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UM setback essay- my failed experiment.


kiwi90 8 / 21  
Feb 1, 2010   #1
Hello, today is the deadline and I have just finished my setback essay.
This was originally U Chicago supplemental essay, "something you have outgrown," modified to fit the present UM topic.
Does it sound appropriate? Please give me some feedback, thank you very much!

[A] Describe a setback that you have faced. How did you resolve it? How did the outcome affect you? If something similar happened in the future, how would you react?

When I thought of a modern day chemist, I would visualize a smartly gowned scientist with the infamous Einstein's hairdo concocting elixirs with a swishing air of professionalism. Like a magician, he would perform alchemy with an assembly of various, seemingly over-complicated gadgets. Mechanical perfection would be accompanied by flawless execution, which he (of course,) enjoys and prides. Growing up, this romantic image of a genius chemist would slowly dissolve, but his easy grace would remain rooted in my imagination. I was still engrossed with the idea of a scientist's laidback expertise, and at the heart of my professional goal, there was this superficial desire that one day I would demonstrate my own mastery with the same effortless elegance.

Alas, my fantasy came to an end- in the very professional environment that I so desired. I was standing in the middle of a laboratory in WithPals Pharmaceutical Company, quite incognizant of the gurgling noise of the water aspirator and the pungent aroma of toluene. All of my senses were directed into absorbing Dr.Hong's instructions for the Acyloin condensation experiment. Frantic scribbling of diagrams and notes began, and confusion soon followed as the steps jumbled my racing brain. Feeling rather helpless, I asked for the second time if I could please hear the directions again. Dr.Hong, the chief executive of the company, would grant the favor and then say, rather emphatically, "You must think all along. Think!" Now where was the easy grace?

Working as a laboratory intern 7 hours per day for 6 weeks during last summer, I realized that there was no easy professionalism in any "professional" experiment. The long and difficult research theses often rendered me scratching my head out of perplexity. The equations were complex, and the heavy, delicate apparatuses needed extreme care. Experimental procedure was tedious, and my mind and body were constantly running to catch up on reaction pathways. But what shook my vain confidence the most was the failure of one of the biggest experiments I have ever conducted in my life. After 5 days of toil in a dizzying smell of Toluene, and after endless hours of spin-bar stirring, the Acyloin condensation experiment turned out to be fruitless.

"Oh, there was an error in scale-up. We need to do it all over again," said Dr.Hong so matter-of-factly that it hurt. Do it again? After all these efforts?

Soon, I realized that the doctors could also struggle and fail in their experiments. They, too, interminably observed and waited to yield a few grams of a desired product. They could gain no results at all - the product could be contaminated, or there could be a scale-up error, and they started all over again. Yet they kept on working until the fruits of their endeavor emerged. From their tenacity, I truly began to appreciate a chemical experiment not as a show of mastery but as a serious intellectual quest. It required a solid foundation of theories and principles, to go beyond outward observations of things to understand the nature's inner workings. Thoughts had to be processed and modified constantly during the procedure- to always know and manipulate what was going on during the experiment. Above all, purpose was what mattered; "Aim," did not come first in every laboratory report for no reason. It was from this clear awareness of what to achieve, and the resolute incentive to bring forth beneficial ends, that scientific work, discovery or synthesis alike, commenced. My passion re-ignited. I was determined to apply science for practical outcomes, even though it meant a lot of studying, repeated trials and waiting. My failed experiment has replaced my vain assumption with new determination, and with this I was going to pursue my old goal of becoming a chemist.
bilibala 3 / 10  
Feb 1, 2010   #2
kiwi90

Like a magician, he would perform alchemy with an assembly of various [and] seemingly over-complicated gadgets.

run-on sentence?
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Feb 2, 2010   #3
Yes, this will be a big success. It's awesome.

How about switching to the present verb tense in that last para, though? Like this:
I am determined to apply science for practical outcomes, even though it means a lot of studying, repeated trials, and waiting. My failed experiment has replaced my vain assumption with new determination, and with this I am going to pursue my old goal of becoming a chemist.
OP kiwi90 8 / 21  
Feb 4, 2010   #4
Thank you very, very much, Kevin.
I owe you so much! You have helped me alot with many of my essays.
Thanks again :)
srandhawa 10 / 157  
Feb 4, 2010   #5
good writing, good job on the first half of the essay, but while this is good and much better than most of the essays on here, in the last concluding para theres only one really interesting sentence, "It was from this clear awareness of what to achieve, and the resolute incentive to bring forth beneficial ends, that scientific work, discovery or synthesis alike, commenced", otherwise, this starts to become like the cliche science college essay about how the lab changed the way i thought, how failure reignited me, how science is a struggle and long term process, that like, really just repeated ideas that everybody mentions in their essay. When you have a cliche ending like this, an adcom has a harder time really remembering this, being impacted by this, and subsequently, having this essay help your admission chances. There are good descriptions, the first para is not cliche, its a unique perspective and great job of describing what you feel and what you want, and the idea i quoted is also a unique, stand out type of idea that can really resonate in an adcoms mind after reading so many of the same kind of essays, if you can focus your conclusion around that, while keeping that unique voice found so eloquently in the frist para, with this idea of both discovery and synthesis, you'll only make this stronger. Good luck:)
OP kiwi90 8 / 21  
Feb 5, 2010   #6
Thank you very much, srandhawa, for your detailed suggestion!


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