work experience and the perspective I could bring to my class and the department. This first year at Princeton has borne out that prediction. My classmates come from a variety of backgrounds, and we work together, learning from one another’s strengths and weaknesses. The focus has been less on what we already know than on what we can learn, what we can do, and the training we need to think critically about science. There are plentiful opportunities to engage in cross-departmental seminars and colloquia, as well as to learn what colleagues are doing, and the resources and support available to us are unparalleled. Living in Princeton has exceeded my expectations. There are plenty of activities and social opportunities of every stripe, both organized and spontaneous. The campus is beautiful and inspiring in every season; sometimes just taking a walk to the library or coffee shop is enough to put a smile on my face. Deciding on a graduate program was daunting, but I am sure I made the right choice. —Abigail Trarbach