What were you doing prior to your degree program?
I was an undergrad in CALS.
Why did you choose to pursue the degree?
I felt like I still had more to learn and I wanted to keep developing a startup idea.
What did you do after earning your degree?
Continued to work on the business I helped start during my senior year – a startup called Element Farms (formerly PureSpinach). My cofounder, Serdar Mizrakci (SC Johnson College of Business ’17), and I started the company on campus - in fact our first retail location was the Greenstar on College Ave. We are hydroponic leafy greens farmers; we grow from seed to harvest and service both retail and wholesale customers in the New Jersey and NYC markets.
What are the strengths of your program, in your opinion?
Tons of diversity in terms of areas you can focus on - you can be doing biomedical research or spending your days in the greenhouse within the same program. The degree allowed for more time with advisors and the chance to take courses which are invaluable to me now. I really feel like I elevated my programming and design skills during my last two semesters while working on independent study projects, as well.
What were some of the most rewarding moments while in your program?
Completing my Meng project and getting my paper submitted/accepted for approval.
What was the focus of your MEng project?
My MEng project was on baby leaf hydroponic spinach production so it was very relevant. I devised experiments to form conclusions that would inform our production estimates and guide us in making CapEx decisions down the line. It involved seedling trays of baby leaf spinach at different densities and trialing different cultivars... I spent a lot of time in the greenhouses.
What are your short term and long-term career goals?
Short term my top priority is scaling my business and becoming a profitable, well-regarded CEA company. Long term I hope to continue developing my skills and knowledge base so I can contribute to the field, specifically in terms of automated labor processes or output equipment decision making to save growers money and mitigate the carbon footprint of CEA projects.
What courses stand out as most helpful for your specific career goals?
CEE5980 with Patrick Reed was probably the single best course I took at Cornell as it delved into how we make decisions under uncertainty. He is a brilliant person and a patient lecturer - a rare combination.
What advice would you give to your younger self, embarking on the journey of graduate school?
Don’t rush it. It would have been nice to stay two semesters instead of packing all my courses into the last semester of my undergrad and one additional semester.
How has your professional master’s degree program experience changed you, both personally and professionally?
Coming from Cornell undergrad, I felt like I had a good handle on how to be successful in Cornell academic courses. My time as a graduate student helped me distance myself from the fraternity and athletic team scene and double down on the areas of study I was most interested in. I developed some friendships with people I probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with much as an undergrad, too.
What professional organizations are you involved in?
I stay up to date with some members of the Cornell CEA team.