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Celeste Marie Falcon of Lower Burrell, Penn., studied plant science concentrating in plant breeding and genetics
Why did you choose Cornell?
I've known since eighth grade that I wanted to work in genetics. In 11th grade, I learned of Barbara McClintock's work here, which led me to read up on Cornell and the plant science major. Throw in the diverse student body, beautiful campus and the marching band, and I was completely sold.
Main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?
Playing the flute in the Cornell Big Red Marching Band. The band's history and traditions have instilled Cornell pride in me. And band practices and performances have been an escape from studying. I always get home from practice happier and less stressed. And being section leader for the past two years has been incredible.
While at Cornell, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?
Doing research as a Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research scholar. I worked on a cider apple genetics project freshman year. That summer, I genotyped about 700 varieties of cider apples in Fort Collins, Colo. Sophomore year, I phenotyped a subset of those apples. The next summer, I worked in Ithaca on harvesting and processing the population of wheat that I had decided to study. Junior year, I investigated inulin (a complex carbohydrate with health benefits) content in wheat and collected data on this trait for my wheat population. Last summer in Fort Collins, I sequenced plants in the Maloideae subfamily. This year, I have been working on my senior honors thesis that seeks to map the genes responsible for inulin content in wheat and to discuss the plausibility of breeding for increased inulin content in wheat.
Your most profound turning point while at Cornell?
The Cornell workload was a shock when I got here, and learning to get work done efficiently while finding time for fun was difficult. One night freshman year, a couple of friends convinced me to go skating at Lynah despite the fact that I still had most of a bio web quiz to finish before midnight. That was when I started to figure out that it's best to have fun sometimes. Working hard at Cornell is necessary, but enjoying time with friends makes the experience worth it.
What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Next year, I plan to attend the University of Minnesota to pursue my Ph.D. in plant breeding and molecular genetics. In 10 years, I will be doing research to create more nutritious crops to help people in developing nations who suffer from malnutrition.
What Cornell-related scholarships/special financial benefits did you receive?
I'm a first-generation college student, and my family could not have afforded Cornell tuition without the scholarships and grant money that I have been gifted. I have received a Cornell grant, Wilhemine Lind Memorial Scholarship, Andrew G. Hillen Scholarship, Tang Scholarship, Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholarship and federal work study. I also was enormously grateful to receive money from CALS International Programs and my department to travel to India for the IARD 6020 Agriculture in Developing Nations trip.
What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?
Walks back to North Campus from Collegetown freshman year, doing silly things with my housemates, swimming in the gorges, spending time with the flutes, hearing the Lynah Faithful cheer on our hockey team ... the list goes on. I can't believe how much I'm going to miss Cornell.