About this sample
About this sample
Words: 658 |
4 min read
Published: Jul 18, 2018
Words: 658|Pages: 2|4 min read
I have been solving problems my whole life, from mathematical proofs to the dilemmas of the pendulum. These problems are the glowing embers inside my heart. The elegant approaches of masterminds, like Gauss, are the kindling to the flame. I fell in love with the beauty of their ability to transform complicated phenomena into simple solutions. Yet, everyday challenges, like my crosswords, cradle that fire. It was not the answer; it was the process. The mental exercises created something ineffable–something that vigorously forced the adrenaline through me. The simple solutions to the complex problems struck as beautiful and exhilarating. If there was an answer to be found, I was comfortably in an all-consuming state of wonder and lust until it surfaced.
Last summer, I worked as a Fellow at Stony Brook University under the mentorship of Dr. Tzu-Chieh Wei in theoretical physics. My enthusiasm vanished within the first hour of meeting Dr. Wei: after trying to comprehend his onslaught of graduate-level discourse on Hamiltonians, I inquired, “So what exactly will I be working on?” His face scrunched up as if perplexed by my question; he replied, “Come up with something of your own.” Rather than presenting my summer to me, he explained that he was merely a “helpful guide” along my research journey. Going to the university, expecting the ultimate mental exercise, I was shocked to find that the problem I was meant to solve was non-existent. I was livid.
Three sleepless weeks of reading Quantum Mechanics for Dummies, along with scientific papers, I still had nothing. I felt vanquished. Everyday, I would venture into Dr. Wei’s office, politely asking for some source of inspiration, and he would rejoinder the same unhelpful phrase. Finally, seeing my distress one morning, Dr. Wei offered me advice: “ask questions.” Although I initially scoffed at the platitude, the following morning I greeted him with twenty carefully-picked questions in hand. As we conversed, questions were released before I could consider their scientific validity. In lieu asking the “right” questions, I allowed my thoughts to naturally flow. For the questions he knew the answers to, he mumbled unintelligibly about the subject matter, but for those he did not, he asked me to figure them out for myself – design and execute my own quantum simulations.
Everyday, I came back with more questions; after a week, I realized that I started talking to Tzu-Chieh. Not the typical “Good morning”, but conversations that encompassed every realm of the universe, from his daughter to Einstein’s Relativity. I began to call him by his first name. I began to realize that my lack of knowledge had an inherent beauty; it fostered my thoughts without barriers of knowledge. Through Tzu-Chieh, I acquired knowledge that I was before too afraid to understand and too hesitant to grasp. His instruction to ask questions created a daunting freedom that I had never experienced before, unleashing an influx of trapped curiosity and imagination. All my life, I had been given the problems. The questions that I asked Tzu-Chieh acted as the catalyst that stimulated the creation of those problems. I wasn’t simply solving the problems; I was producing them as well. Tzu-Chieh became a friend and confidant; talking to him exposed me to a new world of physics, creating sparks that fed the fire of my passion for
Tzu-Chieh became a friend and confidant; talking to him exposed me to a new world of physics, creating sparks that fed the fire of my passion for problem solving. My quest to both solve and create problems led me to make original discoveries in quantum optics, and an unconditional respect for Tzu-Chieh. I finally understood. His methods of nonchalance and superficial ignorance allowed me to establish an independence, a curiosity, and an appreciation for the freedom and infinite boundaries of my mind, to create something out of nothing, and these are the values I would like to bring to Princeton.
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