Liam Pulsifer '15 Delves into the Arts and Sciences at Duke

Liam Pulsifer '15 with his mother, Christ School English Department Chair Emily Pulsifer.


Liam Pulsifer '15 Delves into the Arts and Sciences at Duke

Liam Pulsifer '15 has been so engrossed with the offerings and opportunities at Duke University that he couldn't bear to be away for the traditional junior year abroad; instead, he has opted to spend next summer in Berlin, Germany. His varied interests have sent him to all parts of campus: playing the euphonium in the marching band at Blue Devil football and basketball games and doing education research for the Computer Science Department. His choices of major (Computer Science) and minor (German and Philosophy) speak to his vast interests. Although seemingly unrelated, Pulsifer says the two subjects complement each other in their emphasis on the importance of symbolism and logic.

Question: What has it meant to be a University Scholar and how has it enhanced your time at Duke?

Answer: It's been a great support network for me here. The USP (University Scholar Program) community has both undergrads and graduate students, so you get a chance to connect with people who are at wildly different stages of their lives. One of my University Scholar mentors is in his last year of a philosophy PhD, is married, and has a toddler to take care of, while other people in the community aren't sure of their undergraduate major yet. I've found that to be comforting because it reminds me of how many different ways there are to go about a rich, fulfilling life.

Question: What is it like being part of the marching band? In what other ways have you pursued music at Duke?

Answer: The marching band is hands down my favorite group on campus. It's full of fantastic musicians, avid sports fans, and fun people of all stripes. We have a great time, but we also strive to be great, and that's an ethos I love. Basketball games in Cameron (Indoor Stadium) are spectacular, but even better is when I get the chance to travel with the team to the ACC and NCAA tournaments. When I'm not playing with the band, I also play in the wind symphony and occasionally in the orchestra pit for the student musical theater group on campus, Hoof & Horn.

Question: What are your plans this summer (and what have you done your other two summers)?

Answer: This summer, I'm studying abroad in Berlin, where I'll work on my German and get a chance to travel Europe. Last summer I was living in Durham in a house with several of my friends (yay for adult life!) and working for the Duke Computer Science Department doing education research. The summer before that I was a part of the Huang Fellowship, which is a science research fellowship here at Duke. I did research on electronic healthcare records and large-scale data storage.

Question: You mentioned that you are majoring in Computer Science and minoring in German and Philosophy; can you explain what drew you to these seemingly unrelated subjects?

Answer: Yes, I'm majoring in Computer Science, with minors in German and Philosophy. I really didn't think too much about what I was planning to major in until last year (my sophomore year). I just took classes I liked, and then when I stopped to look around, I had taken a lot of classes in those subjects. The German and the Philosophy are great counterpoints to the analytical, mathematical parts of computer science – I think I need them to stay sane.

Question: What are your memories of attending Christ School? And how did it prepare you for college?

Answer: Mainly, I remember the teachers and mentors who helped me along the way. Bryan Martin, Brent Kaneft, and Vanessa Thorman are just a few of many outstanding people who taught and reminded me to think deeply, keep asking questions, and never let something I'm interested in pass me by. I think it's that attitude of exuberant curiosity that Christ School let flourish that keeps me happy and healthy here at Duke.