Tag Archives: 11-2-2015

Wild About Boring Things

Vanessa Ritz (Art ’18)

I have realized that I am falling in love with microwaves. This is one of those unexpected things in life. I used to believe that microwaves were deadly inventions that I would never use. I was that person that would spend an hour convincing you that the radiation coming off of microwaves is basically killing humanity. There is always that person. Bitches.

I had this image of microwaves being house- hold death rays. Just an easy way out. I don’t trust things that are too easy. I feel like this has a lot to do with childhood. I never liked cartoons or kid shows but I really liked Emeril. For those of you who don’t know, I’m talking about Emeril Lagasse. For obvious reasons there was no plush toy, so I had the apron. Emeril had a cooking show that I became hooked on. It’s called Emeril Live and it came on Food Network.

Note: At the ripe age of eight, I got tickets to see the show live and I met Emeril. He held my hand and gave me a chipwich. You can bet I still have that wrapper.

This slight obsession led to many more cook- ing show addictions and I got a false idea of how food is made and microwaves really weren’t how they did things. This explains why I didn’t realize how useful they were sooner, but it only justi es some of my igno- rance. The rest is on me.

It’s kind of crazy that I deemed microwaves impractical because they are so practical. They embody practicality. I aspire to be as practical as a microwave is. It’s the little things like its speedy sweet-potato-cooking and ability to steam all vegetables, even the tough ones such as broccoli. Microwaves are so much more than a way to heat up food. You can use microwaves to completely cook raw food and make dinner in less than ten min- utes. Ef ciency at its nest. Microwaves.

Nixon & A New Book: Topics of The Great Hall

Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19) 

I don’t always go out on a Wednesday night but when I do, I go see a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist chat with an expert on the Watergate scandal. After a brief introduction by Acting President Bill Mea, Bob Woodward and Timothy Naftali took the stage of the Great Hall on October 14. Woodward—now an associate editor at the Washington Post—covered Watergate with Carl Bernstein for the Post. Naftali directed the Richard Nixon Library and Museum and is now a historian at nearby NYU.

The discussion and Q&A session promoted Woodward’s eighteenth book, The Last of the President’s Men, which detailed the story of Alex Butterfield. Butterfield, a close aide of President Nixon, is known for exposing Nixon’s taping system to the US Senate.

For those (like me) who were hardly a thought in their parents’ minds when Watergate was breaking news, Woodward and Naftali brought to light a new dimension of Nixon seldom mentioned in history class.

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Faces of Cooper: Alexander Tochilovsky

By Brenda So (EE ’18) Photo by Kelsey Mitchell (Art ’18).

The Pioneer sat down with Professor Alexander Tochilovsky, known to many students simply as Sasha, about his experience as a former Cooper student and his advice for students attending Cooper Union today.

What can you tell us about you?

I was born in Odessa, Soviet Union. When I left in 1989, it was still Soviet Union, so technically right now it is Ukraine. I was 12 when I left. And then I grew up in Brooklyn, went to high school in Murrow. And then got to Cooper in 1996 and graduated in 2000.

Tell us about your education and professional background.

I got my BFA at Cooper. I focused on design and photography, but mostly on design. I then worked for the Design Center in Cooper, which does most of the design work for the school. I also do a lot of work for pro-bono and non-profit clients out there. Once I graduated from Cooper Union in 2000, I continued to work in the Design Center for a few years and then went got my Master’s degree from Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan. Within a year I came back to New York, I was asked to teach a course here in
Cooper. I have been teaching in Cooper since 2007. And then about four, five years ago, a position at the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography opened up. I applied and was selected to be the curator.

What classes do you teach at Cooper?

I teach two undergraduate courses: two-dimensional design, which is part of the foundation year, and typography, which is mostly geared towards sophomores in second semester and
juniors. It is a co-requisite for advanced design courses.

When did you learn about the Cooper Union?

I think a lot of people have had similar experience. Cooper is such a small school with an amazing reputation that works through organic channels from people to people. I learnt about it from one of my high school teachers. During the summer between 11th and 12th grade, I got a flyer for Cooper Union’s Summer Outreach program for high school students, which sounded pretty interesting. In the first day of the program, Cooper just blew me away. It was a really magical moment. It was a great experience, just being part of the high school program, being part of the fabric of the Cooper Union.
I applied to Cooper in 12th grade. I didn’t think I had a big shot — I knew how competitive it was. But I was really hoping that I could get to be here and I was fortunate enough to be admitted.

Can you talk about your role here as a professor and a curator?

I teach typography in the School of Art. Typography is fundamental to graphic design. Without a good sense of typography, graphic design is very difficult to do well. What I try to do is to teach the mechanics of typography, on how to make good decisions when choosing types. Everything in design is communication, and communication happens predominantly through language. In a word, typography is the shaping of language.

What I try to do is make sure that students are considering things they weren’t previously aware of. The collection here has so many examples of really good typography, and very often I will bring work to class to show examples. Once in a while I would also have session in the Lubalin Center. Any time the Lubalin Center is open, Cooper students can come in and use the resources. This is a collection of graphic design with all sorts of media. Design is relevant to pretty much every industry, and so we have examples of a lot of material that covers different centuries, industries and cultures. For people who are interested in humanities and architecture, there are a lot of things here that are of potential use and potential interest.

I am trying to see how we could find ways to engage the other schools. We’ve been working with the architecture school for a bit, to try to get students there to be aware of what we have and see if it is useful. We are also trying to find ways that it might be interesting
and relevant to the engineering department and humanities department.

How did you interest in typography arise?

My interest in graphic design came from being in Cooper, specifically in the Lubalin Center. One year, I helped with the end of year show installation and part of that happened in the Lubalin Center. After the installation, I asked if there was a possibility for me to work during summer, and they said yes. However, I had just been through the foundational course, and design is something you start in sophomore year. I had no connection to design yet, except for
being in the Lubalin Center and accessing this amazing design work, but something clicked.

I was really interested by the books and magazines that I kept seeing and their sensitivity and composition really spoke to me and made me want to do design. I worked in the Lubalin Center for two years. It really changed my perspective of graphic design. And that’s something I do as a curator here, trying to help students make this connection. There is so much to learn from this material and it really is a way to actualize design history. Design pieces have a timeline, of the people working on it, their contributions to the piece, and so on. There’s something really amazing about holding the actual object you’re studying. And we have so many of these famous pieces of graphic design. You can see what size they are, the paper they’re printed on, every decision that the designer made. There’s a huge paradigm shift when you can see that.

What do you love most about your job?

I love my job. It’s really nice to be surrounded by this stuff. It’s really inspirational. I like knowing more about the pieces we have in the collection. If I find out more information, it means that other people would find out more information. Design is very rarely a one-person task. Twenty or thirty years ago, there were teams of people involved in making up the work, and it’s always very hard to know exactly who contributed. The famous names are the ones that people know, but there’s always a few other people involved. I enjoy identifying some of those people that were involved. And many of them were Cooper graduates and that’s a really great thing for me to find. That’s a very inspirational thing for me and it keeps me going.

“I think it’s important to look at history. As a designer, you’re looking forward and going forward, you’re going to make new work.”

Any advice to give to Cooper students, especially those who want to go into design?

A lot of times there’s a drive to make something different, and that’s simply inevitable. It’s a very natural feeling. I remember having the exact same thoughts when I was graduating from school.

When you look forward, I think it’s important to also realize you need to look back. There’s a less useful way of looking back by trying to copy or mimic things — that’s not what I’m recommending. Instead, there’s a more nuanced way of looking back, to find inspiration in how people make decisions. A lot of the Cooper graduates who changed the design field made those impacts due to a certain mindset that was imbibed here at Cooper. That’s the way that this institution is different from other institutions. It made them go about their craft in a slightly different way and they made a name for themselves. There’s a lot to be learned from those people, especially here at Cooper.

It’s not only looking at work for the aesthetics but also researching what they did and how they did it. For instance, Herb Lubalin did a lot of work for clients who did not have any money. But he also maintained creative control over those projects. A lot of ethical choices he made are still really relevant and designers could start looking for those moments to help them make their career stronger. It’s not just about the money. It’s about the ethics and doing good work and making sure there’s healthy balance.

You mentioned that some designers’ efforts are not fully acknowledged after creating their pieces. Do you have any advice for students to avoid falling in this trap?

It has a lot to do with the politics in the design studio. Today, many design studios have changed and adapted – a good example is Pentagram. They publish a lot of the work online on their website and they credit everyone who is involved. If that culture is not part of that company, then it gets a little tricky.

With the internet, designers have their own personal website and are able to show their own work. Information dissemination is much more democratic than it used to be.

What are your hobbies?

I played soccer since childhood and I actually played for the Cooper soccer team all four years, and I pretty much stay active and I play soccer every week.

The other thing I am really interested in is music. I spend a lot of time
collecting records, seeking out stuff. I don’t go to shows as much as I used to, but it’s definitely a big part for me since it helps me work. I cook a lot too, regardless whether or not it’s a hobby.

Midterm Mixtape!

Brandon Quinere (CE ’19) 

The Pioneer polled everyone about their favorite tracks to listen to while they prepare for midterms. Based on your submissions, we have curated the ultimate study playlist to get you through.

1. “Circle of Life” (from The Lion King Soundtrack)

With this iconic tune on rotation, your GPA will rise just like Simba rose to the top of Pride Rock to lead the animal kingdom.

2. David Bowie – “Life on Mars?”

Perhaps David Bowie’s critique of pop culture and the media will motivate you to close out of that Netflix tab and finally get crackin’ on those study guides.

3. Bonobo – “Cirrus”

The bells on this track were basically made for timing your page turns perfectly to the beat.

4. Jeremih – “Birthday Sex”

If you replace every mention of a girl in this song with a textbook, then you have Jeremih’s ultimate anthem to figuratively fornicating the very concept of knowledge itself.

5. Britney Spears – “I’m a Slave 4 U”

The pop princess’ ode to fully understanding the exam material: “Get it get it, get it get it (WHOOOA) / Get it get it, get it get it (WHOOOOOA)”

6. Gwen Stefani – “Hollaback Girl”

With this song ready on the queue, that “B-A-N-A-N-A-S” hook won’t be the only thing that’ll be stuck in your head! (Hint: it’s the proofs you need to remember for the exam.)

7. Childish Gambino – “IV. Sweatpants”

Nothing pumps up a ruffled college student more than a good old-fashioned banger. This one definitely does the trick.

8. Frank Ocean – “Pyramids”

This song is essentially made up of at least three different songs, leaving you with enough different soundscapes to surely fit your focus.

9. Nas featuring Lauryn Hill – “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” 

That moment when you finally understand that one theorem you stared at in confusion for hours? Let this collab be the background music for that cathartic moment.

10. St. Vincent – “Strange Mercy”

In all honesty, Annie Clark’s voice alone is the ideal soundtrack for reviewing all those damn problem sets.

11. Radiohead – “Everything in Its Right Place” 

“Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon,” Thom Yorke sings on this Kid A classic. But tomorrow, you’ll wake up ready to fill in those blue books!

12. Smash Mouth – “All Star”

We should all aspire to be the sharpest tools in our respective sheds. Aspire for that goal with this quintessential jam.

13. Lil B – “Im Paris Hilton”

Who better than the Based God himself to bless you during these hectic weeks?

14. twenty one pilots – “Stressed Out”

If you feel those long hours studying at the library didn’t really do you any good, at least you have a good beat to shamefully walk back to your dorm to.

15. Cole Porter – “Anything Goes”

It’s the day of the exam and you’re still
cramming? This classic jazz standard is the definitive IDGAF anthem.

Check out a Spotify playlist of these songs!

New Dorms Open Forum

By Ruchi Patel (ChE ’18)

On Sunday, October 18, Director of Housing David Robbins hosted an open forum for Cooper Union students residing at 200 East 6th Street to discuss the 2015-2016 agreement with Marymount regarding Cooper Union’s occupancy of four floors of the building: floors 7-10. Robbins sought to receive feedback from the residents regarding their living experiences and to hear  concerns that could be realistically addressed by the building management in the near future.

Many expressed dissatisfaction with the space, claiming that they were not getting enough for their money. Double rooms at the new dorms range from 120 to 140 sq. ft., while those at 29 Third Avenue are more consistent and average 156 sq. ft. Kitchenettes are squeezed into corridors, while bathrooms are luxuriously large for city standards. When it comes to costs, old dorm residents pay $11,560 per year for a double room and $12,600 for a single room, whereas new dorm residents pay $15,500 for a double and no option for a single room.

Some suggested that building management install shelves on the walls to offer more communal storage, especially near the kitchen area or in the bathroom, which has more than enough space for shelves that do not get in the way of basic bathroom use. Many complained about the fridge space, since the suites came with mini-fridges. Some complained about fridge even after having a mini-fridge and a three-fourths fridge installed in their room as Marymount’s response to fridge complaints. Floor 7 residents were specially troubled by the terrace area, which not only takes up living space that is otherwise available on other floors, but is also a nuisance when Marymount hosts events that are loud and interfere with busy and always-studying Cooper students. A suggestion made was to avoid leasing Floor 7 in future dealings with Marymount Manhattan.

But the new building did not receive only criticism. Catherine Wolfe (CE ‘17), from Washington state, expressed her preference for the Marymount dorms as a convenient option for
students not originally from the tri-state area. For her, finding an apartment during the summer was a hassle, and not worth the effort. The dorms are, in contrast, ready for move-in at the start of the school year. In fact, when Robbins asked if the agreement with Marymount should be continued for the 2016-2017 academic year, residents gave almost unanimous support, as long as future residents are shown the building prior to signing the lease. This was not possible this year due to ongoing construction of the building up until move-in day.

Robbins did mention that the old dorm could not accommodate the interest in housing from the freshman class this year, and that is unlikely to change next year. By leasing out floors of the building, Robbins is pressured to fill the floors with students, but he would rather have the floors as an option for first-year students than to deny housing to those who are not yet ready for off-campus housing or are unable to apartment-hunt prior to the academic year.

Whether the Marymount Manhattan building should be offered as an option to Cooper students next year is still in discussion and will depend largely on student input.

Zeta Psi Halloween Party

By Giovanni Sanchez (ME ’18) 


Photos by Sage Gu (CE ’19) 

To celebrate Halloween this past week and blow off steam from the horrible midterms we all endured, Cooper Union had the club go up, on a Tuesday. At this year’s Zeta Psi annual Halloween party, which was, yes, on a Tuesday, Cooper Union students threw down at the well-known nightclub, Webster Hall. I was glad to see that there were so many of you (a total attendance of roughly 90-100 people), despite the fact that it was a regular weekday and we all had stuff to do. While I was there I saw vampires, minions, angels, devils, koalas with trees, civil engineers, a wolverine and a lot of Taylor Swift’s bad blood girls. However, the award for best costume went to Nish Patel (CE ‘16) because of the aura of success he carried around with him as Donald Trump (Make America Great Again!™). The music was extra hype thanks to Cooper’s very own DJ DGav who kept everyone going until Webster Hall could no longer handle the fun, and Zeta Psi could no longer handle the cost.


Prof. Ronan - Photo Credit Winter Leng ChE '18

Faces of Cooper: Ryan Ronan

By Matthew Grattan (ChE ’19) and Pranav Joneja (ME ’18). Photo by Winter Leng (ChE ’18).

Professor Ronan is an adjunct professor, a Cooper Union alumnus, and a
Mathematics PhD student.

The Cooper Pioneer: Where are you from?

Ryan Ronan: I grew up in Levittown, in Long Island, and went to public high school there. Then I attended Cooper Union from 2008 to 2012. Sophomore year, I tried to commute from Levittown, but it was such a long commute. So for junior and senior year I moved to Astoria, Queens, with my girlfriend. I liked that a lot better, and I still live in Astoria now, just in a different apartment.

Did your girlfriend go to Cooper as well?

No, she went to the New School, which is nearby. We met actually towards the end of high school through a mutual friend. She’s a year younger than me, and we went to different schools.

Are you still together?

Yeah, still going strong. She was a philosophy major at the New School, which shares some similarities with math—more than you might think. A lot of the early mathematicians were also philosophers, explicitly in name even. The concept of building an idea through logic and reason is the underpin of both pure math and pure philosophy. In that sense, it can be easy for math people to talk to philosophy people.

Did you ever have conversations like this one with her?

Yeah so, at one point we realized that philosophy and math people use similar language and symbols. For example, I drew the “if and only if” symbol while I was writing something, and she knew what that was right away because that is something you’d say in philosophy. In philosophy and math you want to get to the heart of the logic and reason.

What do you do in addition to adjunct teaching?

I’m a Mathematics PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center, but my time is spread out in a bunch of different places. I have one class that meets at the Graduate Center, and I also have seminars and meetings with professors there. In addition to teaching vector calculus at Cooper Union, I teach pre-calculus at Baruch College.

Are there any differences between teaching at Baruch and Cooper?

Baruch is mostly business people, not engineering people, so it’s a different mindset. I suppose some of the jokes I’d make here probably wouldn’t fly there—and vice versa. You have to teach towards your audience.

During your time at Cooper, what classes you enjoyed in particular?

I graduated as an electrical engineer in 2012. I didn’t change majors, but by the end of my freshman year I was starting to become more interested in math. I really liked classes with theoretical elements. In my sophomore year I took complex variables with Professor Smyth. It was one of my favorite courses I took here. It’s nothing you would guess to see a theorem statement, then to see the proof, and then to actually use the theorem in action, I really loved that. Basically after that course I had my eyes set on math rather than EE.

Did that class influence you career-wise?

Yes, I took almost every 300 level math course offered, even if it meant I was taking over 20 credits a semester. I still got the EE major, and I feel like I know the material well. However, I also made sure to take as many math electives as I could fit into my schedule, and it was worth it.

What did you do over the summers during your four years here?

One big thing I did between my junior and senior years was a research experience for undergrads (REU) at Williams College in probability and number theory. We got two results and one of them was published. That REU was really fun.

Did that help with your grad school applications?

Yeah, that helped a lot with grad school. Especially if you’re interested in math at Cooper, then I think the REU is very important—maybe more so than at other schools. There’s no math major at Cooper, so it’s helpful to show grad schools that you’re really serious about math and math research.

Do you have advice for graduate students?

It depends a lot on your field. I will say in some sense, being a Cooper student was more stressful than being a graduate student now. Even though there might be more work, to me it feels like less work because I only have to focus on math courses.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

Right now I’m focused mostly on finishing my PhD in analytic number theory. After that I don’t know, but I do want to stay in academia and keep teaching. In particular, I really like teaching here, and I didn’t expect to enjoy teaching as much as I do.

How would you describe your transition from “Ryan” to “Prof. Ronan?”

There wasn’t too much of a transition for me. I think as a person I’m constant, even if people are calling me different things. I don’t feel like I’ve changed too much when I’m wearing different hats.

“For a grad student, I think I play way too much Super Smash Bros.”

In a lot of math classes we talk about putting new methods in our “math toolbox.” Do you have a “math professor toolbox?”

The most literal answer is my soap box, which I use to hold my colored chalk so the chalk doesn’t break. The colored chalk is very useful as well for illustrating a point. It’s worth every penny. I also like to illustrate by example as quickly as possible, since it’s easy to get lost in the abstract.

What kind of professor do you aim to be?

I would hope that I’m thorough and methodical. I would want my notes to be a good reference so that people could study from them. I also hope that I’m easy enough to approach. The worst thing that could happen—especially at Cooper—is thinking, “I have a question, but this is CU and I’m afraid to ask it.”

What might be some things people don’t know you do outside of Cooper?

Well, I’m a complete night owl. I really like games in general, especially card games. The more I became a math person, the more I learned that math people are into games. It’s the way our minds think. Also, for a grad student I think I play way too much Super Smash Bros.

Do you have any advice to Cooper students?

A couple things: Try very hard not to burn out early. You have to rest between studying, so if your brain is not working, take an hour or a night off. The other thing I would say is to take courses that interest you. I didn’t have to take complex variables, for example, but it ended up being the stepping-stone to where I am now.

What about student life in NY? 

It seems like a lot of students like to live in Manhattan. While that’s a good idea, I really enjoy living in Astoria, Queens. The rent is cheaper and the commute is not much longer. It’s productive time to be on the subway if you use it right. Since I’m not walking, I can do other things.

Are there any interesting stories from your days at Cooper?

So my sophomore year around finals time a new Pokémon game came out, the one bundled with a pedometer. In a break between classes, there was a crowd of about 15 EE’s crowded around this pedometer trying to figure out how it works, how to get as many steps onto it as possible, and basically trying to reverse-engineer this pedometer all to get a few extra level points for the Pokémon. I remember that visual summing up a lot of the things I like about Cooper, like the enthusiasm of everyone involved.