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Embracing the Unexpected

Elon Gordon

Elon Gordon ’17

Elon Gordon ’17 is a physics major, Student Senate member, Innovation Competition competitor and student curator for The Trout Gallery who’s enrolled in a 3-2 engineering track—a Dickinson program that allows him to earn a degree from Dickinson and an engineering degree from Columbia University in five years. He discusses those experiences, plus his summer internships, his current project—building a solar air heater—and the value of saying “yes” to unexpected opportunities.


Physics, with a 3-2 engineering track at Columbia.

Clubs and organizations:  

Delta Sigma Phi and Student Senate.

Favorite book:

"Percy Jackson and the Olympians" (series) by Rick Riordan.

Favorite movie:

The Shawshank Redemption.

On choosing a major:

I’ve always been interested in the sciences. When I was younger, my father and I used to assemble Smithsonian radio kits and build little motors out of magnets, coils, batteries and paper clips. I grew up wanting to be an engineer, and when I came to Dickinson, physics seemed like the best option to gain an understanding of the fundamentals.

On choosing Dickinson:

Dickinson is a small school with small class sizes, and it has the 3-2 combined engineering plan program with Columbia University. I wanted to do mechanical engineering, and Columbia had a lot of things that I wanted, so Dickinson was just the clear choice for me.

Favorite Dining Hall food: 

The prosciutto and asparagus pasta at the grill.

Favorite class/learning experiences:

I was skeptical at first when I was asked to be a class senator, because I’m a physics major, and Student Senate felt like something for the political science majors. I said “yes,” because I wanted to branch out, and I don’t regret it at all. Being on Student Senate has taught me how to make things happen, and it has given me the opportunity to make a difference on this campus. Senate also has surrounded me with driven people who can help me better myself by learning from them.

The other experience is the Innovation Competition. My team built a regenerative bicycle brake, and our business model got us into the final round of the competition. Since I had to design and build this product, I’ve had to learn a lot about engineering along the way. It also has helped me learn more about what I might want to do with my life.

Little-known talent:

I love to cook. I’ve had summer cooking jobs at restaurants and catering companies.

About my internships:

I was a software development intern at a medical-software company, a really great opportunity for me to develop my programming skills, branch out and work with a big system. I was lucky enough to have a contributing role in projects that had actual monetary benefits and made a difference. I also was an intern for a solar-panel installation company.

About my student-faculty research project:

This summer I built a solar air heater with Professor [of Physics] Hans Pfister. A solar air heater is, at its simplest, a black box with a single see-through side. As the sun heats the air inside, we have a fan push air through the solar air heater, heating the cool air in a building.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… Richard Feynman.

Post-Dickinson plans:

Right now, all I can plan on for certain is the next two years. I’ve been accepted to Columbia for next year as part of my 3-2 engineering program. After that I want to go to business school to get a master’s degree. After school, I want to create things that will help reduce our impact on the environment while contributing to the technological advancement of our society. I also know that I want to work with people on some level.

Learn more


Published October 14, 2016