'People are ready to have fascinating conversations at a moment's notice'

Daniel Longenecker

Physics and Physics Education, College Scholar
Ithaca, N.Y.

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?

The skill of doing research is one that I began to learn here at Cornell, and one that I hope to develop further in graduate school.

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

I heartily enjoy rock climbing. The rock wall at Cornell is amazing, and meeting other climbers is even better. Sometimes I'll work on a tricky boulder problem alone or with others. Other times, I get into such interesting conversations that I forget about climbing. The variability in the experience and the physical nature of the problem solving keep me coming back.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

There are many competing memories, but I found a common theme. I treasure the deeply interesting conversations that I have had with students and professors over the years. It has been an incredible opportunity to be in this kind of environment, where people are ready to have fascinating conversations at a moment's notice. 

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

I have realized how important it is to learn with others. Autodidactic learning is great, but nothing beats a deep and productive collaboration. I haven't lost my sense of individuality, but now I better appreciate the importance of community, both for learning and for life in general.

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

Learn deeply, even if it feels like you are wasting time or lagging behind your peers. Learn so deeply, that you will remember what you learned decades later. Make the knowledge a part of yourself. When I made the field of mechanics a part of myself, it was a sublime experience that completely changed how I approached learning. Then, when you understand deeply, share your understanding with others.

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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