(For Engineering Applicants Only) If you are applying to the Pratt school of Engineering, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke.
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.
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