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I SEE LIFE FLOWING THROUGH WIRES
Throughout my childhood, curiosity was my driving force. I never hesitated to ask questions on every possible matter and didn't worry how dumb they would make me sound. In third grade, I participated in a science fair and built a balloon-powered car that could carry three times its weight. I remember obsessing over the tiniest details: Should I use bottle caps or CDs as wheels? What about the body? A cardboard box would allow more stability, but wouldn't it be heavier than a regular plastic bottle? Even then, I was obsessed with exploring new systems and overcoming relevant challenges.
A few years later, I moved on to more advanced projects, teaching myself how to design, build and program Arduino robots. In my messy garage, I was always wondering how countless tiny wires interconnect to give life to the inanimate robot. Whether connecting the ultrasonic sensor to the microcontroller board, or replacing the DC motor, I sensed that minor details could make a huge impact and that mastering the core mechanisms grants overcoming many obstacles.
In high school, while yearning for new challenges, I applied for a highly-selective app development program. Over a whole month, I would spend sleepless nights debugging my code or sketching designs for my next project. I also partnered with other motivated participants who helped me acquire valuable soft skills. These served me as a team leader to form a tightly-knit group. Halfway through the boot camp, we were asked to create an app for people with disabilities and present it at the app development contest held in the US embassy. Confronted with this task, I couldn't help but think about my older brother Farouk who was diagnosed with epilepsy, a brain disorder causing unpredictable seizures, since the age of five. Witnessing his lifelong struggle, I have always felt helpless. But at that time, I took it upon myself to create an app that assists Farouk and all epileptic patients in their battle against this disease. After thorough research, various brainstorming sessions, and relentless days, our team came up with "pillepsy" a mobile app that allows those with seizure disorders such as epilepsy to request help from emergency contacts in case of a life-threatening convulsion.
"Pillepsy: a pocket lifesaver." with these words, I concluded the presentation of our app, which won first place in the competition. While receiving the award, I felt something new beyond the mere joy of triumph. I felt useful and obliging.
During my epilepsy research, I came across a simple yet gripping quote by Dr. Elizabeth Flaherty "Think of epilepsy as basically a short circuit in the brain,". This analogy between the nervous system and electrical circuits aroused my interest in neurology. How do electrical signals travel in the brain? Does it work like a computer? To attain a deeper understanding of this subject, I read every article I could find and watched numerous documentaries. But for each answer I got, two more questions arose. The brain mysteries fueled my insatiable curiosity as I recognized the utter fascination of this human organ.
You probably think I want to be an engineer. Or perhaps a neuroscientist?
Wrong. Well, kind of.
I want to study neural engineering, a discipline within biomedical engineering that uses engineering techniques to understand, repair, replace, or enhance neural systems. As a neural engineer, I'll be interfacing with and manipulating the nervous system. Sound exciting? It is to me.
The fact is, it resembles the work I've been doing fixing damaged circuits and understanding the complex wiring of robots, though there is two minor differences. In the future, I'll still be working to repair machines. But this machine is arguably the most complicated machine ever known: the human body. Then I will still witness the spark of life flowing through the wires, but I will no longer be in my messy garage blasting Nirvana songs all day long.