Incoming 2021

POSTED ON: September 2, 2021

Each year we like to introduce a few of the incoming students. Hailing from Seoul to Harlem, this year's group includes Jungeun (Alice) Lee, Sarah Magbunduku, Darius Fantozzi, and Alari Billig. We asked them how they got interested in their fields of study, how they ended up at The Cooper Union, what they most looked forward to here, and what they did over their summer.

Jungeon (Alice) LeeJungeun (Alice) Lee
Seoul, South Korea

From the time I climbed up the flagpole to figure out how the flag goes up, I have always been an explorer who was fascinated with how things work and enjoyed the process of discovery. During my high school years, I got the opportunity to do my own research about diabetes. By designing and modifying experiments, discussing with other researchers, and having lab meetings I could see myself fully enjoying the life of an engineer and devote myself to the front line of scientific development. Through this experience, I thought that we need the discovery and development of more diverse material for the future of mankind. And this thought led me to pursue chemical engineering.

Ever since I started to pursue the goal of contributing to solving problems that humanity is facing and will face, hands-on education has always been a priority. And for me, Cooper Union is where I want to lay the cornerstone of my dream. Challenging real-world problems and searching for solutions is what I am looking forward to experiencing as an undergraduate. Cooper union is a perfect place for this. I believe the undergraduate research opportunities will provide me an opportunity to cooperate with other students and the first-hand experience by creating tangible and practical solutions. And the interdisciplinary courses will give me fresh aspects and the chance to encounter diverse fields. The tight-knit community is also what attracts me to cooper. I’m looking forward to meeting people who have similar thoughts and goals with me at Cooper and I'm also looking forward to new concepts and challenges I'll face in the future. I'm excited to start a new chapter of my life here. 

I wanted to spend my summer doing something meaningful, so I decided to help disadvantaged youth. With the help of a local child center, I started tutoring chemistry to high school students. I was fulfilled in a different way when I developed my skills and knowledge. Also, I spent most of my time with my family traveling and exploring various places in Korea.

Sarah MagbundukuSarah Magbunduku
Boise, Idaho via Manassas, VA

Learning about form and design is something I enjoy and am self-motivated to do. I chose architecture to pursue my passion because it is such a vital vocation in society that also requires a degree of empathy. Whether you are navigating a marriage while designing a residence or designing for an entire community, you should consider the needs and wants of the clients. As much as I love complete creative freedom, I thrive with given structures that I use to guide myself to solutions I wouldn't have found otherwise. 

I chose Cooper after deferring at a school that just didn’t sit right with me when it came to culture, principals and financing. With a bit of research and soul searching I found the Cooper Union. It almost sounded too good to be true when it came to just about everything. I wanted to go to a school that doesn’t prioritize “Greek life” since I believe it inhibits networking between men and women. Affordability was also a key factor in the decision, which has further implications when it comes to the culture of the school and student body. Each of the schools also were places I was considering applying to, and to be able to collaborate and learn from each one is amazing. Also being around art and engineering students gives me the opportunity to live vicariously through them.

I am looking forward to finding my rhythm when it comes to school and my interests related to or outside school. I want to research and be politically involved in building codes, zoning ordinances and policies that affect the environment and housing accessibility. I also just want to design cool things. Above all, I am looking forward to getting to know and learn from the facility that I admire and am slightly intimidated by.

My summer overall was restful. Towards the beginning I wound down from teaching middle schoolers painting over my gap year. It was stressful, but an informative experience. I went into the Idaho and Wyoming countryside occasionally to plein air paint, but I did most of my painting from home. I tried manufacturing my own pigments through lake pigment extraction which was a fun activity with results I consider to be somewhat of a success. The most memorable experience however was struggling to ride a horse out to check on cattle. I am admittedly not a good or experienced rider which the horse clocked immediately. At the same time, I was trying to respectfully engage with a cowboy warning me about a one world order, vaccines, and China. It was something special, but the most special moment was seeing my friends coming out of quarantine.

Darius FantozziDarius Fantozzi

Starting at a very early age, I knew that I wanted to study something STEM-related. However, it wasn't until the summer before junior year of high school when I participated in Stuyvesant's Summer Innovation Program that I decided I wanted to study engineering specifically. The main project was to form a proposal for a business and build a prototype for it. My idea was to build a portable container with a cooled interior using thermoelectric coolers and solar panels, which could preserve not only food but also medicine, especially in countries that don't have the same resources that we do here.  This program taught me to use my aptitude for mathematics, the sciences, and my own creativity to form a solution to a widespread problem-- a process that I really enjoyed.

I chose to attend the Cooper Union for a variety of reasons. For one, the focus on a hands-on environment means that I not only get to hone my academic abilities but also apply them in a relatively real-world setting, which would have to be my favorite aspect of engineering. I also like the location of the school, as I am truly a New Yorker. Finally, the relatively small size of Cooper Union's student body makes for a learning environment where I'd feel more comfortable than Columbia, for example.

Few people start college having a perfect idea of what they're doing. Uncovering this mystery for myself is what I am most looking forward regarding my college experience. I am curious to find out what new connections I will make, what lessons I will learn, what problems will I have to tackle and solve, and how it will all affect me.

Over this past Summer, I decided to mentally prepare myself for the transition not only into college, but also into in-person learning. In addition to enjoying a long vacation at my aunt and uncle's summer house, I decided to spend most of my time learning how to play the guitar as a new hobby.

Alari BilligAlari Billig
Harlem via Westchester & the Bronx

Growing up I’ve always wanted to involve myself in anything creative; Be it performing song and dance routines for my family, creating Project Runway-inspired fashion collections with my dolls, or trying my hand at storytelling with comics and short films. It wasn't until middle school that I began to narrow my interests towards the visual arts. My art teacher Mr. Mac encouraged me to enroll in programs ranging from photography to drawing. Most classes ended with us showcasing our work in a gallery setting. The combination of producing the artwork and sharing it publicly amongst my peers gave me such pride and satisfaction that I knew it was something I wanted to continue doing for the rest of my life. Hence my interest in pursuing a career as an artist/curator.
I aim not to limit myself to one artistic discipline. I recognize the modern artist needs to wear multiple hats if they want to be successful in their field. Which is why I was excited to see that Cooper Union’s School of Art encourages the exploration of various creative fields. I’m also appreciative of Cooper Union's tight-knit community full of dedicated and hardworking individuals that won't shy away from a challenge and will inspire me through my journey in the art world. 
I look forward to not only elevating my independent work but advancing my knowledge on art preservation, handling, and history. I’m also excited to collaborate with some of the other Cooper Union students to execute projects and exhibitions showcasing the talent and hard work of creatives around the school and city.

I used this summer as an opportunity to decompress and reset my brain. From family road trips to binge-watching American Horror Story with my best friend, I really wanted to enjoy life and explore new things. If this year has taught me anything, it's to appreciate the little things.


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.