Chae Jeong (ChE ‘16)
The Cooper Pioneer sat down with Andrea Newmark, chair of the Chemistry department, to discuss her education, seeing her former students grow up, and the importance of communicating.
The Cooper Pioneer: Where are you from?
Andrea Newmark: I grew up in Brooklyn. I went to Boston for school for two years and then ended up back in Queens. Now I’m on Long Island. So, I’m mostly a city person.
TCP: Can you tell me about your educational and professional background?
AN: I graduated Queens College with a Bachelor’s in chemistry. Then I applied to Columbia to what they called the 4-2 program, where if you had a bachelor’s in science you could get an engineering degree. So, I ended up going to Columbia for a master’s in chemical engineering and stayed on for my Ph.D. The department at that time was chemical engineering and applied chemistry. My research ended up being more towards the applied chemistry so that’s how I ended up here. I graduated Columbia in 87 and came straight to Cooper. I went right from grad school to teaching.
TCP: How did you first find out about the Cooper Union?
AN: Actually, when I first saw the ad for a chemistry professor, I thought that it fit me perfectly, and even though I grew up in the city and went to school here, I hadn’t heard about Cooper until I saw that ad. Although, once I mentioned it to my mom (she grew up on the Lower East Side) she told me that she had heard of Cooper Union, but I never did.
TCP: What brought you to the Cooper Union?
AN: When I first saw the ad, I knew it was right up my alley. I had the mixed background of chemistry and chemical engineering… they were looking for a chemistry professor, but it was an engineering school so it was a great fit. That’s really one of the reasons why I came. I also loved the location, the whole history, but it was also a great fit.
TCP: What is your role in Cooper?
AN: I’ve been the chair of the chemistry department for the past… I guess this is my fourth year. I’ve been a chemistry professor to the freshmen and juniors, mostly. In years past, I was a freshmen advisor, but I haven’t done that in a while. I feel that apart from teaching the chemistry classes, I like to teach students about life, about what they’re going to see when they go out into the “real” world and about how to be good people. I feel like that’s my role.
TCP: How do you like your job at Cooper?
AN: I love my job. I love the students. I’ve been here 26 years. I love interacting with the students. They’re the best part of Cooper. I’m sure most people say that.
I’ve kept in touch with a lot of students. I love seeing what they do. We just had one of our alums give a talk and it was great to see her. I love seeing what they have accomplished, both professionally and personally, like having kids of their own.
They’re getting closer to my age! When I first started, I was not much older than they were. But somehow, it seems that my past students are getting closer and closer to my age! They have kids now. Actually, I had one student and I was told he has a kid older than my kids. I don’t know how that happened.
TCP: What advice would you give to Cooper students?
AN: My advice would be to stop taking so many extra credits and start experiencing life a little bit: get involved in extracurricular activities, professional societies, theater groups, religious groups –whatever you want to be involved in. Put some extra time into that and take leadership roles, do community service. Taking a ton of extra courses is not necessarily what is best for your career and for you personally. It isn’t going to necessarily make you a better person. I think you really need to develop your communication skills and find what you are passionate about. I think by doing extracurricular activities and experiencing all that the city has to offer, you’re better positioning yourself.
TCP: Who is your favorite professor at Cooper? Why?
AN: I can’t answer that. I think the professors are all really good people and they care about their students. It’s a loaded question obviously because I can’t say one person over another and, plus I haven’t taken any of their classes, so how would I know?
TCP: What are some of your hobbies?
AN: I like tennis, snowboarding –I love going on Dean Baker’s ski trips. I like reading, keeping up with current events, hanging out with my family; that is the best.
TCP: Do you have any closing remarks?
AN: As I said, I think Cooper is a wonderful place. It’s in a great location, one of the greatest cities in the world. I think students should take advantage of all of the things it has to offer. I mean, they’re going to take their core courses and graduate. They should work and study hard but I feel that they really need to experience life. Part of going to college is learning to be a good person and maturing into a responsible adult. I think that people should be doing that a little more than they are. And I can’t stress enough the importance of communication skills because when our students go out into the working world or grad school, wherever they’re going to be they will need to be able to communicate. I think the one thing Cooper is lacking in is stressing how important it is for our students to be able to articulate their thoughts, whether in their professional or personal lives. I think they should take advantage of that when they’re in school. And try to have fun! It’s supposed to be four years of… somewhat of a good time. Of course they’re always learning, but it doesn’t hurt to have some fun along the way too.
Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)