Ivy Application Written Responses: The “Engineering Statement”
1. Why are you interested in studying engineering?
Engineering combines the theory and application of math and physics, the two technical areas in which I have the most ability and interest. Engineering, therefore, provides a forum for my science and math skills that could result in a development that could change the world in some practical way. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, the verse I might contribute could affect the outcome of the play.
Projects I’ve worked on in AP Physics and, most notably, the course Concepts of Modern Physics at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences have drawn me to engineering. Seemingly simple challenges like designing a shock mitigation device to protect an egg dropped from 15 meters, a basswood bridge designed to bear heavy loads, or a mousetrap-powered vehicle have fascinated me and satisfied my innate desire to solve practical problems creatively.
2. Briefly describe any particular experiences you have had that are related to engineering or that led you to have an interest in one or another field of engineering.
The most significant event that has led me to engineering has been my involvement with the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences (PGSS), which I attended this past summer at Carnegie Mellon University. I had full-blown college courses in discrete mathematics, computer science, molecular biology, the philosophy of science, chemistry, physics, art and science, and a team project. Our team project–The Establishment and Analysis of Chaos in a Forced Duffing Oscillator–was in physics and examined the order present in seemingly chaotic patterns. I also performed special studies of mechanical and electrical-circuit resonance. For five, intensive weeks we studied, wrote, analyzed, reported, learned, and laughed. I loved it.
I have included with this Engineering Statement a copy of the PGSS Course Descriptions document with courses I took highlighted. (See Attachment 3.) Also attached is a copy of the team physics project mentioned above. The copy provided here has not yet been edited for publication in the Journal of the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences, in which it will appear in the near future. I have provided a copy of the Preface to the Class Journal by Dr. Peter Bergmyer, University Director of PGSS. He gives an overview of PGSS and team projects. (See Attachment 4.)
3. How do you think the program in engineering at HYPer might suit your particular interests?
You asked me elsewhere in this application what I expect to gain from my college experience. I said I wanted a first-class program that allowed me to indulge my passions for engineering sciences and literature. That’s exactly how I see HYPer Engineering suiting my interests. It’s the balance of the program I like. The humanities and social science requirements comprise almost 20 percent of the B.S.E. program. I truly want to pursue engineering in college; I wouldn’t be offended, though, if my School of Engineering associates thought of me as a poet.
Another factor has to be HYPer’s faculty and physical resources. My parents and I took an unofficial tour of the Engineering Quad on a sunny Saturday morning last August. The Quad buildings were empty and quiet, which gave me the chance to peer unnoticed through lab door windows and into lecture rooms and faculty offices. The overwhelming impression was that of being somewhere important, where things of consequence happen. Call it a spirit of greatness. Whatever it is, it kept prompting me during our long drive home. My needs would be met here.
Last Sunday I realized, again and more fully than ever, why I want to immerse myself in engineering. I awoke in the midmorning, still drifting yet well-rested. In those dreamlike moments before opening my eyes, fragments of thought, old and new, began to coalesce into ideas that I immediately felt an urge to implement. First, I mused, it would be interesting to write an RSA encryptor (the same sort of computer program that makes credit card data secure online) in the scientific programming language Mathematica, and then see how Mathematica's algorithms and our school's parallel computer would fare at cracking the keys. As I lay still, the practical details of its implementation unfolded in my quietly fascinated mind. My thoughts continued to branch.
Presently, my awareness turned to the micro-architecture of the computer chip I had developed for the Intel Science Talent Search. I considered for a moment, and began to work out new, more efficient logic. The Verilog code for a more powerful design was at the tips of my fingers, when suddenly I realized, somewhat dejectedly, that I should instead get up and finish my art history homework and revise my college essays. It was then, I saw, that although I deeply enjoy these non-engineering activities -- art history is one of my favorite classes and college essays are both fun and revelatory -- they are distinctly secondary to what I love most: that is, conceiving and carrying out scientific projects.
Lying in bed and suddenly finding myself infused with a desire to go and build something last Sunday reminded me of the effortless, exulted inspiration that had, since elementary school frequently blazed up in my rested mind. It was this intense passion for discovery and creation that had over the years driven me to build robots, conceive biology experiments, and craft algorithms for naught but the sheer excitement and wonder of the experience. Now, as the day grows late, I want to again coax flames from these potent embers I have discovered to yet glow hot within. Studying science and engineering will encourage and empower me to do this more deeply than ever before.
At Duke specifically, I would be surrounded by many of the world's top thinkers and innovators, both expert and student, and this amazing camaraderie would inspire me to greater invention. Even beyond this, Duke is special among research institutions for its lengthy track record of developing paradigm-bending innovations. What I've been most impressed with is the school's willingness to push the limits of what humans believe possible: metamaterial "invisibility cloaks," ultrasound imaging, microfluidic systems, and smart materials are but some of the "straight-out-of-science-fiction" developments to have come from Pratt. Duke researchers not only proved these once-unimaginable concepts possible, but in the process of doing so have developed entirely new fields of technology that are now influencing everything from the way we build microchips to how we assay biosamples. This mentality -- that limiting preconceptions can and should be broken -- is something that I cannot resist wanting to be a part of.
To me, there is no feeling more electrifying than that which comes from gazing through my closed eyelids into an untouched glen of new knowledge, and then from its fruits, creating something previously believed impossible. That is the root of my fascination with science, that is why I wish to study engineering, that is why I want to go to Duke.
Smith, John. "Engineering Essay" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 21 Sep. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/duke/engineering-essay/>.