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Meet One of the Seven Penn Students Who Are Pursuing a Single Major


Photo by Cumminsr / CC BY-SA 3.0

As Penn students, we pride ourselves on taking advantage of the resources that an interdisciplinary education at a top university provides. It’s easy to forget just how pervasive this culture is, and you really have to admire people who fearlessly break the mold.

“Single majors” are a rare breed at Penn. While most of us average students let ourselves be led astray by our disorganized passions, these elite few manage to maintain a nearly superhuman focus on one field of knowledge.

Abbie Li (C ‘20) (and yes, that isn’t a typo, she’s only getting a degree from one school) belongs to this select group, which the office of the Vice Provost estimates to number no more than 10. She plans to major in Chemistry alone; while an average student might cave to the primal impulse to explore even related fields such as Biochemistry, Abbie stands out from the crowd.

But genius is not without detractors. Abbie’s friends call her “obsessed,” “uninspired,” or even “overspecialized.” A tragedy, but such is often the fate of those ahead of their time.

If you are lucky enough to meet one of these rare students, we at Under the Button urge you to help us understand exactly what is going on in their heads. We’re as mystified as you are.