Physical Natural Sciences

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Cambridge, Imperial College, Durham, Edinburgh

Perhaps oddly, it was a surprisingly successful project in engineering that ulti-mately inspired me to study physical sciences. A colleague and I built a portable net-worked meteorological station, winning a national electronics and program-ming competition. On the way I learned python, which trained me to organise my thoughts more clearly and learn to tackle tasks from different angles, and I also broadened my knowledge of electronics, however I realised that the closer the issues were to science, the more engaging they were. My favourite part was designing, carrying out and evaluating experiments to test and calibrate the gas sensors; the experience made me appreciate the complexity of practical investigations: the meticulous planning required beforehand cou-pled with the ability to think on one’s feet when things do not quite go as expected; see-ing the station working with the equation I derived from the results was highly satisfying. I also immensely enjoyed my taste of a science symposium in attending and presenting a poster and demonstration at an international school STEM conference. Science, the pursuit of the knowledge upon which engineering and so much else depends, is what fills me with wonder.

Reading and attending science lectures at school has opened my eyes to the in-creasing interdisciplinarity of modern science, as scientists have realised over the past century that many phenomena, from cognition to the weather, can neither be reduced to fundamental physical principles nor pigeon-holed into a single field. I believe the cutting edge of science today is at the intersection of different disciplines, for instance the use of computational and statistical models in systems biology; in researching Brownian motion for my physics AS coursework I was impressed by the use of maths to describe diffusion but also its ability to capture a wealth of critical biological phenomena. This is why I wish to take a course which crosses these traditional boundaries, so as to gain the breadth of knowledge with which to understand and appreciate more fully the beauty of the natural world.

To become a competent scientist, a strong mathematical ability is vital. How-ever, beyond acknowledging its necessity, I love the combination of logic and creative thinking involved in problem solving: in the past two years I have received distinctions in the Maclaurin and the British Math Olympiad and attended the selective UK Math Trust summer school. In last year’s national cipher challenge my team placed highly in the UK- in the tricky final round I spotted that with the addition of an underscore, the 27 different characters could be encoded with a transposition cipher fractionated with a cube rather than the conventional square grid, thus mapping each letter to a unique trigram. In uni-versity I look forward to solving yet more complex problems and taking full advantage of mathematics’ “unreasonable effectiveness” in providing insights into the workings of the universe.

Although science is my focus, I continually strive to better myself through engagement in other activities. Through participation in interschool debating and model United Nations competi-tions, at which I have won multiple best speaker awards, I greatly increased my confidence and communication skills, as well as my ability to structure coherent and persuasive arguments. I im-proved my time management studying Chinese in my own time last year. I enjoy drawing as a hobby, and to share and enjoy art with others I founded an online art group; over three years it grew to over 2000 members and I gained leadership skills managing a staff team of volunteers. I continue to use these abilities as the head of house at my school, coordinating charity fairs, concerts and helping new students. Volunteering at a youth centre mentoring children from one of the most deprived areas of London has kept me grounded and aware of my responsibility to society.

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