Please submit a one page, single-spaced essay that explains why you have chosen Carnegie Mellon and your particular major(s), department(s) or program(s). This essay should include the reasons why you've chosen the major(s), any goals or relevant work plans and any other information you would like us to know.
To me, the real hero of the James Bond movies isn’t James Bond - it’s Q, the genius hacker who engineers Bond’s gadgets, cracks his codes, and makes all of his missions possible. When I was fourteen, I watched a real-life Q demonstrate ethical hacking at a presentation hosted by my summer camp. The smiling, charismatic man invited a girl in the front to create a password on his laptop. He then tapped a few keys, launched a projector screen, and announced that he would crack the password in less than three minutes. I didn’t believe him, but then I watched, breathless, as the phrase “wheat_thins” crawled across the screen, letter by letter. I was awestruck. I later decided to find out more about hacking by applying to the Cyber Technologies Academy, an after-school cybersecurity training program offered by Sandia National Laboratories.
Arriving to my first class, I felt insecure about my abilities because I had little experience with cybersecurity. However, as soon as the class started, my insecurity dissolved into a pool of bubbly excitement. Through challenging lessons, I was learning how to hack. My favorite exercise was called “Infiltrate the Death Star.” When I launched the exercise, my screen went black, and bright green text popped up every five seconds to remind me that the Death Star was secure, meaning that the firewall was still up. I rapidly typed phrases like “sudo ifconfig” and “netcat 1148”, commands I’d learned only a few days earlier, to navigate through the computer networks like Luke Skywalker zooming through space. Typing the commands felt like speaking a new language - confusing, off-balance, but electric with excitement. When I finally won the game, I didn’t stop grinning for hours.
One of the instructors noticed my enthusiasm, and asked me to apply for a summer internship at the Academy for the summer. Several weeks later, I found myself standing in front of the room as a teaching assistant for the same class that had triggered such anxiety when I first took the course. I helped guide the new students through the exercises, and I often got the chance to lecture when the instructor was busy. I’ve always been an impatient learner, but presenting new and complex material such as the architecture of web servers to teenagers required me to slow down and consider how best to teach a class of diverse thinkers. I was also hired as a developer, writing new code to help make the course accessible to people outside of Sandia, such as local high school students and teachers. My work contributed to the U.S. government’s interest in expanding cybersecurity education to strengthen the technical workforce and bolster national security.
Cybersecurity is a fascinating intersection of two of my passions: computer science and political science. It is powerfully relevant to every aspect of society today, from the military to the medical sector. To explore such a complex topic, I look to Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. The requirements to earn a B.S. in Computer Science include a required minor or double major in a second subject, meaning that I will have the chance to investigate cybersecurity outside of its purely technical characteristics. At Carnegie Mellon, I will have a multitude of opportunities to participate in world-changing cybersecurity research, even as a freshman, at places such as the CyLab Mobility Research Center. I am also intrigued by the fact that Carnegie Mellon’s core Computer Science curriculum includes an in-depth study of topics such as cultural analysis and economic, political, and social institutions. I believe that looking at critical issues in technology with an open mind and a mature grasp of the humanities is extremely important to being a computer scientist. For example, I could not imagine exploring the future of cybersecurity without considering the political ripple effects of Edward Snowden, the moral ramifications of the quantum encryption revolution, and the relationship between technology and income inequality. Curious and excited to engage in a multifaceted study of computer science, I am confident that I will find a home at Carnegie Mellon.
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