Student Higlight: Cliff Weitzman ’16

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Hello! My name is Monica Chin, and I’m a first-year student from Lakeville, Connecticut. I have not yet decided on a concentration, but am leaning towards English with a focus in nonfiction writing. Through this column, I will feature a different Brown student each week. I hope to give visitors to this blog a taste of the Brown community, and to give a slice of our talented, passionate, diverse student body! 

Cliff Weitzman loves inventing things, building things, and creating value. He grew up in Israel, moved to California at age 13, and is the eldest of 5 siblings. Most days, you can find him in the Ratty engaged in some conversation about life, politics, economics, or some invention he’s working on. He will most certainly be asking everyone around me questions about things he doesn’t know, and he’s probably be sketching something on the back of a napkin, most likely, an out-of-the-box plan for building a jetpack. He loves entrepreneurship, and has founded several companies. Last year, he won first place in MIT’s Startup Pitch Night Competition, second place in Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Pitch Competition, and was a semifinalist at Harvard Business School’s Entrepreneurship Conference Pitch Competition. He has been a mentor for HackMIT:BluePrint, a hackathon for high school students, and is giving a Tedx Talk in April on “How to Turn Big Ideas Into Reality.” As someone so diversely accomplished, and so passionate about his field, it’s hard to imagine a more “textbook” Brown student.

Class Year: 2016

Hometown: Ra’anana, Israel, and Kentfield, California.

Concentration: Renewable Energy and Economics. Renewable energy is an independent concentration that is a mix of Physics and Engineering.

What classes are you taking this semester? Photovoltaic Engineering, Renewable Energy Technologies, Intro to Algorithms and Data Structures, Philosophy of the Meaning of Life.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in? I’m a tour guide. I’m captain of the Gymnastics & Parkour Club (not an official club yet but we function like one). I’m currently working on landing a double backflip on floor. I am CEO of BoardBrake- a company that is developing an attachable Brake for longboards. I am the co-founder of Hero- an iPhone app that gives you the ability to know when people around you are in danger. I’m working with an AMAZING team (Ben Koatz, Nick Schank, and Tyler Benster).

Favorite class you’ve taken so far? Biotechnology in Medicine! Beth Zielinski is absolutely amazing, she is a great teacher, a phenomenal speaker, and an incredibly kind human being, and the material is fascinating. At one point, as a result of something I learned in class, I tried using Omega-3 fatty acids to develop a transdermal delivery system to allow branch chain amino acids to saturate muscles with nutrients (the goal was to get faster muscle recovery and more growth after workouts) and even though Dr. Zielinski is has a lot of her plate, she took time out of her day to explain everything to me that I didn’t get in class.

Why did you choose Brown? 

I came to visit in Adoch and everyone was smiling and happy, more than in other schools I had visited. Then I found out Brown was ranked number 1 in the world for student happiness for 8 years in a row. I walked around and got into debates about politics and economics and I was learning a ton from every person I met. There were also very obvious, very positive, specific character traits that individual people exhibited and I liked that a lot. Basically, I came because of the people.

Favorite thing about Brown? The people, and conversations at Joe’s and the Ratty.

If you could change one thing about Brown, what would it be? We need far more financial support for student ventures. Brown needs to have a seed investments fund that will invest $3,000 – $10,000 in well developed student projects to get them to the next level. It would do a lot to teach students and it could turn out to be an incredibly lucrative source of revenue for the university. Also shared access to athletic facilities needs to be improved. I have tried to get the Gymnastics and Parkour club approved so many times but get stone walled at almost every turn. Even though Brown has a gymnastics gym only varsity girls are allowed to use it. I am not allowed to set foot in there and neither are any other non- varsity gymnasts. This mistreatment of non-varsity athletes for many facilities. For example, I have a friend who is an amazing Olympic style weight lifter, but even though there are phenomenal weight lifting facilities at Brown, only varsity athletes are allowed to use them, and he and all other students interested in serious weight lifting are only allowed to use the basic equipment available at the Nelson (which is also an amazing facility, but not for Olympic style lifting).

Favorite study spot? Abandoned classrooms and the Ratty.

Give a funny/weird/awkward/whatever story/anecdote from your Brown experience thus far. When Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter/Square, Billionaire) came to talk at Brown/RISD last year I talked to him at the end of his presentation and asked to shadow him in his office for a day. I followed up with him and his staff for 5 months to secure the meeting. Over the summer I had an hour long, one-on-one lunch with him in Square headquarters in San Francisco.

Give one piece of advice for an incoming freshman. Have 3 dinners a day in the ratty for the first 3 weeks of the year. Don’t necessarily eat 3 times, but put in the time and sit with 3 different groups of people. I did this first semester and got to know a very large proportion of the people in my grade and outside of it that way.

Favorite number? 

I don’t have one really, but I have a favorite book! Harry Potter, I learned English by listening to the audiobooks and still have much of the first chapter memorized.

Know someone who belongs in this column? Think YOU deserve a student highlight? Send me an email at monica_chin@brown.edu and we’ll make it happen!

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