'Female CIS professors have given me role models within my field'

Elizabeth Mieczkowski

Computer Science
Woodbury, Conn.

Why did you choose Cornell?

I visited Cornell as a senior in high school and heard about the brains in jars — from that moment, I knew that this was the school for me. I sprinted to Uris Hall after my campus tour so I would be first in line to see the brains, anticipating a crowd. (Luckily for me there were so many similarly exciting sights that the crowd was elsewhere). Everything about the campus fascinated me, from the eclectic assortment of architecture styles to the sounds of tower bells chiming songs like Hedwig’s Theme every hour. But, the reason I ultimately chose Cornell was the extraordinary opportunity it gave me to combine all of my passions and curiosities into a single course of study. From Japanese history to existentialist philosophy to microbiology, I was able to both learn and participate in hands-on experiences for every subject I was interested in exploring. I visited Japanese art exhibits in the Johnson, watched a chemistry professor blow up gummy bears in a lab, and studied under a professor who won an Academy Award for his CGI work with Lord of the Rings. I knew from the moment I toured campus that Cornell would never run out of ways to fascinate me.

What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you?

girl in Cornell archway

My main extracurricular activity throughout college has been engineering project teams. These teams gave me the opportunity to collaborate with other students in different disciplines on amazing real-world projects, such as building an autonomous robotic sailboat to travel across the Atlantic Ocean on its own, or designing an app for students with disabilities to connect with transportation services on campus. These teams are the best representation of what it’s like to work in industry that I’ve seen in an academic environment, and they foster a real sense of camaraderie and friendship with students in other disciplines from your own. 

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

girls in NYC

The memories I treasure most are the small moments I’ve had with my closest friends. Many of my friends studied abroad together in Amsterdam, and some of my favorite memories are exploring the city with them, biking to class everyday, and trying eggs Benedict at as many restaurants as we could. Back home in Ithaca, I’ve loved taking turns cooking dinner together to teach each other secret family recipes, sledding down the slope on snowy days, paddleboarding on Cayuga lake, watching the sunset at Stewart Park, and going for long hikes around the beautiful gorges and local trails. 

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

The incredible female professors of the computing and information science department have given me role models within my field that inspire me everyday to use my voice and pursue a career I am passionate about in academia. When I struggled to decide what I want to do after graduation, many of these professors offered to meet with me one-on-one to discuss different options and encourage me to find something I’m interested in. 

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

The biggest piece of advice I can offer an incoming freshman is to allow yourself to fail, but don’t let it discourage you from trying again. It is impossible to be the best at everything (or anything) here, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying anyway. If I stopped studying computer science when I failed an assignment or felt embarrassed getting an answer wrong in class, I would never be where I am today.

Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2021.

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Elizabeth Mieczkowski