“Let’s use sodium sulfide,” I decided.
I snatched the bottle labeled Na2S and placed three drops of the foul-smelling liquid into a well on the well-plate. Then, I added some of the clear unknown solution I had been given and watched the reaction unfold. Upon contact, the two combined to form an obvious white solid.
I stared at the chart we had been provided: seven of the twelve metal cation combinations with sulfide were white. The teacher had also informed us of other methods to differentiate between cations such as the flame test, but many were too time-consuming to use for the compound-identification race. It was time to innovate.
My mind wandered to when our AP Chemistry class had covered certain properties of metals and their ionized forms. There was something special about aluminum and zinc…
“Wait! Don’t aluminum and zinc form acidic complex ions with water?” I exclaimed to the instructor. He smiled, nodded, and gave me an encouraging wink.
“And aluminum’s is more acidic than zinc’s. So, blue pH paper should be able to determine that it’s aluminum or zinc, or eliminate them from the options entirely,” I reasoned.
I took a strip of the paper and dipped it into the unknown solution. It turned a distinct shade of red: it had to be zinc. I could barely contain my excitement as I scribbled down the answer on a sheet of paper and turned it into the teacher for evaluation.
“Good job, Kevin; four points for correct identification.”
Though the method I had developed did propel me to the top of the class, the experience was not the least bit about points. Instead, it was about the process of creating something new and effective, which showed me the value of innovation and applying classroom knowledge to real situations.
I don’t plan on being in the room much. I have to sleep and do homework, of course, but I’d rather not experience the rest of Stanford from the dorm. It’s not you. In fact, I’d love for you to join me. That said, if you decide not to and you need to find me when I’m not in the room, look in these places first:
Laboratories: I hope I can convince a future professor of mine to let me work with him or her so I can make the most of Stanford’s world-class faculty and research facilities. I don’t know where my pursuits will land me yet, but because I’m looking to be a chemical engineer, try the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology or Energy and Environment building.
Practice rooms: I love science, but I also have a deep passion for music. I could be in a room practicing clarinet, piano, or guitar. I hope to join a band or orchestra, so you can also look wherever our rehearsals or concerts may be.
Athletic events: You won’t find me on a college varsity team, but I’m an avid sports fan. I’ll watch any game; your best bets are football and baseball. I follow the Chargers and Red Sox too, but I’ll probably be in the room for those games. Then again, I did play volleyball in high school so I might try my luck at some intramural; give that place a shot too.
Libraries: Stanford’s libraries have some of the world’s best academic resources; I could be studying in one of them. Some homework I can do in the dorm with a bit of Jimi Hendrix on, but if I really have to read, a quiet place like the library is where I’ll be. You can try the music and engineering libraries too; I could be browsing there to fuel my ambitions.
If you join me, perhaps you can learn to love some of the things I do. Of course, there’ll have to be balance; I’m open to your passions too.
Consider the chemical equation below:
Student + Opportunity —> Adult + Success
From experience, we know that the reaction above requires considerable energy input to complete, and even with the most concentrated students and opportunities, the products may not form at a practical rate. A catalyst should be used to provide a surface for the reactants to collide and thereby speed up the reaction. For the equation above, college is a suitable one.
There are many substances that are considered colleges, but as with any set of related elements or compounds, some are superior to others for certain reactions. For some students, crimson red will produce the best output of adults and success. Others prefer a combination of orange and black or a mix of navy blue and white. For me, cardinal red, also known as Stanford, is the optimal choice.
Stanford offers the best opportunities for catalyzing the development of an aspiring chemical engineer like me. The faculty members of Stanford’s chemical engineering department are pioneers in research on medicine and renewable energy who can provide me with insight into the scientific world in and beyond college. Stanford is also situated in Silicon Valley, the haven for engineering and breeding grounds for technological innovation. The area not only inspires me with names like Apple and Google, but also presents me with the opportunity to have as large an impact on the world as these companies did.
However, Stanford also promotes a balance of academic, extracurricular, and social activities. The unique marching band convinces me that I can find a place for my other passion: music. The active student body and all-important sporting events also show me that, as time-consuming as my reaction may be, I will still be in for a fun ride.
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