'I gained a deep appreciation of the interplay between theory and experiment'

Eshan Mehrotra

Chemistry and Physics
Naperville, Ill.

Why did you choose Cornell?

When I came to visit Cornell, I was immediately struck by the natural beauty of its campus. Often, great ideas can come to us outside of the office or laboratory in seemingly unexpected places. In choosing Cornell, it was clear to me that there would be no shortage of interesting problems to tackle and no shortage of beautiful spots on campus where I could think about them. 

What was your favorite class and why?

boy with science experiment

Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by Professor Tomas Arias was truly a work of art. The course was structured chronologically, so that we learned quantum mechanics as the original scientists who discovered it did. We analyzed the great experiments that led to the development of quantum mechanics, and even doing each homework problem felt like we were learning something new and beautiful. It gave me a deep appreciation of the interplay between theory and experiment in physics, and it was an excellent way to learn about one of the most exciting eras of modern physics. 

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

I devote much of my time to doing research in cryo-electron microscopy and structural biology with Professor Elizabeth Kellogg. Her mentorship and learning from other students in the lab, particularly Jung-Un Park and Amy Tsai, has been a unique, invaluable part of my education at Cornell. By working with Professor Kellogg, I have learned how to be a scientist both by understanding how to first ask the "right" questions and knowing what to do to answer that question. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to learn unique skills in both electron microscopy and biochemistry as an undergraduate. I could not even imagine doing anything else with my time at Cornell.

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell? What have you discovered about yourself?

At Cornell, I was able to take a year's worth of classes on the Ottoman Empire with Professor Mostafa Minawi. These classes gave me a tremendous appreciation of culture, art, and literature. It even inspired me to take up practicing Persian calligraphy and learning Farsi (one of the great literary languages of the world). It surprised me to learn how varied my interests are and how I could learn about such a diverse array of topics at Cornell. 

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

My writing seminars and humanities classes have greatly influenced how I think. The ability to formulate a clear argument and to subsequently hone that argument has proven to be foundational in all my classes (especially the "STEM" ones). Whether it is thinking about the structure of an argument in a scientific paper or debating new ideas with my colleagues, the core skills that I have learned in my humanities classes have proven to be priceless. Becoming a clear, concise writer is one of the great gifts of my Cornell education. 

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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