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Engineers can turn ideas into reality.


Kimathi 6 / 45  
Aug 12, 2010   #1
Below is my essay for the cornell supplement. I am wondering whether it is captivating enough and whether it adequately addresses the prompt. It is also way above the limit of 500 words ( It's 657), where do you think i should cut down? Please have your go at it, reap it apart, critique and let me know everything that is not clear etc. Thanks.

Prompt: Engineers turn ideas (technical, scientific, mathematical) into reality. Tell us about an engineering idea you have or your interest in engineering. Explain how Cornell Engineering can help you further explore this idea or interest.

I have always had an inquisitive mind. One of my earliest memories involves me taking apart my remote-controlled toy car to see who drives it from within. I was certain that I would find some sort of miniature man at the wheel, waiting for my cue. You can therefore imagine my astonishment when instead I found a bunch of colored strings hooked up to strange looking boards and an interior that was not at all accommodative for Mr. Mini-driver. Since then, however, my reasoning power has exponentially grown, and with it, my interest in engineering.

As I grew up, my curiosity was not only limited to the workings of toys and other playthings. I progressively got more and more diverse in my choice of test-subjects. It was not uncommon, to find me bent over, slowly taking apart the camera or perhaps going through all folders in the control panel of our home PC as I changed every setting possible, just to see what would happen. Perhaps the pinnacle of my junior engineering career is when I turned the kitchen into my very own chemistry lab. With my night-gown as my lab coat, I would gather many different spices, condiments, vegetables, canned goods and of course all the cleaning agents. With these, I would craft numerous substances of varied characteristics. From the thick emulsion of corn oil, egg and about a dozen other liquids that I made as a fertilizer, to the peculiar substance halfway between liquid and solid that I got by combining corn flour and water. The level of advance chemistry going on in that kitchen was rivaled only by Dexter in his laboratory. All through this, I would question the properties formed and try to determine which of my 'chemicals' caused particular observations. It is only now that I realize that I was actually practicing a very elementary form of qualitative analysis.

My interests obviously spilled over into my school life. I have always immensely enjoyed the academic and practical study of mathematics, chemistry and physics. It is hence not a surprise that a degree in chemical engineering has been the natural progression that seemed most suitable to me. I am significantly attracted to the course as I see it enabling me to combine scientific theory with a practical application in modern day emerging issues. The enthusiasm I have for this course is unquantifiable and I believe I will be able to utilize this passion to optimize my learning. In particular, the Chemical engineering course offered at Cornell has been my ambition for many years now. Apart from enabling me to obtain an unyielding foundation in engineering and chemistry; that it allows me to take a specialized course in a key interest area is extremely attractive. I already see myself taking a minor in operations research and management science. Furthermore, being able to coordinate an in-depth study, experimentally investigating a particular hypothesis, with materials other than ketchup and Clorox bleach, has long been a desire of mine. It is apparent that this is entirely feasible at the college of engineering through the numerous undergraduate research opportunities. I cannot wait to experience the application of the abstract concepts covered in my engineering courses through this program.

Most of all, the versatility of the chemical engineering degree offered at Cornell is the principle attractive quality. Though I will have had a chance to have the fundamental training in chemical engineering and also gain specialisation in a key area of concentration, I will at the end of the day have developed a critical, innovative and independent thinking capacity with which I will be able to apply my expertise in various fields. Society needs engineers that can and will change the world. I would love the opportunity to contribute to humanity through technological innovation and therefore, a degree in chemical engineering is the right path for me, and without doubt Cornell is the place for me to get it.

ershad193 14 / 337 5  
Aug 13, 2010   #2
I have always had an inquisitive mind.

This is a boring start.

my reasoning power has exponentially grown

It's not nice to make an assertion so early on.

It is only now that I realize that I was actually practicing a very elementary form of qualitative analysis.

I don't mean any offense, but it sounds like you're bragging a bit.

It is hence not a surprise that a degree in chemical engineering has been the natural progression that seemed most suitable to me. I am significantly attracted to the course as I see it enabling me to combine scientific theory with a practical application in modern day emerging issues.

Okay, these are pretty overused sentences. Moreover, they are vague and generic.

The enthusiasm I have for this course is unquantifiable and I believe I will be able to utilize this passion to optimize my learning.

This one is irrelevant.

I already see myself taking a minor in operations research and management ...research opportunities.

Here, you start to make sense. But I'd still prefer something even more specific. What do you want to do with a degree in chemical engineering? Do you have a plan? What is the profession you'd like to join after you graduate?

I may have been harsh, but as a chemical engineer myself, I thought I should help out a budding chemeng.
Read the prompt again. Where is the engineering idea you're supposed to introduce? It should be the theme of your essay.
zengrz 5 / 103  
Aug 13, 2010   #3
Hi.

I can really feel your enthusiasm at this subject and know you have put a lot into doing what you love. But I think you a getting a little bit broad with the ideas you have generated from the kitchen. Anyone can turn his kitchen into a chem lab, but not everyone can gain the experience that you will gain. Try to elaborate on the learning process. what does chemical engineering mean to you? What is your vision?

Given your enthusiasm, I think you will be a great chemist.

G L~
Ermundo 1 / 1  
Aug 13, 2010   #4
One problem I have is that you don't cite any recent experiences that you've had in engineering, whether it be from science fair, science labs, or whatever. You refer to your childhood experiences and than immediately jump to your desire to go to Cornell. That leaves a huge gap in your life-the story of how your immediate spark towards the engineering process turned into a desire to go to Cornell to study engineering. Trust me, the story of how you choose engineering, the experiences you went through in life throughout high school-those are an important part of your story. To leave it out, to jump from Point A to Point Z, is gonna leave the people reading your essay confused. How could a kid who messed up in the Kitchen suddenly turn into a guy who wants to study Chemical engineering?

My suggestion would be to add a simple paragraph explaining your experiences and what brought about your decision to choose engineering as the field of choice.

Also,

It was not uncommon, to find me bent over

Get rid of the comma.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,334 129  
Aug 15, 2010   #5
It is TOO common for people interested in engineering to tell childhood stories about tinkering with devices and taking them apart. It is so common. I really like your intro paragraph, though. However, I want to suggest that you take away the material in para #2 so that you can start getting to the point of expressing your intellectual interests... your engineering ideas.

As I grew up, my curiosity was not only limited to the workings of toys and other playthings. I progressively got more and more diverse in my choice all this stuff is too slow. Get right into the present moment where you have particular ideas and a strong vision of your success at this particular school.

My interests obviously spilled over into my school life. I have always immensely enjoyed the academic and practical study of mathematics, ...emerging issues. The enthusiasm I have for this course is unquantifiable and I believe I will be able to utilize--- all this stuff is too general, too simple. Imagine if you were already an experienced engineer. What interests might you have in attending a school like this? What resources would an experienced engineer use? Who are your favorite professionals in chem. engineering?

I think this essay is good, but it will be better if you write about your professional interests and show that you have knowledge of the field already.
OP Kimathi 6 / 45  
Aug 18, 2010   #6
Hey, thanks for all the criticism. It was taken positively. I have rewritten the essay, well a large portion of it. Please read the new version and let me know if it is better/worse. any sections that need editing or amputation.. Hehe. thanks for all the comments thus far, they have been extremely helpful. Again, it is over the limit (597 word)

Miniature drivers do not operate remote-controlled toy cars, I was sad to discover. One of my earliest memories involves me taking apart my remote-controlled toy car, curious to see who drives it from within. I was certain that I would find some sort of tiny man at the wheel, waiting for my cue. I instead found a bunch of colored strings hooked up to strange looking boards and an interior that was not at all accommodative for Mr. Mini-driver. As disheartening as this moment was for me, it was the genesis of my interest in engineering, an interest that has only matured and intensified over the years.
zengrz 5 / 103  
Aug 18, 2010   #7
Hi.

This essay is much more relevant than the one before. Your passion and vision is clearly explained in the second paragraph, which is great. The organization of the essay is good too.

However, I must say that the last two paras are not as strong as your second paragraph. They are too general and do not make any strong point. Still need a lot of work for the last two paragraphs. Try to write a topic sentence, either implicit or explicit, and rely and only rely on that to develop your paragraph. Topic sentences gives you goals for what you want to achieve, like how you want to be a engineer so that you can explore how random chemicals are relevant to your daily life. Well, hope that make a bit of sense...

You are getting better.

G L~
OP Kimathi 6 / 45  
Aug 18, 2010   #8
It does makes sense. My issue is that i do not know how to adequately state why Cornell will be suitable for me (as required by the prompt: ...Explain how Cornell Engineering can help you further explore this idea or interest.), without spurting out generalities of putting in factoids that were obviously lifted from their website. I think the latter comes off as pretentious, doesn't it? How then do you advise me to demonstrate my choice of cornell without coming of as fake?

Thanks for all the help thus far btw, you've been great: :)
ishterz 2 / 7  
Aug 19, 2010   #9
Explain how Cornell Engineering can help you further explore this idea or interest.), - cite some research facilities available at the college of engineering only,that will help the essay be more concrete.

I also had a query :if we're choosing an alternate college do we have to apply for one program or can we choose two different programs for each one?
OP Kimathi 6 / 45  
Aug 19, 2010   #10
Explain how Cornell Engineering can help you further explore this idea or interest.), - cite some research facilities available at the college of engineering only,that will help the essay be more concrete.

my issue with that is that it lacks authenticity. unless I can claim personal contact with any of the laboratories, I do not see how I can start talking about them. Though I will try and incorporate something of the sort. :))

I also had a query :if we're choosing an alternate college do we have to apply for one program or can we choose two different programs for each one?

You only select one program. Look at the supplement and right under the Alternate college choice, they only as for one anticipated major. Bt if the program is offered in two different colleges ( i know none that are though), i think it will be ok to select the two different variants in each college. Though is such is the case, chances are that the focus within each college is different. make sure you research them well.

Thanks :)
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,334 129  
Aug 20, 2010   #11
Miniature drivers do not operate remote-controlled toy cars, I was sad to discover.

Aha! I like it... very clever...

Here is my idea for your ending:
...get a chance to use a reflux kit. In the process perhaps I will become the next Vladimir Haense. (add one more sentence here to give the reader a glimpse of your future as the next Haenes.)

:-)
OP Kimathi 6 / 45  
Aug 21, 2010   #12
Dully noted and incorporated! I think i can now move on to the 10 other essays i have to write.

Thank you all, Karma will kick in and you all be very successful! :D
ershad193 14 / 337 5  
Aug 22, 2010   #13
Miniature drivers do not operate remote-controlled toy cars, I was sad to discover.

Cool opening!!

an interior that was not at all accommodative for Mr. Mini-driver

haha... :D

Um... did you do some research on what chemical engineering actually means? You seem to know only the obvious aspects of chemical engineering. It's too easy to elaborate on things related to chemistry and link them to chemical engineering. However, chemical engineering has much more to it.

Do you know that you can be a good chemical engineer even if you are not better than the average high school kid in chemistry? Chemical engineering is more about physics and mathematics than chemistry. Chemistry only sets the boundaries within which a chemical engineer works.

Let me give you an example: consider a reaction which is endothermic in nature, that is, you need to supply additional heat to carry out a particular reaction. In a chemistry lab you can put the reactants in a test tube and heat it over a burner to get your products. But what is the amount of material you will get? 5 grams, 10 grams...not much is it? Now consider that you need to produce at least 10 tons of that particular product everyday. Do you think heating over a burner will work now?

That's where chemical engineering comes in.

Whatever you are saying in that paragraph are not the real concerns of a chemical engineer. Moreover, everyday practical use of a specific compound is also a chemist's concern.

So do your research properly!

Conclusion needs some work. What do you want to do when you become an "reputable chemical engineer"?
OP Kimathi 6 / 45  
Aug 22, 2010   #14
I extensively researched on the available fields in chemeng, and throughout this process, it has been pointed out that its applicability is not defined within any one of its constituents boundaries. By this I mean that although I will inevitable have some training in Chemical Engineering Plant Design and hence deal with such issues as the efficiency in production and conservation of energy, my true interest in the discipline is in developing new processes and products and determining the respective usefulness and applicability. This is more typical of a research and development chemical engineer than its is of a plant process engineer. I though that I should communicate this in my essay as you had earlier

Do you have a plan? What is the profession you'd like to join after you graduate?

Also, I am interested in chemical engineering not because of my physics and math background, but because of my chemistry background. Granted I also enjoy Physics and Math, but the main attractive quality is applied chemistry. I thought this will be more useful to me later in life if learnt within the context of engineering as this requires attention not only to the synthesis of the materials/products, but also to the flow and forming processes necessary to create a final

product. (as you had pointed out above).

My current interest are of course subject to change based on what happens in uni though, but that is where I am at the moment.

Conclusion needs some work. What do you want to do when you become an "reputable chemical engineer"?

500 word limit!! I think i'll delete that sentence if it evokes that response. I am already above the limit. :))

Thanks Ershad. I intend to exploit (Negative connotation fully intentional. lol!) all your expertise in the area as I intend to do Chemeng in all unis I'm applying to! :)
ershad193 14 / 337 5  
Aug 22, 2010   #15
One professor from the elite Indian Institutes of Technology said to me, "A chemical engineer can work in any field." Hence, whatever you're saying is absolutely correct.

However, I think you misunderstood me. I wasn't alluding to the fact that chemical engineers only work in process plants. What I meant was, your ideas should seem like engineering ideas and not a chemist's ones. Consider the following:

To transform the chlorine into a solution of sodium hypochlorite that the mother can use as a common household bleach; to polymerize the methacrylate into a bright transparent product that can be used in the father's vehicle-light cluster.

When I read this, I thought -- "Why do you want to study engg.? You could have gone for applied chemistry with specific interest in inorganics or polymers."

Thus the engineering idea is absent. You should be able to make that distinction, so that you don't come out sounding like someone who is only interested in chemistry.

An engineering idea is something like this -- "Why does one vehicle-light cluster cost higher than another? Can I find some way to produce methacrylate so that even the average father can afford the cars fitted with those which presently only celebrities can afford?"

^This is just a crude example, but do you get the general idea?

An engineer doesn't innovate for the sake of innovation. There has to be an economic angle attached to it. Unless whatever you're producing is not affordable, there's no value for all the creativity behind the process of production.

my true interest in the discipline is in developing new processes and products and determining the respective usefulness and applicability.

That's fine, but now consider another possibility: you have a product which has large practical use in the market, and after considerable research you have found at least three different ways/processes of producing that product. For the sake of simplicity, let's consider that product to be sulphuric acid. Now chemistry dictates that all the three processes should give equal amounts of sulphuric acid as determined by the stoichiometric reactions. So which process do you choose? Again, this where a chemical engineer comes in. Chemical engineers only can make the distinction between the processes, and that distinction will not be governed by chemistry. Chemists cannot do that.

This is why it's so important to distance yourself from a chemist.

I intend to exploit

Cool. No problem!
OP Kimathi 6 / 45  
Aug 22, 2010   #16
When I read this, I thought -- "Why do you want to study engg.? You could have gone for applied chemistry with specific interest in inorganics or polymers."

Thus the engineering idea is absent. You should be able to make that distinction, so that you don't come out sounding like someone who is only interested in chemistry

Duly noted! I actually see what you mean. As it is, it does seem like i am only interested in chemistry. I'll try and work on that in that paragraph. Perhaps I'll build up on:

"Why does one vehicle-light cluster cost higher than another? Can I find some way to produce methacrylate so that even the average father can afford the cars fitted with those which presently only celebrities can afford ?"

<===we don't want to project the image of a vain teenage girl now do we. :) But in the way of a crude example, this is excellent. I will try and further refine it.

Chemical engineers only can make the distinction between the processes, and that distinction will not be governed by chemistry. Chemists cannot do that.
This is why it's so important to distance yourself from a chemist.

I understand the distinction and how important it is to indicate this in my essay. How is this as a revision:

It was during one on my organic chemistry classes that I realized a degree in chemical engineering was the right path for me. I was looking on enviously at the instructor assembling and ultimately using the reflux kit; I had never gotten a chance to use it. I yearned for a practical experience in chemistry that went beyond the qualitative analysis of carbonyl compounds with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine. Moreover, I realized that I needed to be involved with chemistry that transforms abstract concepts into products that are crucial in everyday life. Why does one vehicle-light cluster cost higher than another? Can I find some way to produce methacrylate so that even the average father can afford the cars fitted with those which presently are the preserve of the affluent? How could I optimize the production of wine in such a way as to reduce the amount of waste while not diminishing but instead enhancing the quality of the product? All these thoughts saturated my head, ironically forming a clear image. Applied chemistry within the context of engineering; the fusion of my passion for chemistry and my penchant towards application over abstraction.

Is there any other part of the essay that stands out as inappropriate. Have I adequately explained how Cornell Engineering can help me further explore this interest?

Thanks.
ershad193 14 / 337 5  
Aug 23, 2010   #17
we don't want to project the image of a vain teenage girl now do we

Haha...yes, you're right. I'm not very good with words. You've written it nicely.

How could I optimize the production of wine in such a way as to reduce the amount of waste while not diminishing but instead enhancing the quality of the product?

That's what I'm talking about! Cool stuff!
I can put another engineering argument over the usage of the word "optimize," but let's not be nitpicky here. It's fine the way you've written it.

This is good. Now let's move on to the para on Cornell.

In particular, the chemical engineering course offered at Cornell has been my ambition ever since my epiphany

I don't think this sentence adds anything. They already know you're interested in Cornell.
The rest looks fine except the one I've pointed out earlier.

Good luck!!! Hope you get admitted :)
OP Kimathi 6 / 45  
Aug 23, 2010   #18
Thanks so so very much Ershad. I think i am now satisfied with what I have. In retrospect, my original essay was pretty mundane, predictable and irrelevant. I will address those final two issues of contention though. Finally I can move onto the other essays. :)
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,334 129  
Aug 23, 2010   #19
Good stuff here. I skimmed through this correspondence, and I think it is going to help a lot of people over the years as they visit this thread. Congratulations, it's great that your exchange with Ershad has helped to refine the essay. Good luck!!


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