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Nitin Malik of Great Falls, Va., studied engineering physics
Why did you choose Cornell?
Before my first visit to Cornell, I was mainly considering the school because of the strength of its engineering program. I fell in love with the campus, and after that point I was sold. I was happy to apply for and gain admission through early decision.
Main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?
Bhangra has been one of my most enjoyable experiences at Cornell. I have been dancing bhangra, an energetic North Indian folk dance, since I was 10 years old, and being a part of the team at Cornell gave me the opportunity to relax from a busy academic load. I've made some of my strongest friendships at Cornell with team members. We have spent hours practicing, have traveled all across the country for competitions and have participated in countless performances on campus.
While at Cornell, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?
Doing research since freshman year. I initially worked with cellulase enzymes to understand their mechanism for breaking down cellulose. The nature of this work could be used to create new enzymes and mixtures for producing biofuels. This year, I am working on an honors thesis project to study graphene (a single sheet of carbon molecules) and its application to biological sensing.
Your most profound turning point while at Cornell?
Junior year, which was the beginning of most of my major-required classes, all of which were problem set-based. Each problem set was difficult and time consuming. It was through this experience that I really learned how to collaborate with others, ask for help and explain difficult concepts and approaches to problems. These are the skills that I hope to take with me through my future career.
Did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?
I learned to have a more open mind. There are so many students with so many different backgrounds, beliefs and interests. Interacting with all of these students on a daily basis taught me to become receptive to different viewpoints.
What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I plan to work as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health for one to two years as part of the Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award program. After that, I plan to apply to medical schools. Hopefully, I will have my medical degree in 10 years, and I hope to either pursue my interest in research or be a practicing physician.
Who or what at Cornell influenced your Cornell education the most?
Most certainly my peers, mostly by collaborating with others. Because of this, I had the opportunity to interact with and learn from a variety of people.
What Cornell-related scholarships/special financial benefits did you receive?
As a Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research scholar, I had the opportunity to begin research early on at Cornell, the spring of freshman year.
What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?
Pao Bhangra (the bhangra team's annual show) - an immense amount of planning, advertising and practicing goes into the show. We invite about five teams from around the country to come to Ithaca and perform; in addition, our team puts on performances of our own. The show has grown larger and larger each year and has become known as 'the biggest student-run show on campus.' Being able to dance in front of thousands of people, many of whom are friends and family, was an absolutely exhilarating experience. This year was the show's 10th year.