Engineering Alumnus Changing Lives Globally with Free Wheelchair Mission

Columbia Engineering alumnus Don Schoendorfer's organization Free Wheelchair Mission just gave its one millionth wheelchair to a person in need. The Low Down spoke with Schoendorfer to hear more about his inspiring organization. 


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What's Your Story?


The Columbia community is large, diverse, and global. Connecting the Columbia diaspora so our community can connect and share their passions with one another was the motivation for the social storytelling platform, ColumbiaYou.

Inspiration for this program came to Louise Rosen '99JRN while poring over maps and intermittently staring out of her window. Through the glass she could see the Harlem River, and beyond it, the city's most famous piece of Columbia-inspired vandalism, the "C" rock in Spuyten Duyvil.

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The 10,000 Year Forecast: Columbia Expert on Climate

As climate continues to dominate the national conversation, Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is a powerful player in the fight to conserve our planet.

A view of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's
campus in Palisades, NY (Photo: Lamont-Doherty)

Read on for five things you might not know about Lamont-Doherty’s work on climate: 


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Columbia Experts on the Discovery of Gravitational Waves

Last week, physics had a rare moment in the spotlight when scientists announced that they have successfully detected gravitational waves from the merging of two black holes roughly a billion light-years away. This incredible technological and scientific feat confirmed a major prediction in Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, published a century ago. 

Three Columbia astrophysicists were instrumental in the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) experiment, by building the complete timing system that was "essential in figuring out the direction in which we hear two black holes colliding." Their excitement was palpable as they took to the stage at Columbia to discuss the finding with an equally delighted Neil deGrasse Tyson ('91, '92GSAS) shortly after the historic announcement on February 11. (View the video here.)

The breakthrough was clearly a big moment for science, but why was it so important, and where will this discovery take us?

Here's what our notable Columbia astrophysicists, scientists, and professors have to say about it:



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Inside MOOCs: Continuing Your Columbia Education


Eric Foner (Photo: Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning)

If you haven't heard of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), you may be in the minority. Ever since the New York Times declared 2012 “The Year of the MOOC,” more and more universities have used platforms such as edX and Coursera to experiment with online education; and Columbia is no exception.

Through MOOCs, Columbia's preeminent scholars are showcasing the highest quality offerings of the University to serious learners everywhere. Previous course leaders have included economist Jeffrey Sachs, virologist Vincent Racaniello, and computer scientist Michael Collins. So far, Columbia has produced more than a dozen courses and some are part of edX’s XSeries. According to the edX website, an XSeries is a “group of courses that add up to a rich understanding of an area of study.” Later this month, Columbia is re-launching one of its most successful MOOCs, which also happens to be an XSeries: “The Civil War and Reconstruction” with Professor Eric Foner '63CC, '69GSAS, a Pulitzer-Prize winning historian and one of the world’s leading experts on 19th-century America.  

Starting January 31, alumni, students, and anyone with an Internet connection around the world can sign up for this series of three free courses on that pivotal era in American history. The first part of the series (Politics of Freedom: The Civil War, 1861-1865) narrates the history of the American Civil War, focusing less on military conflict and more on political change during that time.

Check out a preview of the course:

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Forbes 30 Under 30

Every year, Forbes publishes their 30 Under 30 list -- a curated selection of the year's innovators and game-changers across 20 different industries, from media to social entrepreneurship.

We know that Columbians are precocious and inspiring - both things that this list celebrates - and so are naturally well-represented among the year's young standouts. Even the editor of Forbes 30-under-30 list is a Columbia J-school grad.

Presenting the Class of 2016: 600 of the brightest young entrepreneurs, breakout talents and change agents in 20 different sectors.

-Caroline Howard '01JRN
 30-under-30 editor

Read on to see more outstanding young Columbians recognized this year.  And if you know of any who we left out, please help us update the list by e-mailing the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) at [email protected]

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A Generous Helping of Alumni App-etizers


It's hard to remember a time before apps. And yet, that time was...only 8 years ago!

Ever since they first emerged in 2008, app popularity hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. As of June 2015, over 100 billion apps have been downloaded from the Apple App Store. It's not that surprising, considering all that apps can do. Nowadays, you can use apps to do something as challenging as learning a new language, something as mindless as popping virtual bubble wrap, and everything in between.

Columbians have been contributing the app store catalog since it began. But, ever since the Columbia Startup Lab opened in 2014, it seems as though app development by Columbians had really taken off. Whether you're looking to train your palate, help children in need, give your dog an online presence, or all of the above, there’s an app for that. Here are our favorite apps from Columbia alumni (in no particular order): 


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Two Columbians Awarded MacArthur "Genius Grant"

GSAS Alumna Dr. Marina A. Rustow and Columbia associate professor Kartik Chandran are in excellent company. They are two of the 24 recipients of this year's "genius grant" awards from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The "genius" nickname stems from the unparalleled freedom attached to it. The grant comes with $625,000 over the next five years.

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Using hip-hop to make better teachers

From TED:

What do rap shows, barbershop banter and Sunday services have in common? Associate professor at Columbia's Teacher's College Christopher Emdin says, they all hold the secret magic to enthrall and teach at the same time — and it’s a skill we often don't teach to educators. A longtime teacher himself, now a science advocate and cofounder of Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. with the GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, Emdin offers a vision to make the classroom come alive. 

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Neurostimulation is the next mind-expanding idea

by Amol Sarva '98CC
originally published Dec. 18, 2013 in Wired magazine

The idea of stimulating brain performance seemed very plausible when I first heard about it, taking my PhD in cognitive science at Stanford. Your brain operates with electricity; why couldn't electric current or waves boost it a bit? Gentlemen physicists such as Volta and Galvani were fiddling with frogs' legs and cadavers back around the late 18th century. Another Italian wrote about curing melancholia with electricity in 1804. And today, everyone knows about the power of shock therapy. 

But what appeared on my radar in 2003 was different: a headset that sent weak electromagnetic waves into your head. Lawrence Osborne, in The New York Times Magazine, reported that after his brain was electrically stimulated, he suddenly produced some incredible cat drawings. Admittedly, this was no peer-reviewed journal: in fact, no lab had been able to reproduce the findings of the man behind this and similar experiments, a University of Sydney physicist named Allan Snyder.

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