Rawlings Scholars

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About the program

The Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars program selects highly motivated students and provides them with the opportunity to conduct financially supported, faculty mentored research throughout their undergraduate years. Students are encouraged to pursue their intellectual interests through research in any area of study including the humanities, physical and biological sciences, social sciences, arts and engineering. Selected RCPRS students have demonstrated academic excellence in addition to personal characteristics necessary to becoming a great researcher. Participating in a world-class research community early in a student’s career promotes academic growth and opens doors to the future.

An anonymous gift to the university created the Cornell Presidential Research Scholars program in 1996. In 2006, Cornell’s Board of Trustees named the program in honor of former president Hunter R. Rawlings III in recognition of Rawlings' commitment to students and scholars.

More information can be found here

Frequently Asked Questions

Post graduate plans: 55 percent of RCPRS graduates go directly on to graduate school (vs. Cornell average of 34 percent); of those, more than 70 percent go beyond a master's program (PhD, MD, DVM, JD, etc.)

Graduation honors: Nearly half of RCPRS seniors are distinguished graduates (cum laude, distinction in research, summa cum laude, honors)

Honors theses: More than half of RCPRS students submit a senior honors thesis

Fields of research: RCPRS students are engaged in research across the university, in all colleges and countless majors. A general breakdown shows that:

  • 39 percent are involved in social science or humanities research
  • 36 percent are involved in life science research (predominantly biology-related)
  • 25 percent are involved in physical sciences/engineering

Incoming scholars

Karen Monique Loya 

Hometown: McAllen, Texas

Describe your research 

Looking at Mexican-American adult civic engagement and its effects on their children's educational outcomes, specifically at the U.S./Mexico border.

Please talk about any summer internships you've had or programs you've attended 

After my freshman year, I was an Arts and Sciences Program Assistant for the Prefreshman Summer Program and helped guide 190 first generation college incoming freshman into a smooth transition to Cornell. This past summer I was working as an undergraduate research assistant under Professor Chandra Muller and PhD candidate Jamie Carroll at the University of Texas at Austin, Population Research Center. The work I was conducting looked at the effects of high school education on mid-life voter participation.

What do you dream of doing after graduation?

I want to get a PhD in sociology with a master's in public policy, hopefully in the west coast. Afterwards, I want to go back to my community at the south Texas border and become a community organizer, focusing on helping high school students get into and finish college.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities?

I am co-president of Early College Awareness, a club dedicated to educating and guiding high school AVID students in college. I am also vice president of Communications for La Asociación Latina (the umbrella Latinx group at Cornell) and I am in charge of all forms of promotion, communication with member organizations and recruitment for LAL events. Lastly, I work as an intern for the Latinx Student Success Office, helping to organize and execute events that support student academic success, as well as writing student spotlights recognizing their achievements.

Name three of your favorite courses at Cornell thus far

Making the Scientific Subject: An Intersectional Feminist Approach; Latino Politics as Racial Politics; Large Boat Sailing

Alex Hutchins

Hometown: Eureka, CA
Describe your research. 
A study of the ecological and cultural knowledge held by both religious and alternative communities in Japan, paying particular attention to rural currents of resistance and agency.
Please talk about any summer internships you've had or programs you've attended. 
This past summer I had the opportunity to intern at the Fallen Tree Center for a Resilient Future in Ithaca, NY. The previous summer, I was able take part in a two-week Zen Buddhism study trip in Kamakura, Japan, following which I interviewed organic farmers in scattered locations across rural areas of the country.
What do you dream of doing after graduation? 
I hope to further engage in the study of contemporary Japanese society through graduate coursework, with the end goal being to join academia.
What are your most important extra-curricular activities? 
The Cornell U.S. - Japan Association (JUSA)
Name three of your favorite courses at Cornell thus far! 
Intro to Religion: Religion and Environmental Sustainability; Bodies at the Border; Tibetan Buddhism

Sean Cronan

Hometown: Reno, Nevada
Describe your research. 
My research focuses broadly on modern Asian intellectual and literary history, investigating questions of ethnos, nation, and culture in both colonial and imperial encounters in Asia. Specifically I study the history of Taiwan as contested both spatially and ideologically, and the roles that language and literary production play in the colonial/imperial constructions (and deconstruction) of the island. Although my research is largely focused on Taiwan, I employ transnational theoretical methods in looking at literary and intellectual traditions ranging throughout East and Southeast Asia.
Please talk about any summer internships you've had or programs you've attended. 
The summer after my freshman year (2016) I attended Middlebury Language Schools for Mandarin. The immersive language experience at Middlebury helped to allow me to start thinking in the language, which has made it possible for me to conduct research with both primary and secondary Chinese-language resources. Last summer (2017) I attended the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI) for intensive study of Thai language. A similar program to Middlebury, SEASSI contributed much to my understanding of Asia broadly and put me on the track to continue studying Thai and Southeast Asian Studies in conjunction with my other research.
What do you dream of doing after graduation? 
I plan to go to graduate school after graduation and continue my research. Eventually I would like to become a professor of Asian Studies and inspire other students the way my professors have inspired me.
What are your most important extra-curricular activities? 
I work at the Cornell East Asia Program, where I coordinate the Cornell Classical Chinese Colloquium (CCCC). I am also a member of the Japanese language house on campus as well as a part of several graduate reading groups for critical Asian humanities and area studies.
Name three of your favorite courses at Cornell thus far! 
Introduction to Critical Theory; Introduction to Classical Chinese; Modern Japanese Philosophy

Archana Podury

Hometown:  Cupertino, California
Describe your research. 
I study the neural mechanisms underlying motor learning. Most behaviors are learned through trial-and-error and practice, but we still don’t know the mechanism that evaluates our ongoing behavior and selects for successful outcomes. This mechanism of selection goes awry in motor-related disorders like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. One part of my research focuses on constructing a circuit to model how a bird selects for successful song renditions when it learns to sing with practice. Coupling anatomy and electrophysiology data, we have come up with a putative model to explain how reinforcement learning drives selection of successful behavioral outcomes. The second part of my work focuses on imaging from dopamine neurons during an effort-related task in mice. Dopamine neurons encode reward and expectation of reward, but it is still unclear how they evaluate perceived effort of a task. My current efforts in lab have focused on building a fiber optic system, surgically implanting optical fibers into mice, building hardware and software for data acquisition and training mice in the task.
Please talk about any summer internships you've had or programs you've attended. 
I spent both summers working in the Goldberg lab, where I also work during the school year. My first summer was when I learned neurosurgery and collected anatomy data to build the microcircuit model for song learning. My second summer, I assembled the hardware for the fiber optic system and learned implant surgery for mice - I also prototyped several different designs for the task, which gave me hands-on experience with building different sensors and rigs and wiring circuits, which I had no experience with prior to this project.
What do you dream of doing after graduation? 
I’m applying MD/PhD this cycle, so I would love to couple mechanistic work with treatment. I’m still unsure which area of neuroscience I want to focus on, but I’ll see where my path takes me. I would also love to be able to live in Japan and Sweden for a few years.
What are your most important extra-curricular activities? 
Research assistant in the Goldberg Lab; president of CASPHA (College of Arts & Sciences Prehealth association); biology student advisor; organic chemistry teaching assistant at the Learning Strategies Center
Name three of your favorite courses at Cornell thus far! 
Drugs and the Brain; Prisons; Intro to Biopsychology

Muhammad Ali

Hometown: Watervliet, NY
Describe your research. 
Improving Cortical Blood Flow in Mice Models of Alzheimer's disease
Please talk about any summer internships you've had or programs you've attended. 
Shoals Marine Lab, U.S. Committee of Refugees and Immigrants, Schaffer-Nishimura Biomedical Engineering Lab at Cornell, Wang Biochemistry Lab at RPI
What do you dream of doing after graduation? 
Medical school and then clinical neurosurgery
What are your most important extra-curricular activities? 
Refugee Outreach at USCRI and in Ithaca as a Public Service Center Scholar, Alzheimer's disease research as a McNair and Rawlings Scholar, Farm Business Management in Dairy and Cash Crops
Name three of your favorite courses at Cornell thus far! 
Introduction to Neuroscience; Experimental Organic Chemistry; Farm Business Management

Amith Punyala 

Major: Biological Sciences

Describe your research. 

Punyala is studying a gene that is more highly expressed in the process of myelin sheath repair following multiple sclerosis (MS). His research could discover new molecular targets for the treatment of MS.

Celina Scott-Buechler

Major: College Scholar focusing on marine science and coastal environmental justices studies 

Describe your research 

Scott-Buechler is studying the correlation between environmental variables and disease prevalence in a species of Caribbean sea fan coral.

Darby Tarlow

Major: College Scholar studying psychology and applied mathematics 

Describe your research 

Tarlow's interests lie in human-robot interaction and studying psychological mechanisms underlying social and moral attributions.

Samuel Evans

Major: Physics

Describe your research 

Evans' research uses atomic gases cooled to near absolute zero to study the physics of systems out of equilibrium.