What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?
I knew nothing about New York despite having been a few times, I remember even being confused by people referring to the East and West sides! I was definitely naïve, but ready to explore, and full of energy to get started at the College. I honestly thought I was going to be a poet because I was super into creative writing in high school and I was looking forward to doing the piles of reading required by the Core. My first year I signed up for tons of classes in different subjects; I’m glad I was so open to different things because my College experience — and career afterward — ended up very differently than I would’ve predicted at 18.
What do you remember about your first-year living situation?
I grew up as a middle child with two sisters so I did NOT want to share a room. I ended up in Furnald and I turned out to be the only freshman girl on my floor, which was an odd experience! It meant I had a huge bathroom essentially to myself, and it forced me early on to get out into the campus and city to meet people and do things because there wasn’t much happening in the dorm. I really loved living in Furnald — as an extrovert it was a nice change for me to have somewhere chill and quiet to retreat to. I remember my floormates fondly: One was a grown-up child actor, one has now successfully exited an awesome startup and two doors down was someone who is still one of my best friends.
What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?
I remember really dreading having to take science. I had mostly found STEM tedious and because both of my parents have science-related jobs, I wanted to be the opposite of that (poet, remember?). I registered in my first year just to get my Core-required science credits out of the way and I ended up falling in love with neuroscience. I’m grateful that I was forced to do this because lab science was completely different than AP biology, and I discovered that I loved research. I ended up doing my honors thesis in a neuroscience lab, then going to Cambridge on a Gates Scholarship to do my Ph.D. in neuroscience research. The Core was definitely a lesson in getting out of my comfort zone; to this day I’m someone who has major FOMO, loves trying new things and always wants to do it all.
Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?
I definitely don’t want to send the message that women should go to college just to find husbands, but both of my go-to spots are related to love! My favorite place on campus is the Fine Arts library in Avery. My husband, who was my boyfriend for three and a half years at the College, and I used to go there and study. We met while working together on Spectator. I was a pretty driven and serious student because I had my eyes set on going to the U.K. for my Ph.D. pretty early on. David knew that to hang out with me meant we were going to be studying, so we used to meet up and work together at Avery or in many of the beautiful spots around campus, like the Starr East Asian reading room and the geology library.
The other place on campus that’s really special to me is the Postcrypt Coffeehouse, a hidden gem in the basement of St. Paul’s Chapel that’s famous all over the world in the folk music scene. I saw some amazing artists there, like Suzanne Vega BC’81, and it was also where my husband and I had our first date.
What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?
I should have gone out the night that Barack Obama ’83 was elected in 2008! I had been campaigning in Pennsylvania that Election Day on foot, knocking on doors to make sure people got out and voted. By the end of the day, I was exhausted after walking and a long carpool drive back to the city; instead of going out into the streets of Harlem I watched the coverage from my couch. I really regret not rallying and embracing that moment in person!