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Student Profile

Christina Chang '12

Chemistry Major
Certificate in Applications of Computing (tentative)

Why did you enroll in the Integrated Science course?
I only started to consider the Integrated Science Curriculum (ISC) after a research science mentor of mine praised colleagues of his who had graduated from the program. Every single ISC student he had met in graduate school, he told me, was a clear thinker with a thorough and clever problem-solving approach. Going to Princeton in the sciences, you should take that course, he said. I learned more about ISC, and realized it’s perfect for someone like me -- someone who passionately enjoys science, but was uncomfortable narrowing to a specific field just yet.
 
What has it been like?
The course has been fascinating, demanding and, ultimately, more rewarding than I could have imagined. The professors emphasize an interdisciplinary and quantitative approach to problem solving. The course covers material from biology, chemistry, physics and computer science, which means that we can’t hit every single detail that the traditional introductory class would expect. We cover the most important details, as well as the ideas that led to scientific insights, and the reasoning behind the science we learn. ISC emphasizes concepts rather than memorization, so the professors can teach us the parallels between the disciplines as well as dig deeply into the “whys” that make the material come alive. The course is quantitatively rigorous and enriched for material important to present-day research, like computational biology and genomics.
 
How has the course benefited you academically, and has it made you think about what to do after you graduate?
If I were given any science mystery or issue, I feel now that I can tackle it from multiple viewpoints and tease out an answer. I feel comfortable talking to researchers on Princeton’s campus about their work, because ISC has given me the background to discuss all types of science, to ask critical questions and apply what I know to new projects and situations. The course has helped me clarify what questions I’d like to answer as a scientist, and it has given me a wide variety of tools and approaches that I’m eager to apply.
 
The ISC professors encourage their students to explore science outside of the classroom in research laboratories. The summer after my first year of ISC, I worked as a paid research assistant in computational and chemical biology at Princeton for two of these professors. I had been encouraged toward the idea of research by the exceptional laboratory experiments in ISC, and I had always assumed I should go to graduate school after Princeton. In order to see what graduate school is really like, though, I dedicated myself to my research over the summer and got to know the graduate students in the lab. I came to find that I enjoy research, so not only do I have graduate school on the horizon, but also I have continued my research for the lab during the school year.
 
How do you like working with the various Integrated Science faculty?
The ISC professors are passionate about what they do. We are taught by brilliant, helpful, enthusiastic faculty members who lead their respective fields and always have time for us. I had been told that, coming to Princeton, I should expect welcoming instructors, but the ISC faculty have gone above and beyond, soliciting our input, engaging us in conversations, getting to know us outside of class and leaving their doors open for anything we might need. I have to stress that it’s the faculty members who make the class irresistible.
 
What is it like going through the ISC with a close cohort of student peers?
Essential. We come to Princeton with different areas of expertise, and what quickly arises is a friendly, close-knit support system. ISC students are some of the most curious, vibrant people on campus, and we love to bounce ideas off one another, whether we’re pursing an elusive answer together on a problem set, discussing a current event or brainstorming ideas for our dodgeball team name. The ISC students have become my best friends, the people who can always make me smile, and with whom it makes me happy to share my Princeton experience.