2019 GSAS Natural Sciences Senator Seat - Nominations for University Senate Election

Elections timeline

Nominations period ends: Monday October 14

Nominees announces: Tuesday October 15

Campaign period: October 15 - 21

Voting period: October 22, 3pm - October 29, 3pm

Vote counting and certification: October 29

The two candidates for the GSAS NS Senator seat are:

  1. Lisa Kahl, Biological Sciences - Campaign Statement
  2. Weitao Zhu, Mathematics - Campaign Statement

Eligible voters in relevant departments would have received an email from asgc.vpexternalaffairs@columbia.edu to participate in the voting through ElectionBuddy. The email sent out contains a unique access code. For queries, please contact Mike Ford at that email address. 




Lisa Kahl | Biological Sciences | 1-year term

My name is Lisa Kahl and I am a sixth year PhD student in the Department of Biological Sciences. I have previously been involved in student representation in the GSAS and Columbia community as GSAC president and vice president and would like to continue to serve this community by representing the Natural Sciences graduate student body to the University Senate.

If elected senator, I will take issues from the graduate students in the Natural Sciences to the University Senate. Most NS graduate students work directly under a supervisor/PI in a lab, unlike students in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and their academic success in graduate school is dependent on this relationship. Career opportunities, internships and other educational workshops are only accessible to students with available funding and supervisor approval. In addition, experimentation and the physical nature of our work require a high level of continuous commitment which is often not acknowledged by the university through appropriate resources and funding. As senator, I want to work with the Office of Research Initiatives and create more educational and funding opportunities, specifically for NS graduate students. Our research on fundamental scientific questions and work on leading edge technologies are vital for the university’s continuous standing as a top tier research university.

As a student in the Department of Biological Sciences, a department with students in labs on the Manhattanville, Medical, and Morningside campuses, I understand the challenges that come with being part of multiple campuses. During my previous work on the GSAC executive committee, I dealt with many issues arising from this split of campuses (GSAC was the representative graduate student body that served both uptown and downtown students prior to ASGC). As senator, I will continue to address problems for NS graduate students on all campuses and work out solutions that will benefit campus life at each location.

My involvement with the GSAS and Columbia community over the last 5 years includes GSAC President (2017-2018), GSAC Vice President (2016-2017) and department representative prior to that. During my time on the GSAC executive committee (2016-2018) I worked closely with the GSAS Office of the Dean, Carlos Alonso and together we were able to bring about lasting positive changes for the GSAS community, including a graduate grading room in the libraries, a resource guidebook, gym access for CUMC/GSAS students on the downtown campus and the overhaul of graduate representation within GSAS. I oversaw the transition from GSAC to ASGC and helped with establishing the PhD Council during my time as GSAC president. In my department, I served on the board of the Biological Sciences Career Initiative and facilitated the formation of the newly created Biological Sciences Graduate Student Council.

My experience on different committees within Columbia has given me insight into the inner workings of our university and, if elected senator, I want to contribute to the senate subcommittees in a way that will benefit the Natural Sciences graduate students, but also the university community at large.


Weitao Zhu | Mathematics | 2-year term

My first and a half years in graduate school have been testimony to the fact that gender is not well represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). During my senate term, I would like to focus on strengthening both the support systems for women in these academic disciplines and the interdepartmental connections between graduate students in natural sciences. 

Universities across the nation have worked to improve the relatively low enrollment rates of female doctoral students in STEM. Even with increasing promotional efforts, women and other minorities in STEM still face many personal and professional adversities in these academic communities today. Many struggle with lack of friends, role models or difficulty in finding their place in academia. Fortunately, several organizations, including Women in Science, Society of Women Engineers, Association of Women in Mathematics, as well as many individual departments are actively addressing these issues. Leveraging the existing support and resources, I’d like to propose a more inclusive measure to provide a support network for women across STEM departments with the Senate platform. Through peer-organized social and career-focused events, I hope to help build a community and safety net that caters to the needs and concerns of women students. 

In addition, given the interdependence of science research, more extensive connections across departments would benefit graduate students in natural sciences at large. University-sponsored events for graduate students such as dollar beer/ pizza nights, graduate gala or speaker series could help foster a stronger sense of community.

As an ASGC representative of the math department, I hope to help improve graduate life at Columbia. As Chair of International Students Association, Chair of Association of Women in Math and as a representative on several student-faculty committees, I have also actively worked with administration to advocate for student interests throughout my undergraduate career. I believe, with my passion, experience and leadership skills, I could serve your interests well.