Why Major X - Engineering for Drinking Water

Essay Prompt

Tell us about what excites you most about Cornell Engineering and/or studying engineering at Cornell University. How do you see yourself becoming a part of the Cornell Engineering community?

Sample Essay

Engineering combines everything I love into one academic discipline. It is based on Mathematics and Physics, my two favorite subjects in school. But more importantly, Engineering is the theoretical made practical. It is the translation of brilliant, innovative ideas into real world solutions to major global problems.

From my point of view, one of the most serious problems the world faces today is the looming water crisis. Traveling with my church mission group, I saw families who had no reliable source of clean drinking water. Later I wrote a paper on the subject and learned that 783 million people have no access to clean water. For me that was almost inconceivable. I firmly believe that my generation must find a solution to the global water problem. Because I want to be someone who contributes to finding that solution, I am interested in either the Environmental Engineering major or the Civil Engineering major with a fluid mechanics hydrology/water resources focus.

I know that the path to the solution must include experimentation and that excites me because I love designing experiments to do in school. I find it fascinating when you apply a very complicated concept to a simple experiment. For example, examining the motion of paper airplanes. What happens if you change the angle that the planes are thrown at? Will the distance-travelled change? It is truly amazing when you get the results you thought you would, but it is even better (at least as far as I’m concerned), when you get a set of unpredicted results and you need to find what’s wrong with your experiment and then fix it.

Of course laboratory and research resources are essential for anyone who is serious about science of any kind. In the beginning of the school year, I was excited to carry out some of the experiments I had thought of during the summer, but my school did not have the appropriate equipment, for example a slow motion camera or radioactive elements, in order for me to do so. I was very disappointed that I had to think of other, more simplistic, experiments than investigating the relationship between a bubble’s diameter and its expansion before it pops. I know that I will not confront those limitations at Cornell. With all of the resources and the equipment available to students, I could experiment on bubbles in an infinite variety of ways.

Beyond the opportunity to perform experiments on my own, I will have the chance to learn from world-renowned teachers and work alongside amazing researchers, who will inspire and guide me in my research. I am especially eager to learn from and work with Professor Leonard William Lion because his area of interest – sustainable water treatment processes – overlaps with my own interests. He has taken his work to the field through Cornell’s Agua Clara program (a program designed to address the global water problem) and it is already helping people. I know that Professor Lion regularly teaches undergraduates, so that I could start learning from him very early in my college career I would be excited to enroll as a sophomore in his introductory environmental engineering class. Not surprisingly, I’m also very eager to join a group of classmates on one of Agua Clara’s Engineering-in-Context trips to Honduras where I would get a chance to see the water treatment solutions designed by Cornell engineers in action. Even better would be the opportunity to identify and test potential modifications that would make the improve the water treatment process.

Me being part of a solution to solve a global problem, me helping bring drinking water to people in Honduras and India, me getting to spend my days experimenting, me having brilliant teachers and colleagues – that’s the me I will become at Cornell and that’s why I so desperately want to attend.

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