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Why I Choose Cornell For My Undergraduate Studies

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“Yes!” I thought to myself as I pressed the enter key and watched hundreds of blue, pink, and orange boxes unite to compose a beautiful heatmap. It was almost like a mosaic, but held so much scientific meaning beneath its colorful formation. I could feel the adrenaline flying through me as I decrypted its hidden message and added the plot to the rest of my project, for which I had spent months of debugging and perusing through research papers to bring to life.

For the past two summers, I participated in scientific research at different labs; during the summer after my junior year, I reached out to Dr. Matthew McCoy at Georgetown University in the Innovation Center for Biomedical Informatics (ICBI). I was intrigued by cancer research, something that has always captivated me because cancer remains deadly yet so obscure.

Human diseases are becoming increasingly difficult to trace, especially when they have reached a stage that is hard to reverse. Take pancreatic cancer for example. Although nearly fifty thousand pancreatic cancer patients die each year, it is difficult to diagnose because of the lack of reliable screening tests. At the ICBI, I worked with my mentor to construct programs in R which incorporate differential expression analysis to examine the consequences of deleting a specific gene from an organism. We can then use this valuable data to discover methods to mitigate the effects of pancreatic cancer.

I’ve always wanted to take this research one step further. I want to employ machine learning to overcome the uncertainty of cancer and create a program that takes in gene sequencing data, detects risk variants in cancer susceptibility genes, and identifies potential risks for cancer development. The implications of this project would be monumental; we would be able to pinpoint warning signs and allow for early diagnosis of cancer before the patient’s cancer reaches a lethal stage.

However, machine learning is still an emerging field and I seek the guidance and expertise of professionals. Cornell and its exceptional college of engineering is an ideal platform to continue pursuing my passion, having developed one of the world’s leading artificial intelligence groups for decades.

It would be a great honor to learn from brilliant professors such as Dr. Jon Kleinberg, who researches machine learning and its implications to social problems, and Dr. Mark Campbell, who specializes in human-robot interaction and offers his students riveting opportunities such as building satellites. I would be able to advance my ideas under the guidance of these professors through Cornell’s world-class undergraduate research program.

When I visited Cornell’s stunning campus, interdiscipline stood out as a key aspect of the community as I was able to witness students of all backgrounds and majors coming together to solve problems. This academic approach, especially shown in the Common Curriculum, will allow me to develop my skills in core math and science areas as well as contextualize my work by studying history, sociology, and economics.

I would be able to enact my ideas at Cornell under the counsel of talented, supportive faculty and through a wide array of specialized courses, including Machine Learning for Intelligence Systems,. These are only a fraction of the innumerable opportunities that I hope to take advantage of during my undergraduate years to bring my ideas and aspirations to life. By actively participating in a university recognized for its intellectual diversity, academic rigor, and cutting-edge research, I know I will be able to reach my fullest potential at Cornell. 

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