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Senior Profile: Steve Huysman

stephen-huysmanx350Third in a series of profiles celebrating the Class of 2011.

Major: Plant Sciences

Hometown: Bayville, N.Y.

Why did you choose Cornell?

Some of my relatives went to Cornell and I visited the campus for my cousins’ graduations. So I knew a lot about what it was like here. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after high school, so I liked that Cornell offered such a diversity of areas of study. I initially thought I wanted to study something related to math or computer science, but also had a burgeoning interest in the natural world.

I also knew that I wanted to study abroad and I knew that I had many options with Cornell Abroad. I spent my junior year at the University of Tasmania in Australia where I did independent research on the photobiology of peas using genetic techniques.

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I had several. I started out majoring in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. I took biology my freshman year and really liked it, so I switched to Plant Sciences. When I took George Hudler’s class Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds during freshman year, I was really inspired to continue down that path. I’ve taken a lot of paradigm-shifting classes, and they’re usually the ones I go into expecting to get the least out of. I keep finding new things to be passionate about.

What was your main extracurricular activity? Why is it important to you?

I was in the mushroom hunting club sophomore year and am a member of the Long Island Mycological Club back home. George Hudler’s class really opened my eyes to a new lifetime hobby. When I was in Australia, I joined the scuba and bushwalking clubs.

I really wanted some real research experience, so I volunteered in Taryn Baurle’s lab in the Department of Horticulture studying endophytes – fungal symbionts that live inside plant cells. Now I’m working more on computational biology, looking at methods to analyze CT scans of roots. I’m really fascinated by the push to develop computational and quantitative techniques in the biological sciences.

What was one of your greatest challenges attending Cornell?

At first I was intimidated because it seemed like everyone was much smarter than I was. After a while, I started to learn how to really apply myself. I guess that, in a way, learning how to approach and solve problems is what school’s supposed to be about.

What are your plans for next year and beyond?

Nothing concrete yet. I’m trying to find an opportunity to work or study abroad again and hopefully get some more research experience. After I satisfy my travel bug I want to go back to school for a master’s degree or a doctorate.

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