Cari Cesarotti: 'I am walking away from Cornell with a call to action to do my part in ending injustices.'

April 10, 2017

Cari Cesarotti


Chicago, IL

What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?

When I was a starry-eyed freshman, I started working on an experimental physics proposal for a dark matter experiment...completely from scratch. I have been a member of this experiment for the entirety of my time at Cornell, and since then we have written proposals, coded full simulations and even tested our electronics at the Beam Test Facility at Frascati Laboratory near Rome, Italy. Having been a part of this experience for so long, and having to take all the failures with the successes, has given me a profound appreciation of what it takes to be a physicist. I feel that committing to deeply understand my research has prepared me well for future projects addressing important problems, in addition to taking me around the world and meeting influential individuals in the community. I also have some pretty impressive calf muscles, thanks to walking up that slope every day.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

Although a lot of people made my time at Cornell memorable and productive, two professors in particular have really stood up for me and supported my career in physics. Jim Alexander was my first physics professor at Cornell, and after a few weeks of his class I knew I wanted to work with him. He invested a lot of time (and faith!) in me as a freshman to help me develop into a good researcher. Jim has given me so many opportunities in the past four years, including taking me to Italy in the middle of the semester, and has championed for me at all points of my career. I also owe a great deal to Csaba Csaki, the professor who really inspired me to pursue phenomenology in my future as a physicist. Although I loved learned about all kinds of physics, attending his lectures on quantum mechanics left me genuinely excited about all the complicated stuff I was beginning to understand. He was always free and willing to give me advice about everything from graduate schools to group theory. Without his guidance, I don't think I could have found the right graduate program for me. I was extremely fortunate to have these professors on my side.

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

Throughout my time at Cornell, I tried a lot of things. I was vegan for a few months. I practiced Buddhism for a few months. I went to protests and to women in science groups. Ultimately, what I feel like I am walking away with from Cornell is more awareness and understanding of glaring societal issues, and a call to action to do my part in ending injustices.

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