Graduate School of Medical Sciences
A partnership with the Sloan Kettering Institute

Alisa Dong

What is your favorite aspect of Weill Cornell’s:

Academic offerings and programs?
I think what really stands out about Weill Cornell's programs are the academic offerings in pharmaceutical drug and biotech development, specifically the "Bench to Beside Course." The course is really unique in that it teaches students to develop a business plan around a scientific discovery. 

Research opportunities?
As a joint program between Weill Cornell and Memorial Sloan Kettering, there are countless research opportunities.  Furthermore, as part of the Tri-Institutional (Rockefeller, Gerstenr Sloan-Kettering, Weill Cornell) campus, these few blocks of New York are jam packed with scientists to collaborate with and bounce ideas off of.  

Faculty members?
Personally, the faculty directors of my program (BCMB) have been very in tune with the students. They have regular feedback meetings about how to improve the program.  As an intimate campus, students get to know a number of professors because many of them live nearby.  Additionally every week there is a happy hour in which students can informally interact with professors.

I think the neighborhood is great.  First and foremost, it's an extremely safe neighborhood.  Second, it's in Manhattan but in an area that's away from the hustle and bustle of Midtown while still be extremely close by (a mere 10 blocks).  You can easily walk to Central Park (10 minute walk), and there's a river esplanade to run and bike on that borders the campus.  Furthermore, Weill Cornell provides housing, allowing students to live in a neighborhood that otherwise they'd be priced out of.

Student life?
I have to say that Weill Cornell's student life is probably one of the strongest of any biomedical graduate school in the nation. A large part of that is due to the fact that Weill Cornell Graduate School provides subsidized housing. Almost all the graduate and medical students live together in the same building or within a couple blocks. This encourages a thriving social life and an extremely easy commute. For myself, it takes all of two minutes to get to the lab, which is very convenient if you have experiments running into the evening. I also believe the size of the incoming class offers a good, intimate experience. I know everyone in my class, and the classes above and below me.  GSEC, or the Graduate Student Executive Council, puts on regular events and provides funding for student clubs as well. If there is a new initiative that you'd like to start, such as a self-defense course or changing the qualification exam process, the school is willing to listen and work with you.  Everyone from the Dean to faculty directors to program coordinators are responsive to student concerns and suggestions.

Walk us through a typical day as a student at Weill Cornell.

- I live in Lasdon, one of the student houses. After waking up in the morning, I cross a private terrace that connects my building with my research lab. Construction on the terrace just finished last year and it's a great place to have lunch, a picnic or happy hour after work. I work on the 12th Floor of the Belfer Research Building, a brand-new building that my lab also moved into a year ago. 

-After checking emails and adding seminars of interest to my calendar, I go about my lab work.  

-During lunch, I can either go home to eat or grab something from one of the many cafes and restaurants on First Avenue or on campus. If I feel particularly special, I'll get the delicious Halal food on the corner of 69th Street and York Ave, or a pulled pork Cuban sandwich from around the corner. 

-My lab work might be punctuated with a meeting with my PI or other collaborators coming in and out.  My floor is very colloquial, so I regularly interact with other labs and borrow reagents when we run out.  

-At the end of the day, I might attend a career seminar on science policy or consulting. Other days, I might go to one of the free weekly happy hours provided by local programs to socialize and chat with other scientists from our campus, as well as the surrounding ones.  

-Sometimes lab work requires staying late into the evening, though other days are easier. On the less busy days, nightlife and weekends are open to all that New York City has to offer. 

Have you had any experiences that confirmed Weill Cornell was the best place for your graduate studies? 

I think one of my first standout experiences was with a faculty director of my program. I am very involved in graduate school life and activities, and he noticed I was stretching a little thin. I didn't mention anything, but he noticed and personally reached out to me to have a check-in meeting and ensure that I was not overtaxing myself. 

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