Acceptances with these essay(s): University of California Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego Regents Scholarship
Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Ideas… some small, some bizarre, and some truly revolutionary. Yet they are all born from an instinctive desire to dream, to formulate a personal vision of what we one day want to achieve. As a child who was settling into life in America (after emigrating from India), a sense of freedom and the need to reduce the compound world around me into small, logical, mechanical things shaped me as I grew up. When my teachers nurtured this desire to invent, I let the ideas flow, creating little gadgets whenever I saw something in need of improvement, no matter how hard it seemed. Realizing that I was too small to reach that highest shelf in my pantry, I effectively tried to make myself taller by creating an extendible arm replete with wooden poles, metal hooks, and a storage compartment. No matter how bizarre my ideas seemed, my parents only cultivated my inquisitive spirit and were very supportive in providing me with the materials I needed, often helping me use tools which I was too young to handle. Since my father was a computer scientist, and my mother had a master’s degree in Sanskrit, the effective amalgamation of these two fields greatly aided my creative process.
When I wasn’t thinking up of peculiar ideas, I was reading, devouring literature on things such as computers (and of course mystical places with supernatural beings). No doubt I derived a lot of my creativity from books, yet even with the most normal things, I somehow ended up creating things like my own tennis ball holder so that I wouldn’t have to remember to wear shorts with pockets. As I drifted into high school, the scale of my ideas grew exponentially. Yet nothing thrilled me more than creating the ultimate robot, one that simulated the human brain. Through the aid of my school, I was able to participate in a neuroscience competition, and take part in an internship at UCSD. There I had first hand exposure to real scientific protocol when dealing with experiments involving rat cognition in an attempt to better understand how the brain works. I aspired to create a model which could be used for medical testing, drawing inspiration from the works of the Blue Brain Project. Was this proposal impossible? Maybe, but quite simply, I find the act of coining—and implementing—ideas to be quite thrilling, as if somewhere a batch of endorphins has just been released.
Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
Somewhere in the bits and esoteric language of the computer programming world, I found solace. Whether it was in the hours spent debugging programs or fiddling with hardware, I found myself completely immersed, open to the whims of logic and engineering. Wanting to disseminate my knowledge and love of computer science throughout my community, I became the president of American Computer Science League (ACSL) club and co-founded Torrey Pines Programmers (TPP). Teaching a group of young, eager high school students who were just beginning to realize their own attraction to the world of technology was strangely satisfying. With a year’s worth of hard work of developing numerous worksheets, offering practice written contests, and holding proctored programming competitions, I was ecstatic to learn that our team had qualified for the international All-Star competition. Leading a team of three highly motivated computer scientists to Baltimore (and to Huntsville the following year) made me extremely proud as not only did I get to mingle with the best computer scientists from around the world, but the contest experience in itself was incredibly edifying. Our success not only made our club popular on campus, but it also gathered a strong following for technology clubs on an otherwise mostly pure science and math community. This love of computer science motivated me to broaden my horizons with respect to applied programming. I began designing software that would help my fellow students around the globe learn better. Thus EasyDefine (www.easydefine.com) was born; it allowed users to input in a list of words, and it automatically parsed, and defined them all. With a host of advanced features, it featured users from 62 countries, and almost a 1000 cities. With this accomplishment, I knew that I wanted to be a computer programmer in the future; this science encompassed so many fields and was so prevalent in our lives that I wanted to delve deeper into its core and build a strong foundation. I now knew what Dijkstra meant when he said, “computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes… it is about how we use them, and what we find out when we do.” Sure, I’ve been characterized as a devoted coder, but the enormous number of solutions that surrounded each problem seemed almost surreal to me. I realized that it was this act of picking a viable path, believing in it, and seeing it through to fruition that mesmerized me. The solution could be as creative as I desired, not bound by any rigid outlines. The more abstract the program became, the more I found myself entering the “hack mode” – a state of euphoria in which I was inseparable from the computer. Like Keats found himself capable of transcending his body, open to the uncertainties, and mysteries of life in his theory of negative capability, I too found myself most efficient and imaginative in this hack mode. I program because I know everything can be improved. I program because I know that there is always a more efficient, more elegant solution to a problem. I program because I feel it necessary to automate all the mindless, time consuming things I have to do. I program because I have neurons in place of wires, a brain in place of a CPU, and a heart in place of a battery. This endeavor for perfection no doubt allows me to see associations quicker, but it also provides a daily testament to the greatest computer of all, the human brain.
- National High School Poetry Contest – Topical winner --> top 2% of all participants
- American Chemical Society Chemistry Lab Contest 2nd place Team – the top 1st year chemistry students are chosen from the school to represent it in the San Diego contest
- Bronco Invitationals Debate Tournament (San Diego) – Placed 6th in the Lincoln Douglas style debate tournament
- National AP Scholar - awarded to high scoring AP test takers
== Extracurricular Activities:
San Diego Brain Bee (12th grade; 8 hrs/wk, 8 weeks) – helped coordinate the competition after winning the inaugural 2009 San Diego Brain Bee. The following year, I designed their website (www.sandiegobrainbee.com) and was part of the executive planning committee (the only high school student). I also offered a new design for the format of the competition to find the best candidates.