Meet Columbia College Senior Haroon Arain

Neuroscience and New York restaurants are his current passions.

Eve Glasberg
October 18, 2023

Notebook is a Columbia News series that highlights just some of the many fascinating students who study at our University. 

Haroon Arain intends to go to medical school and become a doctor. But in the meantime, he’s working hard and making the most of his time at Columbia, both on campus and throughout the city.

When are you graduating from Columbia, and what is your major?

I am graduating from Columbia College in 2024. I am majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior, and am also on the pre-medical track.

What drew you to your academic concentration?

Neuroscience has always fascinated me. Having immigrated from Pakistan to New York at age 10, I was confronted with the magic of personality science at a young age when I found myself perplexed by the stark contrast in people’s personalities across cultures. Back then, I wondered: How can two humans, albeit from different countries, view the world so differently, to the extent of even having distinct physiological responses to different experiences? With time (and maybe some middle school science), I found out that it was all due to that squishy ball of chemicals known as the brain! I nurtured this interest through the years, and eventually developed deep curiosities in neural plasticity (how the brain changes and rewires), psychiatric disorders, and human consciousness.

Studying neuroscience has helped me address these curiosities by providing logical (although incomplete) mechanisms for such phenomena—while raising even more philosophical questions. I have had the opportunity to conduct research exploring the neuronal circuitry underlying memory deficits associated with schizophrenia, and am now captivated by the research side of neuroscience. I am committed to neuroscience, and I am excited to see how the field will evolve over time, and demystify the mechanisms underlying all of our philosophical wonders even further!

What do you hope to do after college?

In the near future, I aspire to attend medical school, and eventually hope to practice medicine in a field deeply interconnected with the brain, such as ophthalmology, psychiatry, or neurology. For the next year after graduation, though, my plans are a little less certain. I want to take a gap year to apply to medical school, but am unsure of whether the remainder of my time will be spent completing more neuroscience research, working at a hospital, or doing volunteer work at an ophthalmology camp in Pakistan. Regardless, I intend on taking advantage of the break from academic work to do something active and engaging.

How do you like studying in New York? What are your favorite urban activities?

I have absolutely loved going to school in New York, primarily because there are so many (maybe too many) fun distractions. I value the sheer diversity of things to do, ranging from shopping for niche ingredients for authentic cooking, to going to Arlene’s Grocery on the Lower East Side for live rock music, to visiting Fort Tryon Park for a peaceful picnic.

I appreciate that studying in this city lets me step away from school when needed, and develop my own hobbies and passions. And, of course, the ease in getting around via public transit makes everything so accessible.

Any suggestions on how to best navigate the city, and any recommendations for places to go, things to do, or where to eat?

Be open to trying new things! There is so much to learn about in New York beyond campus, so take advantage of that by visiting new shops and restaurants. I would advise making a list of specific attractions that cater to your personal interests.

Just for starters, here are some overlooked places close to Columbia  that are fantastic: ROKC (ramen shop), Dulceria (bakery), 108 Food Dried Hot Pot(Schezuan food), Silver Moon Bakery, The Craftsman (bar-cafe), Manolo Tapas(Spanish food), and Anar (Indian food).