Alumni Newsletter Winter 2021

Aerial view of snow-covered Arts Quad on Cornell's Ithaca campus. Text reading, "Alumni Newsletter: Winter 2021"

Spring Tweaks to COVID-19 Plan are Based on Fall’s Lessons

Person puts swab in sample tray for COVID testing, held steady by a site worker's gloved hand.

Cornell adapts strategies, approaches based on Fall 2020 semester

While many factors have led to Cornell’s success to date in managing the spread of COVID-19 on campus, one unsung aspect has been the university’s commitment to analyze and learn, to pivot and adapt. Senior-level committees – working in close collaboration with the Tompkins County Health Department and Cayuga Medical Center – have met steadily throughout the pandemic to assess Cornell’s COVID-19…

Read more about the COVID-19 plan.

News from the Graduate School

Nine Questions for Dean Boor

Kathryn BoorLearn more about Kathryn Boor, Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education

Kathryn J. Boor, formerly the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, spoke with the Graduate School about her interest in food science, her leadership experiences, and her top priorities at the Graduate School.

Read more about Dean Boor.

Graduate School Associate Dean Wins National Leadership Award

Jan Allen with graduate students who participated in a Writing Boot CampCouncil of Graduate Schools selects Jan Allen for award

Jan Allen, associate dean of academic and student affairs of the Graduate School at Cornell University, has won the 2020 Assistant and Associate Deans Leadership Award from the Council of Graduate Schools. Allen received the honor at a ceremony held as a post-meeting event of the virtual CGS 60th Annual Meeting.

Read more about Associate Dean Allen.

Supporting Graduate Students

Can You Describe Your Research in Three Minutes?

Combined headshots of Jason Guss, Derek Holyoak, Carol-Rose Little, and William PennockAlumni find Three Minute Thesis improves job performance

Four doctoral alumni reflect on the communication and presentation skills they honed during participation in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, which challenges students to present their research in only three minutes. These techniques are still proving relevant post-degree conferral.

Read more about the 3MT.

Multilingual Students Find Expanded Support

ELSO instructor Nathan Lindberg with students

English Language Support Office expands to assist both U.S. and international students

Cornell’s English Language Support Office (ELSO) has expanded to support all multilingual graduate students – both from the U.S. and abroad. Previously available only to international students for whom English was not their first language, now multilingual graduate and professional students from anywhere in the world can participate in ELSO programs, including tutoring, workshops, and classes.

Read more about ELSO’s expansion.

Cornell Responds to Changing Student-Parent Needs

Child wearing a face mask

Student-parent grant becomes more flexible in response to needs from pandemic

For graduate student-parents, raising a child and working toward degree completion while staying at home during the pandemic is difficult. In response to the pandemic’s unique financial challenges impacting the student-parent community, Cornell expanded eligibility to allow more student-parents access to financial support and flexibility to spend the money as needed.

Read more about the grant program.

Student Impact

Students’ Vaccine Videos go Viral

Students educate broad audiences on the science of mRNA vaccines

Screen shot of Rob Swanda's COVID-19 vaccine video on TwitterTo Rob Swanda, a doctoral student in the field of biomedical and biological sciences, it was immediately clear how messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccines work. But to his nonscientist parents, it was not. Swanda answered his parents’ questions, using everyday language to explain the vaccines’ complex mRNA technology. Impressed, they asked him to record a video of his explanation to share with friends and other family members.

Read more about the students’ videos.

Students, Alumni Celebrate Black Graduate Excellence

Two days of alumni panels celebrate the BGPSA and its members

Students at the 2019 Renaissance BallEarning a doctorate involves years of long days and dead ends, but finding a community can smooth the path. For several alumni, joining the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association (BGPSA) helped pave the way to success at Cornell and beyond. “Celebrating Black Graduate Excellence at Cornell,” a two-day series of alumni-filled panels, honored the contributions of Black graduate students, the BGPSA, and its members — including the Renaissance Ball they founded.

Read more about Celebrating Black Graduate Excellence.

Student Spotlights

Andrea DarbyLife Sciences

Modeling Infection in Fruit Flies

Drea Darby is a doctoral student in entomology from Las Vegas, Nevada who studies the impact of high-sugar diets on bacterial infections in fruit flies to understand the mechanisms as applied to humans.

Read more about Drea Darby.


Jason ChangPhysical Sciences & Engineering

Therapeutics for Healing Tendons

Jason Chang is a doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering from Plano, Texas who studies mammalian tendon regeneration for the development of more effective therapeutics.

Read more about Jason Chang.


David DunhamArts & Humanities

Impact of Small-form Writings

David Dunham is a doctoral student in Germanic studies from Springfield, Virginia who studies eighteenth-century case reports and how they contribute to understanding current short-form writings.

Read more about David Dunham.


Tianyao QuSocial Sciences

Social Relations and Economics

Tianyao Qu is a doctoral student in sociology from China whose research interests focus on the intersection of economic sociology, social networks, and health.

Read more about Tianyao Qu.

Alumni Spotlights

Adem Efe GencerHigh-Demand Cornell Dissertation

Adem Efe Gencer, Ph.D. ’17, is an alumnus of the computer science program at Cornell. His dissertation is the most retrieved Cornell dissertation in ProQuest over the past eight years.

Read more about Adem Efe Gencer, Ph.D. ’17


Malika GraysonRepresenting Alumni Community

Malika Grayson, M.S. ’14, Ph.D. ’16, is an alumna of the mechanical engineering program at Cornell. As a member of CATN, she shares her views in working to best represent Cornell alumni.

Read more about Malika Grayson, M.S. ’14, Ph.D. ’16

Cornell and Ithaca NewsThe Cornell COVID-19 testing laboratory

Alumni in the News

Cell-free biotech enables shelf-stable vaccines on demand
Cornell Chronicle, 2/3/21
Graduate Students: Thapakorn Jaroentomeechai and Tyler Moeller
Alumni: Taylor Stevenson, Ph.D. ’17

Astronomers Find Possible Hints of Gravitational Waves
Cornell Chronicle, 1/11/21
Graduate Student: Ross Jennings
Alumni: Shami Chatterjee, Ph.D. ’03; Maura A. McLaughlin, Ph.D. ’01; Michael T. Lam, Ph.D. ’16; T. Joseph W. Lazio, Ph.D. ’97; Dustin R. Madison, Ph.D. ’15; and Dan Stinebring, M.S. ’78, Ph.D. ’82

Inside the C.I.A., She Became a Spy for Planet Earth
New York Times, 1/5/21
Alumni: Linda Zall, Ph.D. ‘76

Inspired by His Education, Alumnus Creates Fast COVID-19 Test
Cornell Chronicle, 12/9/20
Alumni: Greg Galvin, M.S. ’82, Ph.D. ’84, M.B.A. ‘93

Keeping it Eel: How One Historian is Using Twitter and Medieval Factoids to Help Endangered Animals
Time, 9/25/20
Alumni: John Wyatt Greenlee, Ph.D. ‘20

See more alumni in the news stories.

Have you seen a Cornell Graduate School alumnus or alumna featured in the news recently?
Let us know, and we’ll include the details in the next Alumni Newsletter! Submit your news story.

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