We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it.
Fiddling with the clay chips in my hand, I stared intently at my opponent. I studied his body language, scanning for even the most minute movements, looking specifically for any signs of distress or content. As I detected an instinctive miniscule fidget, I smiled and immediately called his bluff. I love playing poker with my friends; the ineffable sense of delight when one makes the right choice, backed by eccentric math, the innate sense of instinct, and unwavering passion makes the game a fun way to relax and engage in a battle of perseverance and judgment.
Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why?
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 experimenting with hardware, I found myself completely immersed, open to the whims of logic and engineering. Once I realized that I could combine it with my long-held fascination with the human brain, I felt rather like Victor Frankenstein as I labored to simulate humanity’s most complex organ; the fact that it was on a computer made it even more exhilarating. Thus, ideally I would double major in computer (Course 6) and cognitive sciences (Course 9).
Tell us about a time you used your creativity. This could be something you made, a project that you led, an idea that you came up with, or pretty much anything else.
Looking down at an endless vocabulary list given to me by an English teacher, I decided I had had enough. The purpose of learning the words was to express ourselves more fluently, not to spend hours poring over various dictionaries. Fueled by this feeling of frustration, I aspired to once and for all automate this whole procedure. Yet, finding an open source dictionary and developing it into a fast, semantic database proved tricky. After several weeks, I managed to compile a database of over 200,000 words from open source dictionaries. Next, I wanted to create a heuristic extractor, one that could interpret data in virtually any format. Unfortunately, here I hit a programming block: How could I account for every possible type of input? Finding my answer in regular expressions, I logged hundreds of hours on the programming, and after enlisting the help of a friend with Photoshop, I released the program, dubbed EasyDefine (www.easydefine.com), into the mainstream. Within a few months, it hosted users from 78 countries and over 1350 cities. Users were marveled at the simple interface, the surprisingly fast results, and the host of advanced features. It was ultimately featured on many blogs, rising to the front page of Reddit.com, and was bookmarked by many at Delicious.com, etc. The heart of EasyDefine, '[regex here],' helped me achieve what I thought to be a great contribution to students and teachers all over the world, who like me wanted to speed up their endless array of English work.
Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world 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, a sense of freedom and the need to reduce the compound world around me into logical 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 that needed improvement, despite the complexity. Realizing that I was too small to reach that highest shelf, I effectively endeavored 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, providing me with books as I devoured literature on topics including computers, the brain (and of course mystical places). No doubt that I derived a broader perspective from these books, using it to create devices like my own tennis ball holder (so pockets wouldn’t be required). 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. 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.
(Optional) No admission application can meet the needs of every individual. If you think additional information or material will give us a more thorough impression of you, please respond below.
- National AP Scholar
- National Honor Society
- Jain Society of San Diego Teen Leader (9th-12th grade)
- Tutoring Club (11th-12th; 30 hrs/yr) – tutored in computer science, biology, and math
- Science Olympiad (9th-10th grade)-won top 10 in Robot Ramble, Circuit Lab, Astronomy, and Ecology
- U.S. National Brain Bee is a neuroscience competition that includes a neuroanatomy, disease characterization and q&a portion. It is held in Baltimore and all city/state winners come together for 2 days of competition.
-----------------------------Additional Essay---------------------------- While my friends spend hours doing their homework, I spend that time programming nifty applications to do it for me. Being able to do homework 57% more efficiently (I checked) than my peers gives me a quiet, almost ineffable sense of joy that makes it all worthwhile.
In many ways I am like a small, brown Superman with glasses, except instead of a fortress of solitude I have a room cluttered with a mess of wires that I trip over when I try to get in. Oh, and I don't have superpowers. Just as Superman has Clark Kent, I too have an alter ego. By day I am an ordinary child, hiding behind thick glasses that cloak me from those who do not know my secret. By night I am far more heroic, able to pound out hundreds of lines of code in mere seconds (slight exaggeration). Yet unlike Superman, I was shaped by a series of peculiar, coincidental events largely dictated by chance. Four years ago, I meandered into the Torrey Pines computer science club. Walking in, I expected to see a bunch of techies with glasses thicker than mine, hunching and muttering absently to their computers, but instead I was greeted by epic virtual robot battles, commandeered by the same innocuous kids I passed in the hallways every day. Now I too knew their secret.
Yet, something peculiar had happened that day. Underneath my ostensibly composed exterior, the heart of a programmer began to slowly beat.
Eager to create a program of my very own, I huddled over my computer, watching cryptic lines of code materialize with the deft strokes of my fingertips on the keyboard below. Yet, this initiation into programming was by no means the smooth ride that I had originally envisioned; it was riddled with bugs. Unfortunately, I had found my kryptonite in these destabilizing error messages. As a beginner, I felt let down. How could others deal with constant errors in their program even when the logic seemed so flawless? My thinking had not yet evolved, thus I hated the rampant bugs – the paragons of evil. After months of meticulous programming, I was practicing for ACSL programs, but my program would not find the best solution efficiently enough. My computer kept spitting back an “out of memory” error. Scanning the code again, I realized that my program was stuck in an endless loop. It was no wonder the computer kept complaining, quite assertively, about memory problems.
Without the error message, I would have been kept in a state of delusional uncertainty, unable to find which part of my program was causing the bug. Thus, I began to cherish these bugs as guides who offered helpful counsel about the program. They kept me pushing, striving for that paramount state of perfection. It wasn’t about the beauty of the code, but about how I used these miscalculations and kept my patience through any dysfunctional code. As the bugs evolved, so did I, constantly altering my thinking, trying atypical tricks, and employing inventive methods to appease their suggestions.
Even when solving those competition problems, I wasn’t only engrossed in finding the coveted solution. As I thought about the problem, unlimited solutions flashed through my mind. 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 through negative capability, I too found myself most efficient and imaginative in this hack mode.
Superman fights crime because his powers mandate that responsibility. I program because I love the challenge. 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.