Princeton Research Day explores the research process across disciplines
Say the word “research,” and the first images that come to mind might be a test tube, a microchip, or a laser and safety goggles.
But at the fourth annual Princeton Research Day, the sciences and engineering will share center stage with research on topics such as 17th-century Italian keyboard music, reflections on the musical “Legally Blonde” and a supernova illustrated by dance.
Princeton Research Day starts at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 9, in the Frist Campus Center. The event is free and open to the public.
“Princeton Research Day embraces the liberal arts philosophy of the University by bringing together ideas from different fields,” said Karla Ewalt, associate dean for research. “Creativity and inspiration develop when we move beyond our own perspective to see things through a new lens.”
There will be 10 arts presentations, the most thus far at Princeton Research Day, that will illustrate how the arts intersect with research. “By featuring the arts this year, we want to expand the view of research to explicitly include all types of creative and intellectual endeavors that help us appreciate humanity and understand our world,” said Ewalt.
The day will include more than 200 students and early-career researchers presenting from the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, arts and humanities. Some participants will give 10-minute talks with a digital presentation or performance. Others will give a 90-second pitch, and many will present posters or exhibits, which will be on display on the main floor of Frist.
Ewalt said the day provides participants, including undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and other early-career non-faculty researchers, with the opportunity to present their work to a non-expert audience. The event gives attendees the opportunity to enjoy learning something new, gain a broader perspective on the work being done at Princeton, and for fellow researchers, to glean insights into ways to present their own work.
The day will conclude with five TED-style 15-minute talks, to be given on the main stage, followed by awards presentations and a reception with entertainment. Main stage talks will include a virtual reality look at Mars; a look at the courtship song of the fruit fly; and assessing the plight of homeless students in the New York City public school system.
Presenters include senior Zara Jayant, a politics major pursuing a certificate in theater, who will give a presentation on her new play, “Halfway Home.” The play takes place in one living room, as the characters react to the protagonist, a man with a drug problem, forcing everyone to reevaluate their relationships and choices.
She said presenting at Princeton Research Day will be a good way to wrap up her time at the University, especially after spending more than a year writing the play, which was staged at the Lewis Arts complex in early April. Jayant said she looks forward to sharing the story behind her play in a way that goes beyond the production, giving “a nod to the process.”
Junior Eli Berman, a music major, will present “Singing to Myself: Toward a Non-Binary Philosophy of the Voice.” Berman said few have challenged the traditional method of separating voices into two categories — men’s and women’s. Music tends to be written in a gendered way, they said.
The voice is usually seen as an object, rather than as Berman prefers to see it: a process.
“Whenever someone hears my voice, they’re going to assume that’s a man speaking, because that’s how we’ve been socialized and conditioned to understand what our voices mean. So for me, writing my music, improvising with my voice, has been a process of rehearsing new meaning for what my voice is,” Berman said.
Music, for Berman, goes beyond pitch and musical notations, but also includes “texture and timbre, and sound and feeling, and how it feels in my body.”
Wendy Heller, the Scheide Professor of Music History and chair of the music department said, “Many of you may not know the kinds of really exciting research that goes into music, about how you play, how you sing, about the history of different kinds of genres. Our students are so excited about being able to present our work to you.”
The PRD Talks are a highlight of the day and are curated to showcase compelling stories of top research from a wide range of disciplines. These talks will be presented on the main stage at 3 p.m. They include:
• “Slipping Through the Cracks: Challenges to School Choice for Homeless Students in the NYC Public School System,” by Jasmeene Burton, Class of 2019.
• “Exploring How Internal and External Cues Modulate Courtship Song in the Fruit Fly,” by Rucha Alur, Class of 2020.
• “Waking in the Coffin: Artistic Resurrection of Prisoner Voices and the Revolt of the Living Dead,” by Katja StrokeAdolphe, Class of 2020.
• “Is it Time to Make People Instead of Rooms Comfortable?” by Hongshan Guo, graduate student.
• “Mars VR: Reconstructing Interactive 3D Environments for Space Exploration Research,” by Eric Hayes, Class of 2019.
A schedule of presentations can be viewed online or by downloading the smartphone app “Guidebook” and searching under “Princeton Research Day.”