Keep an Open Mind and Heart

Look out the window. What do you see?

Marveling human craft. A world built by the hands of men and women. A landscape shaped by the chisel of our tools. Herein lies lyrical music flowing from source to ear, aromatic food filling our stomachs, and delightful intricacies of every kind. How did all of this come to be? Looking at my very hands and own soft figure, I am part of the order that has brought all of this to be.

These thoughts plagued the cranium of my high school body. They still do, manifesting themselves as questions I ask myself of what I should do with my life: how do I shape a life that is true to who I am, who am I, and what truly matters?

Recently, I went through an audit of the direction I am heading towards. I was prompted with the stark reality that this year would be a year of transition. Two and a half years ago, I made one goal: to get into Columbia University for materials science engineering. And I told myself, no matter what you will stick with it. Today, as I sit with the application to transfer schools in front of me, I ask myself if this is still the path I want to pursue and why. If I am accepted, I would start fall semester at a different campus.

Two tracks interest me: mechanical engineering and materials science engineering/applied physics. My freshman summer, I conducted condensed matter research. Specifically, my project was on creating novel thermoelectric fabrics. My sophomore summer, I conducted highly interdisciplinary research involving electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, materials science engineering. At the core was however, applied physics. My project was on amplifying brain waves to control a robot using flexible organic circuitry. The next logical step is some nexus between materials science engineering and applied physics. The science of flexible organic electronics is exciting.

On the other end, I spent my summers reading two topics: social enterprises and environmental sustainability/ethics. I’ve developed such an immense interest in how I can use engineering to positively impact the world we live in. Of all the social enterprises that focus on creating products with engineering I’ve come across, mechanical engineering seems to be at the heart of it, not materials science. I’ve had this hunch that there is always a way to combine your myriad interests into one and do that as your career. Logically, mechanical engineering would aid me most directly on the path I wish to pursue. But I have built up all this momentum in materials science/applied physics from my research experience.

Nobody tells you how to get there. At the end of the day, you have to make the hard decisions that shape your life. As I question myself what engineering I want to study, I will keep in mind this: follow what makes sense right now. Professor Kleinert told me this a while ago, but I didn’t understand it at the time. The path I traveled has shown me so much of the world that I would have never seen and experienced if I had followed some rigid plan. I’ve found out that I really enjoy creating devices, utilizing fascinating materials, and seeing concepts through to completion. There will be time to connect all your interests eventually. I am only an undergraduate with two and a half years of school left. This is truly your time and your life. You can shape it however you wish and if conventionally, the things you pursue won’t be the most advantageous gain, it is okay! Following conventions and norms may not be the life you wish to live.

Moving forward, I will be submitting my applications to engineering schools soon. I will be choosing materials science engineering. If it turns out my heart lies elsewhere, then I will change from there. Results will be released in March and April.