Tanner Dean's Scholars

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Each year the college's undergraduate admissions committees name a small group of outstanding applicants as The Pauline and Irving Tanner Dean's Scholars. These scholars demonstrate an enthusiasm for the life of the mind and possess outstanding high school records. The program honors students for their accomplishments with a $1,000 Tanner Dean's Scholarship during their freshman year, and offers them guidance for their first two years from a college dean or senior faculty member in their acculturation to the academic and intellectual life of the college.

The Pauline and Irving Tanner Dean's Scholar Program provides enhanced opportunities for participants to explore and benefit from the richness of the Arts & Sciences curriculum. The program facilitates informal intellectual discourse outside classes and supports students who take charge of their own education—both through subsidies of their research projects and through a program of monthly events. These monthly events include salons featuring Cornell's eminent faculty; tours of special facilities at Cornell; workshops on various topics, such as getting involved in research or applying for prestigious fellowships; as well as concert and theater performances.

Calendar of Events











Spring Semester 2019

Arts Network and Neural Network Events
Events for these groups are promoted directly through email list serves. If you would like to join the email list serve, please contact Paul Sulzer pts58@cornell.edu

April 28th, 2019, 2:00pm
Statler Auditorium
RSVP with Paul Sulzer pts58@cornell.edu no later than Monday, April 15th, 5pm

Undergraduate Research and Academic Opportunities - Breakfast Panel
April 26th, 2019, 8:30-9:45am
An information panel few newly admitted Dean's Scholars
HEC Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall

Welcome Reception for Newly Admitted Tanner Dean's Scholars
April 25th, 2019, 5:00-6:00pm
Newly admitted Dean's Scholars are welcomed to campus by current Dean's Scholars, faculty and deans.
Groos Family Atrium, Klarman Hall

Tanner Dean's Scholars Info Session
April 25th, 2019, 4:15-4:45pm
An information session for newly admitted Dean's Scholars.
KG70, Klarman Hall

Tanner Dean's Scholars Open House
April 25th - 26th, 2019

Cornell's Yamatai's PULSE Concert
April 20th, 2019, 7:300-9:00pm
HEC Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall
RSVP with Paul Sulzer pts58@cornell.edu no later than Monday, April 15th, 5pm


Newly Admitted Tanner Dean's Scholars Webchat
With Current Dean's Scholars
April 10th, 2019, 7:00-8:00pm
An online information session for newly admitted Dean's Scholars.
An invitation and access link will be sent soon!

Cornell Concert Series: John Scofield's "Combo 66"
Friday, March 8th, 2019, 5:30pm Dinner, 8:00pm showtime
RSVP with Britt Hamlin blh98@cornell.edu by Wednesday, March 6th to reserve a ticket

Tour of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
-meet in the museum's main lobby-
Thursday, February 28th, 2019, 4:30-5:15pm
Goldwin Smith 156

Arts Network Event - Dinner & Film Screening
Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki
Thursday, February 7th, 2019, 5:30pm Dinner, 7:00pm Screening
RSVP with Paul Sulzer pts58@cornell.edu

Upcoming Events To Be Announced

Past Events

Research Grant Information for 2018-2019

Juniors in the Tanner Dean's Scholars Program are strongly encouraged to consider applying for the summer research grant of up to $5,000, to help you pursue your scholarly interests in a serious and sustained manner during the summer between your junior and senior years. The amount of these summer grants is increased if you are on financial aid, in order to compensate for expected summer earnings you would have used toward college expenses.

Your proposed project must be independent work that does not carry any academic credit. You may conduct your research on campus or off. Often dean's scholars use the summer grants to begin exploratory or background work that will lead to an honors thesis, but your project does not have to be in your major. Although you are not required to work directly with a Cornell faculty member during the summer, you do need a Cornell faculty member to guide your efforts and to write a letter of support.

Juniors interested in learning more about the summer grants should attend the fall information session (to be scheduled - please check back) and also browse through the examples of previous proposals, below.

To Submit Your Proposal:

  1. Submit the following via e-mail to the program director; deadline December 7th, 2018:
    • An abstract explaining your project in one or two paragraphs
    • The name of the Cornell faculty member(s) whom you have consulted about your project
    • The proposed location of your research
  2. Complete the application and arrange to have your recommender send a letter of support to the program director. March 15th, 2019.

2018 Research Proposals

  • Mahiro Abe, Physics,  “Fabricating Interferometers for Next-Generation Astronomical Instruments at CNF”
  • Marlene Berke, College Scholar, “Perceptual Reality Monitoring”
  • Avinash Deshmukh, Physics and Mathematics, “Determining the Duffing Parameter of Non-linear Graphene Resonators”
  • Samuel Evans, Physics and Mathematics, “Predictions from a Realistic Simulated Universe: Analyzing Illustris and IllustrisTNG”
  • Ashley Kim, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, “Proteomics Study and Peptide Quantification in Maternal Circulation”
  • Naomi Li, Economics, “Meaning, Action, and Legacy: A Study of Resignation within Universities”
  • Kevin Lin, Computer Science, “Diversity and Networks in Artificial Cultural Markets”
  • Roman Marcarelli, Physics and Mathematics, “Investigation of Laser Wakefield Acceleration in Plasmas”
  • Shreya Nandi, Biological Sciences, “Silver Nanoparticles: Good for your food, bad for your brain?”
  • Ellie O’ Reilly, English and History of Art, “Representations of Women in Early New England Photography”
  • Andrew Wang, Computer Science and Philosophy, "Understanding Confidence and Competence in Team Discussions"

Click here for archived proposals from previous years.

Dean's scholar profiles

Shreya Nandi 

Headshot of Shreya holding birds

What is your major and why did you choose it?

I decided to be a biology major long before I arrived at Cornell. I grew up watching the Science Channel where I was enamored of the scientists passionately conducting their research, and I was lucky to be part of an education system that allowed for the development of scientific interests from a young age. My fascinations ranged from the birth of the universe and tendrils of dark matter, to field studies in the sunlit, picturesque plains of the Serengeti, to our iceberg-like understanding of the structure and function of the genetic code, the last of which led me to Cold Spring Harbor’s DNA Learning Center nearly a decade ago. It was there that I unearthed my craving for more biological knowledge, and four years later I received a Cancer Research Training Award to work in Dr. Julie Cooper’s telomere lab at the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute. After working with cancer-mimicking behavior in fission yeast, I was delighted to come to Cornell and expand freely upon my biological knowledge, opting for a general biology concentration so I could explore everything my heart desired--ecology, evolution, neurobiology, animal behavior, physiology, immunology, and genetics, just to name a few.

What Dean's Scholars programs/ activities have you taken part in?  What has been most helpful to you?

I’m currently on the Tanner Dean Student Advisory Board and have loved attending the plays and concerts with dinners throughout my time here. Our discussions are consistently intellectually stimulating and my fellow scholars never fail to fascinate me with their diverse experiences and ideas. As a Tanner Dean Scholar, I’ve also had the opportunity to present my research work at the Festival of Scholarship held in honor of President Martha Pollack’s inauguration and additionally shared my wonderful experiences as a guest speaker at the Arts & Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council dinner.

Are you involved in any special research projects, internships or other academic work?

Since Fall 2018 I’ve been an undergraduate TA for Fundamentals of Physics as well as Lectures in Genetics and Genomics, two of my favorite classes here at Cornell. There’s nothing more wholesome than passing down your knowledge to current students and guiding them into grasping novel concepts, methods, and ideas.

Since Fall 2016 I’ve worked in Dr. Motoko Mukai’s toxicology lab where we explore the effects of endocrine disruptors on zebrafish neuroendocrine systems and reproductive behavior and success. The Tanner Dean Summer Research Grant allowed me to spend the past two summers here at Cornell conducting my research. Since the end of May, I’ve been working on my senior honors thesis: Silver Nanoparticles: Good for Your Food, Bad for Your Brain?

Zain Mehdi '20

Headshot of Zain Mehdi

What is your major and why did you choose it?

I am a double major in biology with a concentration in cellular and molecular biology and English. I chose biology because I have spent much of my childhood following my parents around their research labs and because I have worked in four different labs and love cellular biology, especially pathway biochemistry. I chose my second major English because I wanted to continue to explore exciting literature as I had done in high school in my AP English classes. I have been a creative writer since sixth grade and have already published my works, but I want to develop intellectually and creatively with my writing.

What Dean's Scholars programs/ activities have you taken part in?  What has been most helpful to you?

The two that I have enjoyed the most are the new Tanner Dean Scholars welcome dinner and the various dinner nights the program has. The incoming Tanner Dean Welcome Reception is a great way for experienced undergraduate students, and Tanner Dean Scholars, to explain how impactful this program can be. I have always loved advising and tutoring peers to help them succeed. The dinner nights introduced me to fellow scholars whose interests are as diverse as my own.

Are there any particular classes, student organizations or professors that have changed or transformed you in some way?

I loved Organic Chemistry II with Tom Ruttledge because I loved his teaching style. I loved the critical thinking and intuition we developed to deduce mechanisms. Furthermore, Professor Ruttledge office hours were exciting because of his stories and because Cornell's chemistry department's favorite Nobel Laureate, Roald Hoffmann, would walk in and talk to us--giving us advice about vocational motivation and persistence. Succeeding in this class also gave me extra son points with my mom because her favorite subject was organic chemistry too. Outside of classes, my work with the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board (CURB) has been an amazing experience for me because I work as the Symposium Chair and collaborate with my committee to create Cornell's largest undergraduate research colloquia in the fall and spring. I have learned many skills working with CURB but the most important is definitely event planning.

Joseph Parisi ‘18

Tanner Dean’s Scholar Joseph Parisi spent last summer interning for a space tourism start-up company called World View. That’s right – space tourism.

“The company seeks to show its customers, or rather voyagers, the curvature of the Earth by flying them to stratospheric altitudes on scientific balloons,” Parisi said. “The team is comprised of incredibly dedicated individuals, who share in the goal of providing the perspective-altering experience of space travel to the nonspecialized public.”

During the internship, Parisi surveyed launch sites, led a task on predicative analytics for balloon and payload trajectories and co-authored a company report on the Alan Eustace Manned Missions – the guy who broke the skydiving world record by jumping from the stratosphere.

How is he able to do all this?

“The introductory physics sequence, mathematics and computer science courses prepared me well for working with the trajectory models of high-altitude ballooning,” Parisi said. “Most of the problems I am faced with solving require deductive reasoning, something for which Cornell problem sets and assignments have trained me well.”

Parisi has some advice for students looking for rewarding internships like his: “Take on an opportunity outside of your immediate experience, outside of your state, and outside of your comfort zone.”

Meghan Hadley ‘18

What’s your major?

My College Scholar project is about food — or, rather, the decisions people make about food. What we choose to eat has a tremendous impact on our overall health and well-being, so if we could somehow influence the food choices people make, we could improve the overall health and well-being of our society. My intended course of study draws mainly from the departments of government, economics, and American studies — government to learn how to create and implement effective public policy, economics to learn how to facilitate and promote healthier food choices through economic incentives and American studies to explore the ways in which our food system has developed over the years, adapting itself to a changing American culture.

What do you dream of doing after graduation?

I’d like to say that what I truly dream of doing after graduation is “solving world hunger,” but I realize this may be a bit too lofty to constitute a tangible career aspiration. What I’ll say instead is that “solving world hunger” is a goal I’d like to work toward, through whatever career I do choose to pursue. And as it is a goal of mine to one day be able to influence public policy in such a way as to improve the overall health and well-being of our country, it is very possible that my career aspirations fall somewhere in the realm of politics. It is equally possible, however, that I may be interested in working for some sort of nonprofit organization. I know for a fact that there are countless organizations that exist whose sole purposes are such things as “eradicating hunger” and “combatting poverty” — missions I could support and advocate for wholeheartedly.

Hadiyah Chowdhury ‘18

Coming to Cornell with interests ranging from physics to philosophy to French, Hadiyah Chowdhury ’18 said she was completely undecided about her major when she arrived on campus.

But by taking a bunch of courses in fields of interest and participating in a number of campus groups, she found a passion for Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies and anthropology after taking a class with Saida Hodzic, assistant professor of anthropology.

“It was amazing to know that in this enormous school, there was a professor who would pull me aside and take a personal interest in me,” said Chowdhury, who grew up in Corning, N.Y. as one of only a handful of people of color in her high school. Her parents grew up in Bangladesh, although Chowdhury was born in the U.S.

Along with her academic interests, Chowdhury takes an active role in several campus groups – the Cornell Organization for Labor Action, Students for Justice in Palestine and Ordinary People, a theatre troupe. She also worked with faculty from the Africana Studies and Research Center to organize a campus visit this year from Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior minister of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C.

Chowdhury said the Tanner Dean’s Scholar program gave her a group of friends to immediately associate with, a benefit as a freshman in a brand new place.

She tries to return that favor by taking new Dean’s scholars out to lunch and being available to answer their questions.

She also is looking forward to applying for research funds through the Tanner Dean’s program to study in New York City in between her junior and senior years.

Anant Hariharan ‘18

Why did you come to Cornell?

I came to Cornell because of the Earth and Atmospheric Science department’s research and experience in the field of Geophysics. After speaking to the head of the department, I realized that the department would be one of the best places to develop my knowledge and also engage in research, particularly in the fields of geophysics and seismology. The program also offered me the chance to engage with geology in a manner that is more quantitative than is often taught traditionally- one of the aspects I have most appreciated about my study of the discipline. 

What is your major? How did you choose it?

My major is Science of Earth Systems. I’ve wanted to study geology since I was a child, and a project I conducted in high school helped me understand that what I really wanted was to understand earthquakes- the SES major gives me the quantitative, physical, and geological knowledge I need to do this.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities on campus?

My most important extra-curricular activities include the project team I’m a part of: Cornell’s EERI Seismic Design Team. We design buildings to withstand motions from Earthquakes, using a range of modeling techniques to rigorously build a structure. I’m able to apply my seismological knowledge to the field of Earthquake Engineering, which allows me to gain a fresh perspective from which to approach relevant disciplines. I also greatly value my editorial role on the student-run magazine ‘The Research Paper’, which continually challenges me and helps me hone my scientific communication skills.

Are you involved in any special research projects, internships or other academic work?

The research I’m involved in at Cornell is the central part of my time here. I’ve helped with a range of projects, including studying field diaries from Cornell Professor R.S. Tarr’s in the Olin archives to understand glacial change. I’ve since gotten involved in studies in high-pressure mineral physics, an endeavor which yielded a publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The project I’m involved in which most defines and excites me is at Cornell’s earthquake seismology lab, where I use seismic waves to understand the velocity structure and material properties beneath the Main Ethiopian Rift. I’ve also engaged in a course independent study with a professor in my department.

What Dean’s Scholars programs/activities have you taken part in? What has been most helpful?

Simply interacting with the group always yields valuable insights. I particularly enjoy the dinner nights, where I seem to find myself engaged in stimulating discussion no matter which way I turn.

Are there any particular classes, professors or activities that have changed or transformed you in some way?

I have many experiences, but two incredible classes in particular include EAS 7800, a graduate seminar titled “Earthquake Record Reading”. Every week, a particular seismic event is examined and several key aspects of the regional seismology and of past studies of the event are explored. Taking this course let me interact with advanced aspects of seismology in my first semester at Cornell and get to know graduate students and faculty in the field. Another great course was EAS 4260, Structural Geology. Taught by an incredible professor, this course helped me understand how and why rocks deform at a range of scales and was a turning point in my geological education.

What do you value most about your liberal arts education?

A liberal arts education allows me to learn about a range of topics and still focus on my passion, which I find ideal. I have consistently found that the most useful knowledge can be found in the most unexpected places, and taking a range of courses which often lead you to these places helps ensure that you’re always learning.

Andrew Wang ‘19

Why did you choose Cornell?

Cornell is the most diverse school in the world. I can discuss Nepali pop culture with my Nepali friend, or animal ethics with my vegan philosopher roommate. I discover new ways to look at old problems from my food science or architecture or hospitality classmates. There's so much to learn from and be inspired by my peers here and every day I'm challenged to think in a new way.

How did you choose your major?

I'm going to double major in computer science and philosophy. At its heart, computer science answers philosophical questions about mind, knowledge and intelligence. The pioneers of CS like Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace explored the limits of encoding thought as mechanical processes, and the implications of making a machine that "understands." I think CS is a lens through which we can understand our own minds in a very deep way.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in?

I'm the treasurer of OpenSourceCornell. We promote free software, which is the idea that computer code should be accessible for everyone to examine, edit and distribute. We contribute to open source projects from a Cornell dining app to the clang compiler, one of the most important tools for programmers.

Are you involved in any special research projects, internships or other academic work?

After my first philosophy class, I've been digging into further reading with the guidance of my instructor and I hope to pursue further questions about knowledge and mind over the summer.

What Dean’s Scholars programs/activities have you taken part in? What has been most helpful?

I like our dinner and performance nights. I remember getting together with musicology professor Neal Zaslaw to discuss the history behind some of Beethoven's sonatas before listening to Emanuel Ax perform those same sonatas. It makes our appreciation of the arts a little bit deeper and more personal. I also hope to dig deeper into the theory of computer science with the Tanner Dean’s Scholar research grant.

Are there any particular classes, professors or activities that have changed or transformed you in some way?

Philosophy of Science was mind-expanding. I learned that science comes with a lot of assumptions that are difficult or impossible to justify rationally. The class forced me to confront these assumptions and recognize when we demand more of science than it's equipped to teach us.

What do you value most about your liberal arts education?

My friends and I have a ton of fun making a few hours a week to go to random seminars with interesting titles. We've learned about everything from "Thai society as understood by the concept of mandala" to "How to make a time-lapse video that slows down fast parts so that people move in real time and clouds move in fast-forward time in the same picture." So much cool stuff is constantly happening, and that makes me excited.

Vineet Kamat '21

Why did you choose Cornell?

Out of the many reasons I chose Cornell, the most prevalent is that my hero, Richard Feynman, used to teach here. His style of teaching is something that I have continually seen within my professors and teaching assistants; rather than bombarding with information, my professors have helped parse and convey information in a beautiful way and help me gain a new appreciation for the subjects I am learning. The campus was also a major factor in my decision to come here. I loved the lush green hills and the raging waterfalls that are peppered throughout Ithaca. I also loved how quiet and peaceful the surroundings are; the environment is perfect for a focused and fun learning experience.

What’s your major? How did you decide on that major?

I am a physics major in the College of Arts and Sciences with a potential minor or major in computer science. As a child, I had always been filled with a curiosity for the way that our world works beyond our own human experiences. As I grew up, I realized that many of the things I wish to research in the field of quantum mechanics and general relativity have begun to employ the use of computers as modeling tools as well as methods of proving new findings, which is why I decided second semester to pursue computer science side by side with physics.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities on campus?

My most important extracurriculars on campus are Bhangra and Symphony Orchestra. Both of them are passions of mine that help me relieve stress and give me a group of individuals to which I can belong. 

Are you involved in any special research projects, internships or other academic work?

I have not yet joined a research group, though I plan on joining a general relativity research group next summer. I am currently applying to internships to get both work experience as well as money. I have done both in the past, but at a much more elementary level.

What Dean’s Scholars programs/activities have you taken part in? What has been most helpful?

I have attended a couple of the gatherings where the program funded us to go to different events on campus, such as the showing of “Koyaanisqatsi” with a live orchestral group. The deep intellectual discussion we had after the movie were a brilliant way to have fun and be inspired. I also went to a couple of the scholarship information sessions, which helped me understand the process of acquiring a research position that I like. Thanks to these sessions, I have learned that it is more important to love what your research than to get a research position as quickly as possible.

Are there any particular classes, professors or activities that have changed or transformed you in some way?

Walking into Cornell, I felt pressured to push forward into my education without any thought to how much I would enjoy it. When I first came to Cornell during Cornell Days, I met professor Kyle Shen, a physics professor who works in the solid state physics department. When I told him about my plans to become a theoretical physicist, he told me that I was a perfect fit for his 1116 honors mechanics class. I had my doubts at first since I wanted to use my AP credit to skip out of that class, but nonetheless I took his advice and pursued the course. In my opinion, that was the best decision I have made this year. 1116 gave me a level of understanding of mechanics that no high school class had ever given me. It also helped me enjoy physics for the thinking it made me do, not the blind mathematics I had done in my earlier classes.

Alumni Profiles

Linda Meng-Lei Wang '17

Why did you come to Cornell?

Being accepted as a Tanner Dean’s Scholar was a big part of why I came to Cornell. I felt like I already had a whole support system and a network of mentors whom I could look to for guidance before I even arrived in Ithaca, which was very important to me, especially since Cornell is such a large school. I also loved the campus when I visited for Cornell Days—I couldn’t get over the fact that there were actual waterfalls everywhere, and that I would be able to walk across them on my way to class every day.

What is your major? How did you choose it?

I majored in biology, with a concentration in molecular and cell biology. I first became interested in biology in high school, which led to me deciding to try the biology major at Cornell. In addition to all the required bio courses, it allowed me to explore courses in chemistry and physics too, which were also subjects that I liked. I enjoyed all of the introductory biology courses, but as soon as I took BIOMG 1350, I realized that cell/molecular biology was easily my favorite: I loved how it took structures or concepts or pathways—some totally new, others ones that I had learned about before—and broke them up into smaller and smaller pieces or steps, all the way down to the molecular level.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities on campus?

During my first two years at Cornell, I was a study group leader for BIOEE 1780 and BIOMG 1350, which was very rewarding. Later, I also tutored students in general chemistry and participated in the Weill-Ithaca Network, which is a great organization for pre-med students who would like personal mentorship from current Cornell medical students. I did some volunteering at Cayuga Medical Center, and I was heavily involved in research—research probably took up most of my time outside of classes.

Are you involved in any special research projects, internships or other academic work?

I worked in two biology labs while I was at Cornell, one down at the vet school where we studied cancer metastasis signaling pathways, and another in the molecular biology and genetics department where we studied the regulatory mechanisms of protein phosphatases. In addition to research during the fall and spring semesters, I did summer research at both labs and presented at the OUB’s SILS Symposium, which was a great experience. In Dr. Michael Goldberg’s molecular biology/genetics lab, we began using the CRISPR/Cas9 system last year to create a knockout library of protein phosphatase 1 regulatory subunits in Drosophila melanogaster, which allowed me to use molecular biology techniques and also work with fruit flies, which is always fun. In addition, it gave me and the other undergrads a chance to collaborate and organize a side project of our own.

What Dean’s Scholars programs/activities have you taken part in? What have been most helpful?

My favorite activities were always the ones involving dinner followed by a play or a concert. They were a great way for me to get to know some of the other Dean’s Scholars, as well as the faculty and Dean McMillan, in a fun and relaxed setting. I remember one of my favorite activities was dinner with a guest speaker who was very knowledgeable about Galileo, followed by a Galileo-themed concert. I also loved attending the newly admitted students reception in the spring and the welcome reception in the fall. It was always so exciting to meet the new Dean’s Scholars and answer their questions about Cornell.

Are there any particular classes, professors or activities that have changed or transformed you in some way?

Some of my favorite classes at Cornell were ones required for my major. Genetics and cell biology were very challenging but taught me so much, and although I was already passionate about biology, these courses really cemented my love of the field. Dr. Goldberg and Volker were also great professors and mentors who not only changed the way I think about scientific questions, but also provided me with invaluable advice and support during my time at Cornell. Persian was easily another of my favorite courses here, again due to a really fantastic professor who was incredibly patient and encouraging. I only needed three semesters to fulfill my language requirement, but I took the fourth because I loved the class so much, and if there had been additional semesters offered, I definitely would have taken those too. Finally, when I think about classes that transformed me, I have to include Social Inequality. I took this class my junior year, and it was one of the most informative and important classes I’ve ever taken at Cornell. If I could pick one class that I think every student should take, regardless of his or her major, I think it would be this one.

What do you value most about your liberal arts education?

To me, the best thing about my liberal arts education is that it encouraged me to take classes outside of my comfort zone. I explored subjects that I had always wanted to know more about, but probably wouldn’t have made time for if I hadn’t had that extra push from being in Arts and Sciences. Through those classes, I met people I never would have known otherwise, and I feel like I left Cornell more well-rounded and open-minded than when I first arrived. I’d need many more years to take full advantage of all that Cornell has to offer, but I think my liberal arts education helped me make the most of the four years that I did have.

Joseph Fridman ‘17

What’s your major?

I'm in the College Scholar program studying cognitive science, which is a mix of psychology, neuroscience, computer science, philosophy of mind and linguistics. I've been taking plenty of classes in psychology (focusing on perception and neurobiology) as well as in government and comparative literature.

What are your most important extra-curricular activities?

During my freshman year I started a student-run educational program called Splash! at Cornell that has given me and about 100 other Cornell students the opportunity to teach 7th-12th graders courses in topics we're passionate about. Organizing programs that leverage Cornell's wealth of resources to benefit curious students on all levels has proven to be a really rewarding way to learn about education and organizational logistics.

Talk about any summer internships or programs you’ve attended?

I've spent my past three summers in Ithaca. I highly recommend it (feel free to reach out if you're curious about jobs and housing) - Ithaca is beautiful in the summer and being able to experience Cornell without the fast pace of classes and extracurricular offers a lot of great opportunities to explore. You can do research, work on a project team, check out the gorges natural landscape or anything else you want.

What do you dream of doing after graduation?

As a junior, I'm not entirely certain what path I'll be pursuing after graduation. It's clear from my studies that what we know about how and why we make decisions in society - whether they're political, economical, social, or personal - helps us make ones in the future. There are a variety of avenues that would allow me to work with others to help expand this realm of knowledge (scientific research), build access to it (policy and technology), and protect society against its misuse (law and education). Whichever one(s) I eventually choose, I'm sure that the freedom and structure of the College Scholar Program gives me to explore these various realms will be key to my own decision.

Sarah Marie Bruno '16

What was your main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why was it important to you?

I found my niche in the Cornell University Chorus, the all-female choral ensemble on campus. As someone who always had a passion for music, the Chorus gave me the opportunity to continue to grow as a musician and vocalist in the company of about 60 other women who share this passion. In addition to providing such fantastic musical and intellectual stimulation, the Chorus has also allowed me to form strong friendships with people I may not have met otherwise. Like me, most of the Chorus members are not music majors – we come from all different majors, from all five main colleges and schools within Cornell, and our members include both undergraduate and graduate students. Outside of regular rehearsals, we get together to sing songs and relax. We study together in our “home away from the dorms” – the basement of Sage Chapel, the stunningly beautiful building in which we rehearse and perform. We meet up with our male counterpart, the Glee Club, every Wednesday evening after rehearsal to sing Cornell’s “Evening Song” in a circle in Ho Plaza just as the sun is setting.

Being part of the Chorus has also fueled my Cornell pride, in that both the Chorus and the Glee Club participate in many major university functions, including the annual New Student Convocation, Homecoming, and, last year, the Grove Dedication as part of Cornell’s Sesquicentennial celebration. The Chorus even had the opportunity to sing Cornell Songs and the Alma Mater for President Elizabeth Garrett during the ceremony in which her appointment was formally announced last year. We also serve as ambassadors for Cornell when we perform across the country on our spring tour, and this year, when we toured internationally in Mexico and Guatemala. In Fall 2014, we performed with the Oxford Schola Cantorum when they visited Cornell, and we sang at Carnegie Hall in Spring 2015!

What, if any, research projects did you participate in at Cornell?

I had the opportunity to work in two very distinct areas of physics – biophysics and cosmology/astrophysics. During my sophomore year, I worked in Professor Carl Franck's biophysics lab, studying the communication networks and collective behavior of the social ameoba, dictyostelium discoideum. This was an exciting research experience that demonstrated to me how fundamental physics concepts can be used to develop models to predict the behavior of any type of system, even a complex biological one.

The summer afterward, I stayed on campus and began research with Professor Michael Niemack in observational cosmology. We use the Atacama Cosmology Telescope Polarimeter (ACTPol) located in northern Chile, which measures fluctuations in both the magnitude and polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the remnant of the thermal radiation present at the time of the Big Bang. Highly precise CMB polarization measurements may allow us to probe inflation, neutrinos, galaxy clusters, the curvature of the universe and dark energy in the early universe. In particular, polarization measurements may enable detection of primordial gravitational waves, ripples in the curvature of space-time that were generated by cosmic inflation. Until the recent LIGO results, gravitational waves were only a prediction of General Relativity, but now we know for sure that they exist, and we should be able to see their signature in the CMB!

Members of the group are involved in detector development, optics design and analysis. My work has primarily focused on simulating and analyzing the performance of telescope optics designs in order to improve the accuracy of the CMB polarization measurements. We found that refractive optics rotate the polarization of incoming light from its initial state, introducing errors into CMB polarization measurements. I developed a Python model to simulate an optical path and investigate the cause of this rotation so that the systematic distortions can be removed. I have since worked on designs for an optics test bed containing a small-scale version of the ACT optics system. We plan to use this test bed to asses the performance of lens designs in lieu of testing them onsite in Chile.

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

My advice to younger students is absolutely to get involved in research and to not be afraid to try different things and even work with multiple research groups (although probably not at the same time...). In research, you have the opportunity to get involved in real academic work rather than simply reproducing a problem solution that has a clear answer, as in homework sets. For the first time, you are trying to answer a question to which no one yet knows the answer! This is exciting. While progress can sometimes be slow, there is an incredible sense of accomplishment once you arrive at the answer to a question you have been puzzling over for months! For me, research has been the highlight of my experience as a physics major at Cornell. It challenges me to learn independently and to immediately apply that knowledge to work in the lab.

More broadly, I would encourage an incoming first year student to be open-minded to different subjects. Take advantage of the liberal arts education and use the distribution requirements to learn about subjects to which you may not have had any previous exposure. You might be surprised to learn about a subject you love that you didn't even know existed before coming to Cornell!

Chris Mills '16

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I've had several turning points at Cornell. Aside from my faith, pursuing research in economics my sophomore year – boldly, and probably awkwardly, asking a professor for a research assistant opportunity after the first day of his class – was a significant moment in my undergraduate career. From one opportunity to the next, working with several development economists and grad students helped me see some of the ways studying economics can deliver real value to communities of people and opened my eyes to the breadth of interesting and meaningful questions that can be asked in the field. I had struggled with doubts about vocation and calling before coming to college and for most of my time here, so it's been fulfilling to see those early research opportunities in economics blossom into a vision of pursuing something both intellectually fulfilling and with the potential for making real impacts in my lifetime.

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

Outside of my classes and research, I have been heavily involved in the Asian American InterVarsity (AAIV) Christian fellowship during my four years here. Identifying neither as Asian American nor as particularly spiritual prior to college, I'm surprised it happened. What I discovered at AAIV, though, was a community of seekers and believers wrestling with questions of identity, purpose, reconciliation (social and racial) and motivation by a profound faith in God to love the campus. There have also been some pretty positive side effects in terms of leadership development, being vulnerable with others, and learning to receive from others with grace. Being involved has really helped transform my worldview and kindled a motivation for meaningful relationships and work. People ask why I chose AAIV, but I think it chose me.

What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?

Looking back, I'm not sure how much I've really accomplished during my time here, but I'm proud of the relationships I've made and I'm hoping they will carry forward. It was a great privilege to work with friends from the International Livestock Research Institute to help advance insurance solutions for at-risk livestock herders in Sub-Saharan Africa. When I look back at the small 2012-2013 "rookie of the year" sports writer award from when I wrote for the Cornell Daily Sun, I'm reminded of friends who sacrificed a lot of their time to bring information and narrative to the campus. Writing an undergraduate thesis beside nine exceptional peers in economics has been a fantastic experience, and will hopefully kick-start a career of independent research. I'm also proud of meeting with prospective students in the dining halls or at Tanner Dean Scholars receptions, some of whom were on the fence about Cornell, and seeing them come and contribute to the campus community in really incredible ways. I'm also very thankful to have gotten to serve in my fellowship for three years, to stretch outside my comfort zone and, looking back, seeing people's lives transformed.

Solomon Maina '16

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

The value of freedom to explore intellectual (and indeed other) interests cannot be understated. I certainly would be a much different person (probably in a bad way) had I not taken the courses in the humanities and social sciences that I got to take while I was a student at Cornell.

What, if any, research projects did you participate in at Cornell?

I worked with Professor Robert Constable in the computer science department over the summer of 2015, trying to find new representations of computable real numbers. This was rather difficult, but of course the existing literature was amazing!

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

I gravitated towards courses with the most potential for novelty; if the material in a course is familiar, then there's not much point taking it, is there?


Student Advisory Board


Stephany Kim, Class of 2019

Shreya Nandi, Class of 2019

Stephanie Sinwell, Class of 2019

Andrew Wang, Class of 2019

Lisa McCullough, Class of 2020

Shivank Nayak, Class of 2021

Former Advisory Board Members

About Harold Tanner

The Pauline and Irving Tanner Scholarship was created by Harold Tanner ILR ’52 to honor his parents, whose lives exemplified the finest in American tradition. They were both children of immigrants and though neither graduated from high school or attended college, they had a profound interest in education and were civic leaders in their community of Glens Falls, N.Y.

Tanner is president of Tanner & Co., Inc., a private investment banking firm. He was formerly a managing director of Salomon Brothers Inc., and has spent his entire career in the investment banking business. A trustee of Cornell University since 1982, Tanner served as chairman of the board from 1997 until 2002. One of Cornell's most respected and active alumni volunteers, Tanner has led numerous efforts at the university, and is currently a presidential counselor, co-chair of the Major Gifts Committee, and a life overseer of the Weill Medical College & Graduate School of Medical Sciences Board of Overseers.

Tanner and his wife Nicki have three children, including Karen AB '83, and seven grandsons.