Double vision: Double majors

by Krisy Gashler 

Students sitting on bench
For a select group of students, one major is not enough. Only three percent of CALS students are double majors, finding two academic homes among the 22 majors the college offers. Many are committed to meeting global challenges that defy disciplinary boundaries. For others, intellectual curiosity has developed into a quest for both depth and breadth. Meet a few of these exceptional students who have found complementary connections across the college. Photo: Robyn Wishna

Yunru Yu​Yunru Yu ’18

In Yunru Yu’s native China, some street vendors illegally gather waste oil from places like kitchen garbage disposals, slaughterhouses and rancid meats, then minimally process this “gutter oil” and sell it for human consumption. Yu is double majoring in food science and science of natural and environmental systems, with the hope of being able to address problems like this one with a whole-system view. Yu also sees the interconnections between human nutrition and environmental systems here in Ithaca, where student transportation options can impact the price and quality of foods students buy. 

Zachary WielgoszZachary Wielgosz ’17

Zachary Wielgosz became interested in environmental problems in Boy Scouts; his Eagle Scout project involved removing invasive honeysuckle from the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge. At Cornell, Wielgosz has shifted his focus from the earth to the stars. Double majoring in environmental engineering and biological engineering, Wielgosz hopes to work for NASA someday and study hydroponics and life support in space, making discoveries that can help address issues of drought and water pollution here at home, too. Wielgosz is already researching hydroponics at Cornell, working with Neil Mattson, associate professor of horticulture.

Anya GandyAnya Gandy ’17

Anya Gandy wants to know agriculture inside and out: from working cattle on horseback to helping address global climate change. She’s double majoring in animal science and agricultural sciences. Gandy comes from a small Oregon farm with sheep, goats, geese, llamas and chickens, and she has family with large cattle ranches in Louisiana and Texas. She’s already worked at the National Farmers Union in Washington, D.C., at a 24,000-acre ranch in Montana, and with the Noble Foundation, an Oklahoma-based not-for-profit that helps farmers and conducts its own research. Gandy’s career dreams are as diverse as her experience: She hopes to do production ranching and to influence public policy.

Maraj AlamMaraj Alam ’16

Maraj Alam came to Cornell to major in its world-class science of natural and environmental systems program. But because of CALS’ flexibility in fulfilling major requirements—almost 40 credits are chosen by each student—Alam realized he could double-major in biology with only three additional classes. Alam has worked with Anthony Hay, associate professor in microbiology, studying biodegradation of the antimicrobial compound triclosan, and he plans to pursue grad school in microbiology and focus on viruses and their impact on humans and the environment. Alam was involved with Energy Corps, a Cornell sustainability project that captures savings from green energy projects and reinvests the money into new conservation initiatives.

Nana BritwumNana Britwum ’18

When she was 4, Nana Britwum moved from Ghana to the United States, but she has always retained a strong connection to West Africa. Double majoring in plant sciences and agricultural sciences, Britwum hopes to develop salt- and drought-resistant crops to help farmers in developing countries. Britwum was also a student delegate at the 2014 Agriculture Future of America conference. This summer, Britwum was chosen as a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar and spent a week at the National Conservation Training Center before she interned at Cornell’s Arnot Forest, where she researched water condensation in prairie grasses, alongside Rebecca Schneider, associate professor of natural resources.

Avery HillAvery Hill ’17

Avery Hill fell in love with the natural world while growing up near northern California’s magnificent redwood forests. Double majoring in biology and plant sciences, Hill was inspired by plant biology professor Kevin Nixon’s Global Plant Biodiversity course, which included a two-week trip to Patagonia. Hill has continued to work with Nixon on projects involving DNA barcoding and plant species distributions, among others. He’s planning for an academic career and hopes to take a holistic approach to plant biology, studying the ways in which plants interact with fungi and animals and can even define ecosystems