Meet Sean H

Major: mechanical engineering
Hometown: Lake Grove, NY

Why did you choose Cornell and/or Cornell Engineering?
Cornell was my dream school for tons of reasons. I’ll try to go through just one of the most important reasons for me. When I applied to Cornell, I was a senior in high school and I knew two things: I love engineering and I love way too many other stuff too. I enjoyed learning physics and biology the most, but I also spent almost the same amount of time learning about literature and art. There’s so much you can learn in your life and I couldn’t fathom pigeonholing myself into just one thing or another. Cornell was one of the only schools I found that not only has a diverse list of majors and research but also people. The people who study at Cornell truly embrace learning as exploration: learning simply for curiosity’s sake. In addition to the incredible quality of education afforded by the College of Engineering, Cornell has some of the highest quality education in nearly every other area of study. When I visited Cornell to get a feel of the campus, there was this feeling that I was inside the world’s biggest sandbox, and that I could build whatever interested me most inside it. If you take just a cursory look at some of the projects Cornell works on, you will find some of the weirdest, wildest, but most impactful applications of knowledge you have ever seen. I remember looking at the engineering website and reading about Professor Mason Peck’s work on robotic squids that are designed to scour the frozen underwater surface of Europa; three years later, I was designing my own Martian spacecraft mission in MAE 4060. If something out of Star Wars isn’t your jam, maybe it’s investigating the link between zombie movies and indigenous oppression in the U.S.; that’s something I was able to learn and write about in “ENGL 1118: Writing About Zombies” my freshman year. If you’re more into working with your hands, maybe it’s constructing a giant dragon with the architecture students to parade around campus on the famed Dragon Day, or designing a clothing line for your friends to wear on the runway in the Cornell Fashion Collective. In essence, the reason why I chose Cornell had nothing to do with the buildings or the classrooms, or anything else. It was really about the people. The people at Cornell, I believe, are some of the most interesting, driven, curious, and delightful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I didn’t know exactly what I would wind up doing with my time at Cornell, but no matter what I chose to explore, I knew it would make for an amazing story with amazing people. Cornell, in short, gives these people everything they need to thrive and explore whatever interests them most, unifying these peculiar projects into not only something life-changing but also beautiful. Not only did I appreciate that, but it was something I deeply wanted to be a part of. Since then, not a day has gone by where I’ve even thought twice about my decision.

What is your favorite thing about Cornell and/or Cornell Engineering?
I’d have to say that my favorite thing about Cornell’s engineering program is the hands-on nature of the work. Back when I was a kid I would always play around with driftwood and little hand saws to try and scrap together a makeshift shelf or a hockey net in my garage–that sort of thing. It’s been a long time since then, yet fundamentally Cornell has allowed me to do the same thing. Except now, I don’t have to work with scrap wood from the side of the road; now, I can work on building an entire mars rover out of carbon fiber, or design a modular splint for patients with orthopedic trauma. These are all things that Cornell Engineering has allowed me to do and it’s been an absolute blast over the past few years. Cornell values both theory and practice in engineering, that’s why you’re encouraged to take what you learn in the classroom and apply it to something you find fulfilling, sometimes even on the exact same day you learned it. There’s immense support here for applying engineering in a practical matter; there are classes on machining, industrial design, CAD, simulation, and product development, among many others. In most of these classes, you’ll be working on your own project every step of the way; breathing life into it each week until by the end of the semester you have a creation that you can be truly proud of. For example, one class that I’m taking this semester is “BEE 4530: Computer-Aided Engineering: Applications to Biological Processes” where my group and I are investigating a 3D porous simulation of fluid mechanics for intraosseous injections–literally drilling into a bone to give medications to a critical patient. In my senior design, I’m designing an aerodynamic electric car body to maximize its energy efficiency on the road. Just two years ago, I created a mock research proposal for a robotic surgery cauterizing tool in MAE “4670: Polymer Mechanics”, something that directly inspired my work in robotic surgery at an internship soon thereafter. Cornell ensures that what you learn in the classroom is not for nothing. Here, you learn everything twice: once in the books and once again with a screwdriver in hand.

How did you get involved outside the classroom?
I’ve been involved in activities all over campus. For example, I’m a TA for “BIOG 1445: Introduction to Comparative Anatomy and Physiology” where I lead a dissection lab for over 8 different vertebrate species. We walk through all the organ systems for weeks, connecting structure to function at each step. In a way, I’ve found it similar to the reverse-engineering we do in our mechanical engineering classes here. It’s super neat seeing just how connected these seemingly completely different fields can be. That’s part of the reason why teaching has always held a special place in my heart, and I love every minute of it. I’m also a volunteer EMT on campus with Cornell Emergency Medical Service, where we respond to 911 calls on campus and give free medical evaluations. CUEMS has probably been the single most impactful experience I’ve ever had at Cornell. I went from not even knowing what an EMT was my freshman year to discovering a deep passion for medicine in all its many forms, including how it interplays with engineering. It’s been extremely fulfilling helping out our fellow students and constantly training each day to provide high quality care. It’s cliche but we are kind of like a big family; we all support each other and help each other out whether its getting a ride to class or being gym buddies. That’s the kind of comradery you’ll find all over Cornell, and it sprouts up in all the most surprising places.