Ariel Yu

Intern, Columbia Justice Lab
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Leadership & Research Scholar


Columbia University

Laidlaw Cohort Year


Research Topic

Criminology & Criminal Justice

Area of Expertise

Diversity and Inclusion Humanities Leadership

I am from:


I speak:

Cantonese English Mandarin

My hobbies/interests are:

Art Badminton Cooking/Baking Film & TV Hiking/walking Music Nature & environment Politics & current events Reading Writing/blogging

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes


Influencer Of


Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jun 23, 2023
Replying to Sarah Bryden

1. Initially, I had framed my project around code-switching and the idea that when the rappers were changing languages, they were making a "switch" between two separate ways of speaking. Increasingly, however, my reading is leading me to think of multilingualism as part of one unified code. So for example, if a person speaks Maya and Spanish, they navigate the world with a distinct Maya-Spanish code that is always present, even if they are only using one language at a time. Thinking of multilingualism this way makes a lot more sense in the context of my project, because in almost all of the songs, rappers are combining both languages to tell a unified story. Also, particularly for the rappers who are natively bilingual, their speech/rapping/singing in both languages is actually "marked" as bilingual (with distinct pronunciations, for instance). 

2. Many of the resources we learned about in the beginning of the program, like Zotero and CLIO, have been very helpful. Surprisingly, I've also learned a lot about how the music is perceived from reading YouTube comments. I definitely didn't expect for this to be such a helpful way of collecting information, but reading through them tells me a lot about who is listening to a particular song (where they are from, what languages they speak, whether they understand the lyrics, etc.). 

Thank you for sharing Sarah! I'm so so interested in your findings, as well as the approach of using online comments to analyze societal responses. They also remind me of some readings on the theories of translation, and how people manage to convey the same semantics through utterly different languages. Look forward to your final project!

Jun 23, 2023

1. To help us better understand the real-life interaction between different institutions, my supervisors took us to the Manhattan Alternatives to Incarceration Court last Tuesday, and a speaker event featuring three judges on Thursday. It was a really eye-opening experience to see how the work (both positive and negative) of non-profits, think tanks, law enforcement, and attorneys culminate in court, and it's also educational to learn about the judges' perspective on the issues of the system and their imagined alternatives afterward. Together, they help me take a step back from my daily work and reflect on the bigger picture of criminal legal reform, reminding me to keep taking a human-centered approach rather than a statistic-centered one.

2. ProQuest has been particularly useful when it comes to archival research. Since I'm helping on two book projects that involve the history of Long Island and a prison in Pennsylvania, I've been looking into historical newspapers and other primary sources. So far, I've found a handful of historical news reports, editorials, and other documents on ProQuest.

Jun 16, 2023
Replying to Benjamin Oren Goldman

1. My research this summer is part of a larger project that will likely continue through my second and third years of college. It will likely culminate in a paper. However, this paper will probably not be ready for at least a year or two, as I am only beginning to produce novel results. This summer, I have mainly worked with my mentor to build a foundation of how to apply some of the tools that astrophysicists use when studying turbulence. I've gained a mathematical understanding of how energy flows in fluids, and a practical experience in the use of simulations to perform experiments. I expect to continue to use these throughout the study while continuing to learn the mechanics of what I'm studying.

2. My research matters because it will aid us in the detection and observation of largely unknown phenomena. Part of my project involves understanding the evolution of neutron stars' magnetic fields after they collide. These magnetic fields are expected to drive gamma-ray emissions, which are observable. Therefore, by producing quantitative predictions of how their magnetic fields work, we can eventually determine what radiation signatures to observe and produce hints on how to interpret them.

Hi Ben, I feel the same that our research this summer will be the foundation of a forthcoming, larger project, and I do believe in the significance of this stage of research. Very excited to see the final product!

Jun 16, 2023

1. My research will be in the form of memos. I'm currently working on two projects: the landscape analysis of narrative change organizations, and the history of a prison where solitary confinement was started. After archival research and synthesis, I expect to produce my research in two 2-3 paged memo analyses.

2. My research constitutes a small part of two larger projects. It will hopefully explain where the Square One initiative in the Justice Lab can fill in the gap in the current criminal legal reform activism, and will provide some historical contexts for an ongoing book project. I'm interested in such questions because I hope to contribute to the existing work of the Justice Lab as well as the current activism on criminal justice.

Jun 08, 2023

1. My research involves a lot of interviews and archives, in which people usually disclose a lot of sensitive information. A considerable number of people are also impacted by the carceral system in certain ways. It is thus crucial for me to protect their privacy and to use these pieces of information cautiously and within the limit of the research. To ensure that I'm fully conscious of these ethical concerns, I completed the IRB training on studies involving human subjects, talked with my supervisors a lot to understand the protocols, and tried to use my best judgment when it comes to something sensitive or ambiguous.

2. Since my research centers on possible alternatives to the current justice system and narrative change initiatives, I really enjoy listening to the interviews as well as discussing ideas with fellow interns and supervisors. People have brought up all sorts of strategies, paradigms, or experiences that fall into various places on the spectrum of abolition. These have inspired me to think more about the different ways we can encourage community safety and gradually decrease the presence of police and prisons. Someone also brought up this super cool NYT article about a neighborhood in Brooklyn policing itself for five days and receiving positive outcomes. Feel free to check it out!

Jun 02, 2023
Replying to Daniela Palacios

1. The interdisciplinary nature of Laidlaw and my peers' diverse interests and project topics has helped me think more comprehensively about my own research topic. I have grown a greater appreciation for how data collection and quantitative methods are also applicable to humanities and social science research. I am now more interested in exploring theoretical models in my research as these types of frameworks can be useful guides to understand and analyze complex social phenomena.

2. From the Faculty Roundtable last week, I learned that I should embrace the research process and let the data guide me to craft my research question as that is key.  The research guides and Librarian Roundtable helped me feel more conformable navigating online media platforms like CLIO and Zotero. I have been able to begin developing a literature review which will enable me to contextualize my research and add to the ongoing conversations between experts.  

I really resonate with your point that letting the data guide your research process. I similarly find myself changing or narrowing my research topic, given the feedback from what I found in the process. Sometimes my theory is modified or challenged by the data, and it's definitely a highlight of the research project. I'm really excited to see how you continue tailoring your research topic!

Jun 02, 2023

1. I really appreciate the chance to learn about other research topics and various disciplines. Initially, I imagined my research to be more social science focused, but by listening to all the interdisciplinary approaches, I'm now incorporating more scientific methods into my data gathering and analysis. I also find expanding my primary sources from primary interviews to include archives, statistics, and other databases very helpful.

2. As I start working with the research team, I find the research ethics seminar, the lunch talk with librarians, and my graduate mentor's lesson on how to stay on top of my project really beneficial. For example, to be eligible to clean the transcripts, I needed to complete an IRB training, and listening to Dr. Klitzman helped make the process easier and more intuitive. I also used CLIO to get access to a lot of oral history projects, books, and legal documents. I also applied the time-management tips given by my graduate mentor and found my project more organized. 

May 30, 2023

1. I hope to learn about how we can change/better our leadership skills when cooperating with different people. As we learn more about styles like leadership up front, leadership beside, and leadership behind, I hope to practice them in real life and make more contributions to the project I'm working on.

2. A challenge for me is to gain a sufficient understanding of criminal justice in Oklahoma, which I had very little knowledge of. This will serve as the foundation for my research in the Justice Lab when I go on researching the impact of previous initiatives and how our project can fill in the gaps. I intend to ask my mentor for more resources and readings to have a grasp of the current situation. Then I will do more online research with the information from CLIO to prepare myself for cleaning the transcripts.