My application to Caltech. I applied early and was deferred, so I called the person who reviewed my application. She was very nice and said she liked my application but wanted to hear more about what I did at SVSM, so I created a report for her.

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Summer Activities

My work with Summer Ventures in Science and Math is mentioned briefly in the Activities section of the Common App. To elaborate:
This is a state-funded program administered by the North Carolina School of Science and Math. Over the course of 4 weeks, we learned experimental design, laboratory skills, instrumentation, mathematical modeling, strategies in mathematical problem solving, and exploratory data analysis.
Having recently read "Chaos: Making a New Science" by James Gleick, I designed an experiment based on dynamical systems. I analyzed the motion of a double pendulum and a motor-driven inverted pendulum. Through this experiment, I learned how to represent motion using differential equations.
I thoroughly enjoyed being surrounded by people who, like me, were keenly interested in math and science. I fit in perfectly with the other attendees. I know Caltech has a similar population of students, and I look forward to spending my college years with such excellent scholars.

Short Answers

1. What keywords would your friends use to describe you?
My friends would describe me as curious, logical, engaged, and passionate.

2. Please list three books, along with their authors, that have been particularly meaningful to you. For each book, please include a sentence explaining their influence upon you. Please note that your response is not limited to math, science or school-assigned texts.

"Chaos: Making a New Science" by James Gleick taught me to search for order and governing principles in the world and led to my great appreciation of the entanglement of nature and mathematics. "Einstein: His Life and Universe" by Walter Isaacson inspired me to pursue scientific understanding through insight into the creative and questioning nature of Einstein's mind. "Our Posthuman Future " by Francis Fukuyama introduced me to viewing acts of Science from a political and moral standpoint.

3. Members of the Caltech community live, learn and work within an Honor System with one simple guideline; “No member shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community.” While seemingly simple, questions of ethics, honesty and integrity are sometimes challenging. Share an ethical dilemma that has challenged you. How did you respond? Your response is not limited to academic situations.

Ironically, an ethical dilemma arose as a result of my searching for one: when I spoke to someone about my difficulty in coming up with a response to this prompt, it was suggested that I fabricate a scenario. Although I found the idea distasteful due to its moral misconduct, I was simultaneously pleased by the realization that the presentation of this option gave me exactly what I was searching for.

I knew I could have fabricated something but I've never been very good at writing fiction. There really isn't any way to match the comprehensiveness and complexity of reality. However, if I were to have adopted the suggestion, there would be no way for the reader to validate or invalidate my claim. So, in terms of logistics, there really weren't many things stopping me from writing a mendacious response. But ethical dilemmas aren't about the logistics; they are not tangible roadblocks. They are about keeping intact the very fabric of our being. I could not violate the implicit trust that should exist even between two strangers who probably will never meet. Thus, I'm left with what you read here and my response to the dilemma I faced is inherent in my response to this prompt.

Caltech students have long been known for their quirky sense of humor and creative pranks. Please describe an unusual way in which you have fun.

A frivolous game between friends evolved into a war: instead of routinely responding to repeated pokes on Facebook with a "poke back", I decided to prod people into noticing my newfound control over the social networking site. With an idea and 20 minutes of work, I turned my Facebook network analyzer into a weapon of mass frivolity. My new program automatically poked each of my friends on Facebook. While the endeavor was originally intended to creatively retaliate against a friend, I ended up having a lot of fun. I even gained unexpected insight into the social meaning of "poking". Although I thought it was an insignificant function, others saw it as an indication that the poker had been thinking about the pokee and wanted their attention. I consequently received a great number of messages from people with whom I had not talked in some time. There was feigned outrage from some who saw my public post about the poking being automated. It was hilarious.

How does scientific exploration excite and inspire you? In a page, more or less, what is it about math, science or engineering that compels you to satisfy your intellectual curiosity?

One of my favorite aspects of science is that the conflicts of ideologies aren't resolved with weapons, warfare, and demagoguery but with reason and rationality. Moreover, these conflicts even promote scientific advancement as their resolution and the disproving of one thing or another is in the best interest of the entire scientific community because they are all united by one overarching objective: to uncover the truth about reality. Specifically, I'm drawn to Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science all for the same reason: I want to understand the universe by studying its phenomena and these three topics of study are the tools I need in order to do so. Mathematics is the most fundamental of these; math is direct, descriptive, and concise in representing our world.

I find Mathematics and Physics so profound because the laws discovered in their study not only existed before humans, but have existed since the beginning of time and space. This means we're discovering the indisputable and invariant laws of the cosmos. Thus, these discoveries are the closest to absolute truth one may achieve. This is remarkable. The inherent integration of mathematics and physics with reality provides them with a certain beauty that’s unique to the sciences. It is this beauty that attracts me.

I think that math’s infinite reach and multitude of approaches makes it the most formidable field. Just as there is not only one way to solve a problem, there is not only one way to understand a concept or principle of mathematics. Another appealing quality is the description of perceptibly inaccessible attributes/objects (such as the geometric 4th dimension) using mathematics.

However, the most interesting thing about the world, which Mathematics allows us to identify, is its interconnectedness. The relations between superficially discrete phenomena can become integrally connected from a comprehensive Mathematical view. The depth of Mathematics is incredibly intimidating and to understand even a fraction of it would be an incredible feat. If, as Richard Dawkins has said, science is the poetry of reality, then mathematics is the language of reality.