It was a simple realization that propelled Andelyn Russell’s pursuit of engineering: the world is beautiful, and humans need to protect it.
Russell chose to pursue engineering because she was set on having a positive impact in the world. “Humanitarian topics such as food security and sustainable development are pressing issues, and I wondered how I could make a difference. Engineering was the answer I saw most clearly,” she says.
It was Russell’s humanitarian spirit that led her to Columbia Engineering, where she is studying operations research as an Egleston Scholar. Currently a junior, Russell has wasted no time embodying the University’s global mission. Last semester, she studied microeconomics, discrete mathematics, and statistics in Madrid. This summer she traveled to Fontainebleau, France, where she interned with INSEAD’s Social Innovation Centre as a visiting researcher. She was the only undergraduate student intern this summer. She credits her Engineering advisers and professors for providing the support and space to explore such worthwhile opportunities.
Russell’s intellect affords her the ability to be explorative in research topics. In France, she worked with a team to analyze the circumstances of vehicle accidents with the goal of reducing the rate of accidents within two years. In two previous summers she worked on projects at Northwestern University, in one case developing a simple model of the spread of HIV in a generic sub-Saharan African population under the guidance of a professor, in the other, assisting on a project seeking to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. It is through these diverse and important research pursuits that Russell has nurtured her innate sense of responsibility.
Keen enough to recognize a thread between her course work at school and her passions, she understands the importance of the tools she’s currently honing for gathering statistical analysis, specifically due to the emotional nature of many of the issues for which she does research. And her inclination to give back to society is as deep rooted and innate as her scientific aptitude. “I always try and volunteer in some capacity,” she says, speaking fondly of experiences where she taught a Model United Nations elective in a Harlem high school or tutored students in Spain for their International English Language Testing System exam.
Fascinated with world cultures and the ways in which they interact, Russell has an anthropological inclination nurtured by Columbia’s strong global charge. But even with her desire to see the world and change it for the better, she loves her current home base being New York.
“New York City is the capital of individuality,” she says. “The environment promotes creative thinking and selfexpression; despite the size, everyone can find their niche. Yet in following their dreams, New Yorkers work hard.”
It is apparent from Russell’s résumé, her near perfect GPA, her challenging course work, and her significant internship and research credits that she is indeed one of those hard-working New Yorkers. She seeks out difficult challenges in pursuit of a better world, tackling global issues with her uniquely capable intellect. Her work ethic and adeptness in cutting through complex problems will serve her well as she moves forward. Her educational aspirations include earning a doctorate; her professional goals include no less than bettering humanity by working with a humanitarian organization. And evidence indicates this is a goal Russell will achieve in vast and tangible ways.
—by Elaine Rooney