Meet Columbia College Senior Theo Nelson

Nelson, who eventually plans to pursue an MD-PhD, has plenty of ideas for how students can get involved in campus life.

November 06, 2023

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

When Theo Nelson isn't studying, he takes part in student organizations like the Columbia Space Initiative, and, in his spare moments, delves into the university's treasure trove of research resources, like the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Columbia News caught up with Nelson to discuss his current activities and future plans.

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

Roar 2024! I am a Computer Science major, pursuing the premedical curriculum.

What drew you to your academic concentration?

I wrote my first website in fourth grade - and have been tracking computer science ever since. Biology entered my academic life later, through an inspirational high school science research course, providing the opportunity to read primary literature. Throughout college, my interest in combining these two subjects has been increased by my research foci, primarily within RNA biology, and my involvement in related student organizations, including Columbia Space Initiative and Systems Biology Initiative.

What do you hope to do after college?

I plan to be a teaching assistant at Weill Cornell Medicine, for a course entitled, Single-molecule sequencing: training, methods, and applications. My year after college will be focused on research, deepening my engagement with epitranscriptomics, single-cell spatial-omics, and translational methodologies.

My career goal is to translate bioinformatics methodology into actionable clinical applications. I plan to eventually pursue an MD-PhD, combining immunological sciences with a strong bioinformatics program.

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

Recently, I discovered Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. I would definitely recommend incorporating the resources available into either a class or extracurricular project.

NYC is the land of opportunity; especially with regard to educational outreach. I’ve traveled to a large range of communities and schools, as a part of Columbia Space Initiative, sponsored by Sophie Gersen Healthy Youth, to introduce middle schoolers to space science. Their enthusiasm reinforces my own excitement for these subjects.

Any suggestions for freshmen on how best to navigate the city?

Find your community! As a long-time member (and now the president) of the Activities Board at Columbia (ABC), I implemented a policy whereby undergraduate student groups governed by ABC would submit a single slide, representative of their communities. You can find last year’s slides here; they demonstrate the diverse and rich programming occurring on campus. Additionally, there are many other potential undergraduate groups to join, governed by the Student Governing Board, Governing Board at Barnard, Community Impact, InterGreek Council, and the Club Sports Governing Board. The student leaders within these collective groups will be able to provide excellent domain-specific insights relevant to your interests.