'I’m just overwhelmed by the unknowns in the field of neuroscience'

Mike Yunxuan Li ‘20, like many sophomores in the College of Arts & Sciences, has focused on classes he enjoys. From exploring fields that he is curious about to interacting with professors outside his main areas of interest, Li explained how he is making the most of his time at Cornell.

How did you choose Cornell?

I liked Cornell's wide range of courses to choose from, its diverse social settings, its beautiful campus and gorges and its “Any Person, Any Study” motto. More than anything, I liked the faculty here.

Did you know what you wanted to major in when you arrived?

When I first arrived I wanted to major in philosophy or history. However, after taking Psych 1101, I got into psychology and then neuroscience. It just fascinated me how we, as humans, could program through artifical intelligence, a machine to master the infinite variations of Chess and Go (an ancient strategic board game), and yet we barely know anything about our own brains. I still have strong interests in philosophy and history, but I’m just overwhelmed by the unknowns in the field of neuroscience.

Do you want to study abroad?

I hope to study abroad in Spain in the spring semester of my junior year. I think it will be a great way to experience firsthand the rich histories of Spain and to get some intensive practice for my Spanish.

You intend on majoring in psychology but also study both Spanish and Korean. What drew you to those fields?

I studied Spanish for four years in high school. I didn’t want to lose it when I came to college so I continued to take Spanish classes. I started studying Korean because a lot of my friends back home are Korean and I wanted to understand their language and culture better.

What classes have you really enjoyed?

I liked Introduction to Biopsychology with Professor Timothy DeVoogd and Routes: Global Histories with Professor Eric Tagliacozzo. In our biopsychology class, we studied the anatomy of the brain, perceptions, hormones, memory and attention. It was really exciting because for the first time I got to understand psychology from a biological point of view. It was also through this class that I found a passion for neuroscience. I’m planning on taking a memory course with Professor DeVoogd next semester. The Routes: Global Histories class taught us the importance of ancient trade routes in shaping our modern world. I’ve used a lot of the anecdotes we learned in class in my writings.

What are some of your activities outside of class?

I like to write songs using the keyboard and guitar in my free time. I hope to take my passion for music further by taking more music classes here. I’m also part of the Go team. We compete against teams from other colleges every other Saturday in the Collegiate Go League.

You have written a novel and received feedback from creative writing instructors. Could you tell us more about your novel?

I got the idea for a novel in my junior year of high school. I wanted to use the story as a way to convey some of the problems young adults currently face in society. I spent most of my freshman year writing and finishing the novel. I’ve shown my work to Helena Maria Viramontes, professor of English, Ernesto Quinonez, associate professor of English, and Brad Zukovic, senior lecturer of English. They’ve given me valuable feedback. Initially, I was a little surprised that they were willing to speak with me because I wasn’t in any one of their classes and I hadn’t taken any English classes before but they were very helpful. In the next two years, I want to make my novel an independent research project and polish it together with professors in the department. The faculty members here are definitely what make the students thrive.

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences. 

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Mike Li