Chapter 4.3: Independent Work for Engineers
by Shubham Chattopadhyay, last updated 08/29/16 by Bri Christophers
Students in CBE, CEE, and ELE are required to do a year-long, research-intensive senior thesis as an independent project required for graduation. MAE allows students to pick between a one semester independent work option and a year-long senior thesis option (though the year-long choice is highly recommended), while ORFE requires its students to complete either an independent project or a senior thesis. Those in COS stipulate one semester of independent work, but no thesis. Basically, if you want to graduate as a Princeton engineer, you’ll have to complete intensive independent work for at least one semester (if not a year) to produce an original and insightful piece of work (hopefully!).
If you’re interested in starting research and independent work early, contact the professor with whom you’d like to work and find out if there is a space available in his or her lab. Reaching out to multiple professors will optimize your chances. Then, try to find ways to get credit for your work; students who complete independent work separate from thesis typically do so during their junior year. There are usually expectations for completing independent work (i.e. producing a poster from your research findings at the end of a semester), and remember that balancing an engineering workload with research can be demanding. While policies vary among engineering departments, expect to be enrolled in four classes in addition to independent work (so independent work can only be a fifth class and cannot replace an “actual” lecture-based class). For more precise details, go to the webpages of each Princeton engineering department.