Molecular Biology Major
Certificates in Neuroscience and Quantitative and Computational Biology
Why did you enroll in the Integrated Science course?
After a brief glimpse at the course description, I was hooked: what could be more fascinating than using the underlying mathematical similarities of physics and chemistry to teach them together, within a biological context, and with a computational application? I was thrilled to be at Princeton, and extremely excited for the opportunity to join other freshmen in this Princeton-designed, "revolutionary new introductory science course."
What has it been like?
The experience of Integrated Science is complex and multifaceted. It has been euphoric, in the moments when we discover that we've cleverly solved particularly difficult problem set questions; exhausting, while working on laboratory write-ups and weekly assessments late into the night; eye-opening, when problems that seem insurmountable become feasible and solvable when we collaborate; exciting, during our laboratory experiments and investigations; and always both challenging and rewarding. The Integrated Science Curriculum of freshman and sophomore years was the most challenging academic endeavor I have ever undertaken, and the way it shaped how I learn and approach science is, and I think will continue to be, immeasurably rewarding.
How has the course benefited you academically, and has it made you think about what to do after you graduate?
The academic benefits are three-fold, encapsulated by breadth, rigor and skill. The first, breadth, is astounding. I remember Professor Shaevitz's final lecture of freshman year that included an impressive, multi-slide flowchart of all the topics we covered: fluid dynamics, optics, special relativity, quantum chemistry, genetic regulation, thermodynamics, probability theory, electrochemistry, waves and more. With the increasingly interdisciplinary approach of scientific research, exposure to such a wide breadth of topics is extremely valuable, as I have already seen through summer internships in various scientific fields.
Beyond the benefits of the curriculum, Integrated Science trains us to develop a degree of rigor that is crucial to scientific investigation. We had challenging problem sets weekly, as well as lab reports that we had to compose in the style of a professional journal submission. As I begin my junior independent work, I am extremely grateful for the rigor that was demanded in writing lab reports, from composing effective and motivating abstracts to designing and presenting figures.
Finally, and perhaps most powerfully, Integrated Science has taught me how to think. It has helped me develop the questioning and probing mind of a scientific researcher, complete with a computational toolkit for analysis. The questions on problem sets and exams are unlike any other science course I have experienced — they simulate the experiences of real researchers in their attempts to answer questions that have never before been answered, and in so doing they prepare students for research careers in a whole range of scientific disciplines.
How do you like working with the various Integrated Science faculty?
Integrated Science is absolutely unparalleled in its relationships with faculty. It fosters communication and interaction between the undergraduates and the professors — almost all of whom are not only some of the leading scientific researchers in their fields, but also effective and engaging teachers. I have met with my professors not only for help explaining particular concepts, but also over coffee to get advice about independent work, career and life in general. It's amazing!
What is it like going through the Integrated Science curriculum with a close cohort of student peers?
In addition to the professors, the fellow students are also amazing. While every problem set session was rife with complaints of exhaustion and frustration, it was also full of eager exclamations and excited murmurs as we solved problems together, following the collaboration so highly encouraged by the program. "Guys, wait, this is so cool!" was a constant chorus, and it embodies one of the best aspects of Integrated Science — the chance to be surrounded by other undergraduates who are just as thrilled about the sciences as you are.