Fred Callaway: 'Professor Edelman would always take my opinion seriously'

Mon, 05/23/2016

Fred Callaway


Berkeley, CA

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

My advisor, Shimon Edelman. I took his class (Computational Psychology) because I was interested in consciousness. I came in for office hours almost every week to have discussions with him. Although we disagreed frequently (and still do, I might add), he would always take my opinion seriously and actually respond to what I said rather than just spouting off his theories. Having someone like him take an interest in me was very motivating. The way I think about cognitive science is most significantly influenced by him.

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I got my third choice freshman writing seminar, a class centered around Pinker's "The Language Instinct". At this point, I was planning to study psychology and philosophy or political science. I had never thought much about linguistics. I loved the class so much, I began the linguistics major the following semester. This was the first time I had engaged with ideas that I really cared about in an academic setting. As a result of this one class, language acquisition became my primary academic focus at Cornell, eventually becoming the subject of my honors thesis.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

1) Take Computer Science 1110. Basic programming skills are incredibly useful in almost every field. Additionally, it trains your mind to think in a certain kind of way that I think is very valuable. 2) You're very likely going to get homesick, although you might not realize it at the time. If you're feeling a little bummed out during your first semester, don't worry—it will pass.