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Spotlight on Students: Alex Gorenstein

Gorenstein is conducting research in plasma physics for the Cornell Research Beam Accelerator (COBRA).

  • Affiliation: Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Hometown: Nyack, N.Y.

Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, Alex Gorenstein attended a small, parochial high school. "It was very homogenous and I didn't really like it," he says. "So when I was looking for colleges, I wanted a school that (a) had a good math and science program and (b) was large and diverse, because I wanted to experience different individuals, different cultures, different backgrounds."

Cornell was a perfect match. "It's a very diverse school and it's also big, but not too big where I don't know anyone," Gorenstein says. "It's big enough that I can learn new things and meet new people every day which is always a bonus."

His late grandfather was an electrical engineer, but that's not why Gorenstein chose to study electrical and computer engineering. "I've always loved electricity and electrical devices and electronics," he says. "I'm the most tech savvy person in my family, so I'm always the one that's setting up the Internet and fixing the computers."

He expected Cornell to be challenging academically, but Gorenstein was surprised by how easy it is socially. "It's a lot harder than high school was and that is undeniable, but at the same time, the friends I've made are timeless and what I hadn't heard about Cornell is just how open and willing to meet new people everybody is," he says. "It's amazing how I can meet people and run into them and everybody's just so friendly and nice."

Cornell has taught Gorenstein not to be afraid to ask for help. "High school was all about getting the best grades and being the most competitive to get into the best school, but here at Cornell it's difficult for everybody," he says. "After all, engineering is a collaborative effort, so if you need help, or you don't understand something, it's crucial to go out and get that help."

Gorenstein is president of the Cornell chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), on the ski team, and has been in the Cornell Kendo Club. "For me at least, school and academics are the number one priority and very, very important and the academic organizations that I'm in, like the IEEE are beneficial to that," he says, "but at same time I also have things like my fraternity which are good in different ways because I really enjoy taking part in them."

Under Prof. David Hammer, Gorenstein is conducting research in plasma physics for the Cornell Research Beam Accelerator (COBRA). The eventual goal is to harness nuclear fusion. "The aspect of it that I'm working on is converting the energy from plasma physics into electrical energy and bringing it to the power grid," he says. "We're actually going to have a paper published pretty soon and I'm really excited about that."

He is considering pursuing a Ph.D. in physics, but he's also interested in software programming. This summer he'll be designing financial software at Barclay's Capital in New York City. "Both are equally fascinating for me," he says. "I would be very happy doing either, so I'll see what it's like at the end of the summer after experiencing the internship."

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