Author Archives: juliacurley

Why Cornell? Ambassador Renee Answers…

This week, Renee explains why she chose Cornell, after a visit to campus in high school.

By Renee Girard ’20, Government, Law and Society and Public Policy major

I first walked onto Cornell’s campus as a high school sophomore. I knew I wanted to apply, but as a senior preparing my college applications, I decided to visit Cornell once more to ensure that Early Decision was right for me. As a high school junior, I became interested in philosophy and wrote a paper on the morality of drone use in warfare. Through my research on the ethical implications of this modern technology in combat, I had come across a Cornell Government Professor and her extensive work regarding this topic. I reached out and scheduled a meeting with the Professor, and following the College of Arts and Sciences information session, I made my way to White Hall to discuss her research with her. What was scheduled to be a twenty-minute discussion lasted a full hour.

I took this photo outside of the government building, White Hall, after my class on the American Presidency this year.

Leaving our meeting, I walked through the Arts Quad and experienced the palpable energy among students and faculty making their way to classes. While Cornell is a large university with diverse interests, the passion among students and faculty is a common factor that unites such a broad range of studies.

I had my heart set on the College of Arts and Sciences following my visit as a high school senior. Even as a prospective student, I had experienced first-hand the commitment the professors of the College of Arts and Sciences have to undergraduate students. I knew that if admitted to Cornell, I would be immersed in an incredible learning environment that would allow me to thrive as I pursued my various interests. As a current student, I know that I would like to apply my Cornell government degree to a career in public service. I knew that Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences was the only school that had the resources to offer me the opportunities and skills I need to succeed in my field.

Walking through the Arts Quad is always a nice break in between classes, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing color.

Why Cornell? Ambassador Vishal Answers…

With the regular decision deadline fast approaching, the A&S Ambassadors hope to make the application decision a bit easier for prospective students. Every Cornell student has a story. This week, Vishal tells us why he chose Cornell.

By Vishal Sundaram ’21, Chemistry and Chemical Biology major

By the spring of my final year of high school, I had envisioned many different lives for myself on many different college campuses. Such fantasies are standard practice for high school seniors – a student can’t help but think about how pivotal the next few months will be in directing the course of their future. With each college visit comes a flurry of what-ifs. What if this is my dorm? What if I have class here? What if I one day join the student group that runs this very information session for prospective students? (Update: I did!) Though these fantasies of mine ranged far and wide, not one of them accurately captured the route that I would eventually take – for, as crazy as it sounds, none of them included Cornell.

I took this photo of the slope from the top of the McGraw Clock Tower, during a Chimes Concert.

My application to Cornell was largely an after thought, a last-ditch “you-never-know” attempt to cover my bases and open my options. I assure you this was not because Cornell was lacking in any traits that I desired. Quite the contrary. It was a prestigious institution with a reputation for academic rigor located on a beautiful campus that was not too far from my home (Cleveland, OH). I lacked enthusiasm for the school because I’d never visited! I had not made the effort to visit Cornell before I applied. When decision time rolled around in March, however, it grew clearer to my family and me that Cornell could be my best fit school. Desperate to spark some excitement, my dad and I finally drove up to Ithaca to see what Cornell was all about. The Ithaca campus did not disappoint.

Photographs on websites and in brochures cannot begin to capture the beauty of this campus. Waterfalls, rolling hills, gorges, and greenery abound in such a way that helps students maintain sight of the big picture – a desirable quality in an academically rigorous university with busy and ambitious students.

My friends and I took a trip down to Ithaca Falls, in the fall of my freshman year.

I stayed the night with a friend from high school during my visit; and I was lucky enough to meet some of his friends and dorm-mates. In these peers I found friendly, genuine people who were passionate about what they did. Void of any “Ivy League snobbery” that one might expect to find, these people were humble and helpful. Some of these acquaintances became my friends and mentors.

During freshman orientation, my dad took this classic photo near the entrance to campus from Collegetown.

Having fallen in love with the campus and community spirit, my questions turned to the classes. While I knew about Cornell’s academic rigor, I was concerned about inflexibility in my coursework. But after talking to some students and doing some research of my own, I realized that my concerns were largely unfounded. My desired chemistry major offered plenty of room for elective coursework. I was told that the A&S distribution requirements are seldom burdensome and often very naturally fulfilled simply by taking classes you like!

All in all, I am very happy with the decision that I made and cannot imagine myself anywhere else. A beautiful campus, a fantastic community of friends and peers, and excellent academic flexibility have made for a complete package that is both fulfilling and inspiring.

Both Work and Fun: Watershed Conservation in Alaska

This week, Ambassador Tait Stevenson tells us how he spent his summer in Alaska, supporting watershed conservation with creativity. 

By Tait Stevenson ’20, Biological Sciences (Evolutionary Biology and Ecology Concentration)

My name is Tait Stevenson and I am a biological sciences major concentrating in ecology and evolutionary biology. I was lucky enough to get to spend this past summer in Alaska, as an invasive species intern for the Kenai Watershed Forum. The Kenai Watershed Forum is a non-profit organization with the goal of protecting the watersheds of the Kenai Peninsula through education, restoration, and research.

Getting ready for the Kenai River Festival! This annual community event, hosted in the town of Soldotna, includes numerous local musicians and vendors. It draws people from all over Alaska in celebration of the Kenai River and the community’s goal of protecting it.

Through the internship, I was able to gain a wide range of invaluable experiences relevant to what I’m studying; I learned management techniques for dealing with invasive plants and animals, assisted in hydrological research, helped in conducting wetland surveys, and engaged in various community outreach projects. I was able to gain some unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as visiting the Native Alaskan villages of Port Graham and Nanwalek, which are accessible only by boat or small plane. There, I helped to educate people on the invasive plants of their villages and the potential steps they could take to manage them.

I was able to do a ride along with an Alaska State Fish and Game warden on the Kenai River, in order to witness the law enforcement aspect of conservation.

While I was in Alaska, I lived in a yurt on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, outside of the town of Soldotna, though I traveled all over the Kenai Peninsula for various projects. On my time off of work, I soaked up as much of what Alaska had to offer as I possibly could by going on hiking, canoeing, fishing, and camping trips. I was able to witness incredible wildlife and experience the breathtaking landscapes.

A large part of my summer was spent doing surveys on various Kenai Peninsula lakes for an invasive, aquatic plant called elodea. I was also able to enjoy some incredible scenery while on the job.

In Alaska, I was able to apply the concepts I have been learning in classroom at Cornell to real world issues. This experience gave me a newfound perspective on the challenges faced in the area of conservation and how to overcome these challenges through creative solutions, such as community engagement.

I am excited to be back in Ithaca for another great semester. I can’t wait to see where Cornell takes me next!

Kidney Stone Research: A Blast in Birmingham

This week, Dean Kim takes us inside his summer experience as a medical research assistant.

By Dean Kim ’20, Chemistry and East Asian Studies

I spent this past summer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham conducting kidney-related research in the Department of Urology. Since my last blog, I have spent nine weeks in Birmingham, Alabama making amazing memories, conducting exciting research, and eating lots of fantastic food.

All the KURE students celebrated the experience at the UAB Summer Expo: (left to right) back row: Skip, Brian, Chava, Jillian; middle row: Shamyra, Ellen, Miles, me, Stephen, Jeff; front row: Viangkaeo, Meryl, Mary Claire, and Emile

I had an incredible time performing medical-related research in a lab for the first time in my life, as well as learning about everything from kidney physiology and pathology to diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases, during my weekly kidney cross-talk workshops. In lab, I studied the metabolism of glycolate to oxylate in human kidney proximal tubule cells using cell culture to determine how kidneys contribute to the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones. (Fun-ish fact: around 1 in 10 people will get kidney stones in their lifetime!) Through this experience, I was able to explore my interest in the field of nephrology.

From left to right: Skip, Chava, Emile, me, and Meryl at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Not pictured: the three samosas I just bought from a stand and ate.

On weekends, when I wasn’t in lab, I took time to explore the local area with other students in the program. We walked to the local Farmer’s Market, watched the Birmingham Barons play baseball at Regions Field, hiked at Red Mountain Park, and even visited the World of Coca-Cola, over the course of the summer. My trip wouldn’t have been complete, of course, if I didn’t eat copious amounts of Southern barbecue. My personal favorite barbecue restaurant was Dreamland BBQ.

My summer concluded with me giving a poster and oral presentation at UAB and then attending the Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic (KUH) Summer Undergraduate Research Conference in Boston, where I shared my research experiences with other undergraduate students across the country participating in similar research programs.

I presented my summer research at the UAB Summer Research Expo on the last day of the program!

The summer went by too quickly, but I’m making sure to stay in touch with the great friends I made this summer as well as my excellent mentor. I owe a huge thanks to the KURE Program for providing me this opportunity, as well as my mentor, Dr. Sonia Fargue, for introducing me to the world of medical research.

 

Summer Adventure Series: Ambassador Shoshana spent her Summer in Cape Town, South Africa

For October, we ask our ambassadors how they spent this past summer. This week Shoshana takes us across the ocean to her experience at Eventerprise, a startup where she developed her design skills.

By Shoshana Swell ’20, Information Science and Performing and Media Arts

My name is Shoshana Swell. I am a Junior in The College of Arts and Sciences, double majoring in Information Science and Performing and Arts. This past summer, I traveled 8,000 miles to live in Cape Town, South Africa. My time there was an experience I’ll treasure forever.

I have always been passionate about the intersection between visual storytelling and human-computer interaction to generate positive social change. I believe the best way to grow as an individual, creator, and as a student is to push yourself in unknown and new situations. This past summer, these interests led me on an adventure to Cape Town, South Africa.

Woodstock Cave, Cape Town

Mission 1: Find a way to get there
In February 2018, I found a job posting at a tech-startup called Eventerprise located in Cape Town, South Africa and accepted the offer to travel and work for this emerging company. After receiving the job, I had to find a means to gather money for travel and expenses. I applied for and was a recipient of the Summer Experience Grant. This grant helped fund my entire trip including airfare, accommodation, and food.

Mission 2: Blastoff to Cape Town
A week after I finished finals, I flew to my new home in Cape Town. I left with my passport, a suitcase, a housing agreement and not much else. Leaving the United States with no connections in Cape Town and many uncertainties, I embraced the new risks and explored the world beyond my comfort zone. Twenty-four hours later my plane landed; Cape Town International Airport welcomed me and my journey began.

Lion’s Head

Mission 3: Making Cape Town my new home
Cape Town, 8,000 miles from my New York home, at first, unsettled me. The realization that I’d be spending the next few months in a vastly different country hit me all at once. Quickly, though, my shock turned from excitement to elation.

I moved into a student-living space in Observatory — a small town outside of Cape Town —full of international interns and local students.  I built lifetime friendships with students now living full-time in Cape Town, and others who moved across the world to London and Singapore.

My friends and me at Observatory.

Mission 4: Internship
I worked as a User Experience and Videography Intern to solve problems through design, to improve the digital platform’s features and to enhance user experience. During my time there, I was the only American and was surrounded by international interns from various countries in Europe, Singapore and South Africa. I not only developed my design skills each day at work, I also learned about new cultures and distinct experiences.

Hard at work!

Outside of my internship, I attended local entrepreneurial events, such as the Amazon AWS Summit and an event about robotics in Africa. I learned about the intersection of AWS products and local innovators to generate products and new technology.

I also had the opportunity to explore innovative ideas to improve rider safety in Cape Town Ubers, by designing a new Uber safety feature. You can read more about my case study and research here.

I saved my badge as a souvenir.

Mission 5: Adventure
Some people like to walk around, but I like to dance! Check out my video I made dancing with new friends at all the places we visited in Cape Town.

Between dance moves, I went swimming with sharks! I went Great White Shark Cage Diving and made it out alive! While inside the cage, multiple Great White Sharks nearly brushed my cheek. I wasn’t scared, only exhilarated.

Great White Shark Cage Diving -Hermanus

South Africa is known for its shark filled waters. After being up close to one, I tried the odds in the open water. I found my favorite surf spot at Muizenberg Beach. One time, I was on a wave and spotted a seal ride it with me. I rented a board and a wet suit on the weekends and surfed (read: wiped out) a lot.

Another weekend, I traveled along the Garden Route. The Garden Route is a journey that stretches from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape. With 12 friends, I packed up and headed on a five hour road trip outside of Cape Town. Along the way, we fed elephants and hung out with penguins!

I made animal friends, too!

Mission 6: The Future
My experience in Cape Town exceeded my every expectation. If you have the opportunity to travel 8,000 miles away from home during your time at Cornell, take the risk! As for the future, this summer I will be working at Facebook as a Product Design Intern. I look forward to exploring more of the Design industry in the years to come.

If you have any questions about my experience, or if you would like to learn more, reach out to me! ses372@cornell.edu