Senior Spotlight: Drew Feldman Mixes Engineering, Literature to Animate Learning

Drew Feldman
Drew Feldman

When Drew Feldman ’17 first became interested in applied physics, he had no inkling that it might propel him toward a career in children’s film and television. The Egleston scholar from Port Washington, New York, came to Columbia to study engineering while also nurturing his interests in literature and philosophy. But working with Associate Professor of Computer Science Eitan Grinspun, co-director of the Columbia Computer Graphics Group, opened up a whole new world of creative problem-solving.

Feldman worked with Grinspun’s research team for three semesters, developing code to accurately model the simultaneous collision of thousands of wire-like objects and predict how they pack and tangle for applications ranging from computer animation to biophysics.

“There are so many ways math can be used to solve meaningful problems,” Feldman says, “and an endless diversity of problems to be solved.”

Elsewhere in the university, Feldman dug deep into English literature to explore how great writing can help explain and solve human challenges. While interning with Nickelodeon and Silvergate Media, which produces the children's show Octonauts on Disney Junior, he found that making richer animated content for children combined his interests: engineering to create convincing characters and environments and storytelling to inspire young audiences to become more engaged with science and the world around them.

After graduation, Feldman plans to pursue a master’s degree in English literature and then begin developing imaginative programming to interest children in the sciences, including physics and zoology. In the meantime, the movie buff is working with the New York International Children’s Film Festival, which introduces him to new animated films from around the world.

“I’ll miss most of all the structured exploration that SEAS provides,” Feldman says. “The experience has made my problem-solving process about much more than just the problem—it’s about the social impact of the solution.”

by Jesse Adams

View all of the Class of 2017 Senior Spotlights here.

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