On Monday, we learned the identities of the academic top dogs in CC, and last night, Bwog caught up with this year’s valedictorian, Arianne Richard.

How did you find out that you were valedictorian, and did you do anything special to celebrate? Dean [Michael] Pippenger emailed me about two weeks ago with the news of the committee decision.  After a laughing fit in a stairwell (lame, I realize, but I was not in a place where I could start jumping up and down publicly), I called my parents and told several friends.  My weekend then became a series of celebratory dinners and drinks.

Do people treat you differently now that you’re valedictorian? Not at all.  And I am very glad.  Except campus publications…this is new.

Did you ever find the Alma Mater’s owl? I hate to burst any legend-loving bubbles, but I never even looked for it.  I actually don’t know where it is.

What’s your go-to study strategy when trying to stay focused? I write.  Everything.  I have a terrible time paying attention to anything I read unless I’m taking some sort of notes.  (Several of my classmates can probably attest to my frantic scribbling during lectures.)  Even when I am reading my class notes before an exam, I write all over them.  In the end they’re illegible.

You’ve done a lot of dance activities on campus (Dance Marathon, Dance Theater Workshop, etc.) – what role has dance played in your Columbia experience? I actually chose Columbia, in part, because I would be able to continue dancing while majoring in a science.  Dance has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, and I am really glad that I could maintain this through college.  I am drawn to dance as a means of creative expression, so any opportunity that I have had to choreograph, improvise, or perform while at Columbia has been a highlight.  I wouldn’t call dancing a release from my academic life, but rather a welcomed shift in perspective.  The community built around the dance department here is also a spectacularly creative, brilliant, and welcoming group.

The Dance Marathon is really a 28-hour party.  I have found nothing so cathartic as jumping for 28-hours straight and few causes so worthy as preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission.  This event has been central to my winters at Columbia, and I highly recommend that everyone do it at least once.

What were your favorite and least favorite classes?

Favorite: CC (particularly thanks to Professor Scharffenberger), Intro to Hispanic Cultures (ditto Profesora Aguilar), Orgo (don’t laugh too hard), Immunology, Molecular Systems Biology, Chemical Genomics, Modern V/Modern VI/(whatever level she’s teaching) with Jodi Melnick

Least favorite: Frontiers of Science, General Chemistry Lab

General plans for the future? In the past few days, I have come to realize that I should really keep the response to this question to about two sentences.  So here we go:  I will be working at the NIH next year while applying to graduate school.  I plan to enter a PhD program in the fall of 2011, where I hope to combine my interests in biophysics and immunology in order to study immunological signaling paradigms.