Pujaa Rajan: 'The culture is welcoming, passionate, diverse, energetic, and excited.'

April 14, 2017

Pujaa Rajan

Information Science

Lincoln, NE

Why did you choose Cornell?

On Thursday, December 13 at 5 p.m., I was notified that Cornell chose me. I knew from the beginning Cornell was the place for me, so I applied early. Bound to attend if accepted, I made my decision before the admissions officers made theirs. Once admitted early, it felt like it was meant to be. Passionately curious, I applied to Cornell because the idea of being able to attend an institution to follow my interests in the arts and sciences, wherever they lead me, across disciplines, appealed to me. The university was founded to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge, and I knew I could find my passion here. More than a motto, “any person…any study” is the truth. The people here, my faculty and friends, come from all over the world, all walks of life, all income levels, races, religions and lifestyles to study fields ranging from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied. I also chose Cornell because of the culture. The culture is welcoming, passionate, diverse, energetic and excited. After four years of exploring and experimenting in the arts and sciences, I am graduating with honors in information science and concentrating in data science and I know I made the right choice.

What is your main extracurricular activity? Why is it important to you?

Being a tactile learner, I reinforced classroom instruction by applying theory to real-world engineering problems on the Cornell Data Science project team. Data science is a contemporary field encompassing math, statistics, computer science, machine learning and traditional research. The problems we solved as a group allowed me to develop not only my technical expertise, but also my soft skills. My supportive teammates inspire me to perform at my best as we cooperate and collectively overcome challenges outside of the classroom setting. Being a student-run organization, the project team is self-governed, which has honed my ability to lead and work as a member of a team. The projects also keep me engrossed in my lectures. Having a context to apply what I learn in class allows me to think more deeply about the concepts we learn in class. The highlight of my project team experience is practicing my passion, implementing machine learning and statistical algorithms in student-run projects.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

Information science might not be the first field that springs to mind when thinking of the liberal arts, but at Cornell, this interdisciplinary major connects information technology to other disciplines on campus. I value the opportunity to learn about and apply engineering skills in the context of the liberal arts. Interactions between people are being transformed by technology. Studying information science, I study how technology is shaping individual lives and social groups and how people use technology to shape their environment. Concentrating in data science, I learned not only how to analyze big data, but also how to visualize it and communicate my results in an effective manner. Because of my liberal arts and sciences education, I was able to apply my information science skills to sociology research.

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