Your statement of purpose should identify personal and professional goals. It should also discuss your development to date and your intentions relative to graduate study and life beyond Stanford. The ME Graduate Admissions Committee reads your statement of purpose with interest because, along with the letters of recommendation, it offers insight into who you are as an individual. Your statement of purpose should not exceed two pages in length (single spaced).
By all accounts, I have lived a blessed life. Though my family has never been wealthy, my parents’ self-sacrifice provided me with more than some children ever dream of: a nice home and access to a quality education. I am forever appreciative for this and have striven to make the most of the opportunities granted to me. My strongest desire is to give back to the community that has entrusted me with so much, an ambition that I aim to accomplish with continued hard work. As such, it is my tireless work ethic that defines me and has driven me to complete my undergraduate studies in three years: one at Carnegie Mellon and two at Cornell. Having achieved great academic success, I consider a career in engineering research to be the primary avenue through which I can make a positive impact on the lives of others. To this end, I now seek admission to Stanford’s Master of Science program in mechanical engineering to, with the ultimate intention of earning a Ph.D., develop research skills that I will utilize to contribute to the world in a significant fashion.
I intend to concentrate my graduate studies within a dynamic realm of energy research with applications in sustainable transportation, such as biofuel or fuel cell technology. Given both volatile oil prices due to geopolitical instability and continued concerns regarding climate change, I believe that renewable transportation fuels will assume a significant role in meeting the next century’s increased energy demand in a robust yet carbon-neutral manner. I am very interested in thermochemical biomass conversion processes like pyrolysis and gasification, as well biochemical processes, which have all shown great potential in producing second-generation biofuels that do not disrupt primary food supply and prices. In particular, I would like to conduct research that utilizes a balance of experimental investigation and numerical simulation to improve the scientific community’s understanding of the intra-particle heat and mass transport present in such conversions. Furthermore, I would like to construct kinetic models that better describe biofuel combustion. In addition to biofuel, I am interested in the reaction mechanisms and catalyst design principles that dictate energy efficiency in low temperature electrochemical devices such as fuel cells (PEMFCs and AMFCs). I would like to pursue the discovery of electrocatalytic surfaces that improve these fuel cells’ conversion efficiency, which has thus far been limited by slow electro-kinetics. Such progress would serve a critical role in enabling greater commercialization of fuel cell vehicles. While I am resolute in my decision to pursue sustainable transportation research at the graduate level, I would welcome the opportunity to study other energy-related subjects if there are no matching projects immediately available at Stanford. In the long term, after earning my Ph.D. and becoming seasoned through professional experience, I hope to lead an R&D facility that not only advances biofuel and fuel cells scientifically, but also creates economies of scale that enable these technologies’ large-scale industrialization.
Given my stated aspirations, Stanford is an ideal institution at which to earn my MS, and ultimately my Ph.D., in mechanical engineering. World renown and at the forefront of innovation, Stanford has built itself a legacy upon countless scientific and technological advancements, forming a rich tradition that I hope to become a part of. The Department of Mechanical Engineering features accomplished faculty working in cutting-edge fields of energy research and, in reading their academic papers, I have identified several professors that I would be eager to work for. I have reached out to Professor Reginald Mitchell to express my interest in his studies aimed at developing fuel cells powered by coal or biomass. Likewise, I have spoken over the phone with Professor Hai Wang and discussed his current projects pertaining to combustion, nanocatalysis, and nanostructures for supercapacitors. Finally, I have contacted Professor Xiaolin Zheng, whose interdisciplinary research in combustion, nanomaterials, and energy conversion is also of great interest to me. Although some of these projects are not directly related to my intended concentration in biofuel or fuel cell technology, they would serve as fantastic learning opportunities and perhaps prompt me to modify my focus within energy. I am confident that, in exchange for access to Stanford’s outstanding faculty and immense array of advanced energy courses, I would add great value to any research group.
Despite only five college semesters to date, I have acquired a broad range of research, project, and work experience that makes me a strong candidate for Stanford’s MS program. This fall I am working in Professor Mason Peck’s research group within the propulsion subsystem of his lunar CubeSat project, an electrolysis-powered nano-satellite that will eventually orbit the Moon. My contributions have included a series of propulsion characterization tests in which I have measured key thrust and efficiency metrics in a thermal vacuum chamber to corroborate our system’s predicted performance based on theory and numerical simulation. I have also investigated the performance levels of existing nano-satellite propulsion techniques to demonstrate the techno-economic viability of the electrolysis platform. Last spring I served on Professor Peck’s student project team, “Violet,” which is producing another CubeSat that will orbit Earth next year as the first nano-satellite steered by control-moment gyroscopes. As part of the integration and testing subsystem, I devised several tests that ensured proper functioning of various data transfer mechanisms and created a module that enabled the team to accurately monitor the power board. In addition to Violet, I gained further project team experience through two semesters on Cornell Rocketry designing and manufacturing major components of two rockets reaching ten thousand foot apogees. Rounding out my technical exposure is a January 2014 internship at Brayton Energy, an alternative energy R&D firm in New Hampshire where I conducted three thermal tests of a new heat exchanger design. This past summer I interned within an asset management division at J.P. Morgan to test the waters of finance, a lingering interest of mine that I felt I needed to explore. Missing the technical rigor of the work, however, I declined a full-time offer and reaffirmed my commitment to an engineering career. I will bring an energy focus to the breadth of aforementioned experience through biomass-to-biofuel conversion research in Professor Perrine Pepiot’s group next semester and hopefully an internship at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory next summer. With this collective body of work, I am primed for success in graduate studies at Stanford.
In short, Stanford’s MS program in mechanical engineering would offer me the greatest opportunity to develop the knowledge and research skills that I will need to spur innovation in sustainable fuel technology. As is exemplified in my completion of undergraduate studies in three years, I am an extremely driven individual who is no stranger to steep workloads and high expectations. The combination of my unwavering work ethic and deep commitment to societal advancement through energy research will propel me to great achievements at Stanford and in future career pursuits.
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