'I'm interested in topics that relate math and computer science to climate and ecology'

Anna Asch

Latham, N.Y.

What was your favorite class and why?

Looking back, my favorite class at Cornell was Mathematical Modeling with Dr. Alexander Vladimirsky. This course introduced me to a wide array of interdisciplinary applications of math, from crowd dynamics to ecological modeling. The final project for the class was to participate in the Cornell Mathematical Contest in Modeling. With two teammates, I worked over the course of a weekend to optimize a food distribution schedule for a mobile food pantry. My team ended up winning the contest and participating in an international math modeling competition. Ultimately, this class was one of the most challenging I have taken, but also one of the most rewarding.

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

My main extracurricular activity is the Cornell Track & Field Club. I have enjoyed running for many years, and I like to take a break from homework to run with my peers. I particularly enjoy being part of a non-academic club because I meet students with diverse majors from all the undergraduate colleges.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

I participated in research at Cornell and at two summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates at other universities. I have been interested in topics that relate math and computer science to climate and ecology. I studied how to optimize wind turbine placement, developed a method to help predict extreme weather events and modeled how dryland vegetation responds to worsening environmental conditions. From my research experiences, I published a peer-reviewed paper as co-first author. This year, I also presented results at a math conference, the Joint Mathematics Meetings.

I greatly enjoyed spending a semester abroad during my junior year at the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics. I met students from all over the world who are passionate about math. I grew as a mathematician in many ways, learning from professors in the Hungarian math tradition and from my peers. I also loved experiencing daily life in a European city. Successfully navigating a country where I did not speak the language helped me build self-confidence.

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

I would recommend taking classes that intrigue you, particularly electives that do not satisfy major requirements. Some of the most interesting electives I have taken at Cornell, such as cognitive science and climate dynamics, ended up relating to my math major in surprising ways. Even if there are few connections with your major, electives challenge you to think in new ways. Cornell has such broad course offerings and being in Arts & Sciences means that you can shape your education to match your unique interests.

What are your plans for next year?

Next year, I will start a Ph.D. in computational and applied mathematics at the University of Chicago, with the support of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.


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 2023.

More News from A&S

Anna Asch