'My research skills have grown beyond anything I could have expected'

Caitlin McCabe

Biological Sciences
West Linn, Ore.

What was your favorite class and why?

I really enjoyed Plagues and People, which taught us about different infectious diseases and their impact on human history and culture. It was interesting to see how much different diseases altered our history, and are still impacting us today. Disease has affected everything from our city layouts, our fashion and our nursery rhymes. It was also interesting to learn about diseases which still affect us today and some of the challenges in controlling them, such as malaria and tuberculosis. This class and the professors inspired me to learn more about infectious diseases and what I as a researcher could do to help find a cure.

person at top of mountain

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

I am a member of Cornell Circle K, which is a community service club here on campus. Community service has always been incredibly important to me, and I have always liked how Circle K brings together people who are passionate about service and helps many different causes. As students at Cornell, we are in an incredibly privileged position, and I think that it's important to give back to the communities around us and to improve the city we call home. With Circle K, I've participated in fundraisers to help with the mental health organization the Sophie Fund, and to raise funds to build a schoolhouse with Brick x Brick. I have also volunteered at Triphammer Reuse, the Cortland County SPCA and many other events. Circle K has helped me find a place not only in my Cornell community, but in Ithaca as well.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

I will never forgot the time I participated in the COE course Canoe Camping in the Adirondacks. Our group got to spend Fall Break traveling through the waterways of the Adirondacks and learning how to set up camp, cook in the outdoors and carry everything we needed to survive in a few (albeit very large) bags. The fall colors and scenery were truly breathtaking, and it was amazing how different it felt from the world on campus. For four days, it felt like it was just our little group traveling up and down the lakes and ponds, and we became really close as a result. This experience showed me a whole different part of the outdoors and also showed me what I was capable of outside of the classroom.

person standing near conference poster

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

I am most proud of the work I completed as part of my senior research thesis for my project: "Improving C3 Photosynthesis by Incorporating Cyanobacteria Bicarbonate Transporters." It took several months of hard work to complete, and though there were many challenges, I was able to push forward and persevere. When I first came to Cornell, I never would have imagined that I would be doing the type of research that I am doing today. Knowing that I could run a PCR without looking up instructions would have blown me away, and my research skills and experience have grown far beyond anything I could have expected.

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

My time abroad at the University of Oxford really helped me rediscover my love for learning. As a student in the tutorial system, my education was more up to me and what I wanted to study. And rather than passively taking in information through a lecture, all of my assignments were essays that challenged me to teach myself about a subject or think more deeply about an issue. It was completely different from the learning style I normally had at Cornell, and I greatly enjoyed the new experience and the discoveries I had along the way.


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.

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Caitlin McCabe