Samvida Venkatesh

Molecular Biology Major

Why did you enroll in Integrated Science?

I entered Princeton quite sure that I wanted to major in Molecular Biology, but I wanted a chance to explore all the sciences before I committed to one. I also agreed with the fundamental idea of ISC that biology majors can benefit from a strong quantitative background.

What was the ISC freshman sequence (ISC231-234) like for you?             

ISC was an incredible introduction to the sciences, especially research. The labs were amongst the best things that the course offered, and although demanding, the problem sets complemented lectures very well. It was definitely an intense class, but I think that was the reason all of us who went through ISC also became very close friends. I know that incoming freshmen are often worried that they won't be able to find a balance between ISC and other classes, but it's definitely doable (even with a ton of extracurriculars!) and I don't feel like I missed out on taking any other classes because of ISC.

How have the courses benefited you academically, and has it made you think about what you want to do after you graduate?          

ISC has allowed me to explore many majors that I would never have considered otherwise. Had I stuck to the traditional MOL 214-15 intro sequence, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to switch to another major had I wanted to do that. Now, I am easily able to take higher level classes in PHY, CHM, COS and even some engineering departments. Taking ISC also granted me access to the labs at Princeton, so I spent my summer doing research with Prof Gregor in the Biophysics department. ISC and that lab experience have made me seriously consider a career in research.

How do you like working with the various integrated science faculty and staff?

The faculty are definitely what make this program so good. The small class size (our year had 16) and large number of professors (4 or more a semester) ensure that professors really get to know students, and vice-versa. Apart from the professors though, there are so many resources to support students - lab instructors, preceptors, teaching assistants, peer tutors and even your own classmates. The entire ISC family is very tight-knit and always ready to help each other out.

What is it like going through Integrated Science with a close cohort of student peers?

Of all the things that I got out of ISC (access to a funded research internship, incredible professors, a crash-course in MATLAB amongst many others), the one that will stay with me longest is definitely the peer-group. Some of my closest friends after freshman year are the ones with whom I worked long nights on problem-sets, wrote lab reports, created cheat-sheets for exams… ISC was a great introduction to Princeton because it taught me the value of working in groups, and that some of the best ideas come from a group of people uninhibitedly throwing thoughts at each other.