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First impressions on REU letter of interest (MATH)

  1. Nov 2, 2011 #1
    Started writing this yesterday. Hoping for some constructive critique.

    As far as what I have to say about it...It is not finished, and I have not yet gotten to talking about the program I am interested in yet, just background stuff about me so far (really looking to find out if i'm going too far into this, or if it's not quite what is expected, etc.. This is my first time applying to REUs)

    At the rate it is going, it WILL be too long, but I will cut it down when the time comes. Right now I'm just getting something on paper.

    I have personal critiques, but will refrain from stating them so that I don't influence other people's responses. I will however say that I think it sort-of reads like a story...which I think is probably a bad thing.

    The description:

    A personal statement that describes in approximately two pages (1) your background in mathematics, statistics, and programming; (2) your interest in applications of mathematics and/or statistics; (3) your previous research experiences (if any); and (4) your experience with or interest in team work (this can be in an academic or in an extracurricular setting, e.g., a campus club).

    My statement:

    As a Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering double major it should come as no surprise that mathematics, and more specifically mathematics applied in a practical way to the world around us, lies at the core of my interests. However, what may be surprising (to someone outside of the field of Mathematics) is that the more I learn about Mechanical Engineering, the more I realize that engineering, in the conventional sense, is actually not very mathematical at all. Most engineers (normal engineers) take comfort in the fact that math works and that they do not need to know how or why it does; however, for me, only doubts regarding the engineering profession, and a new-found reverence and desire for true mathematics, have stemmed from this realization. [gets a little grammatically at the end here, will probably change]

    My introduction to mathematics at the college level began with the usual single variable calculus sequences that all engineering students take during their freshman year. At the time I was convinced, absolutely, that I wanted to be an engineer. Had someone told me, at the time, that in less than a year I would be a declared math major considering graduate studies in Mathematics, and that I would be unnaturally anxious to take classes with such names as Abstract Algebra and Topology, I would have looked at them like they were insane (No way, not possible. That’s crazy…Right?).

    Though not quite ready to sign up for a math major as a freshman, I understood quite clearly that the more mathematical areas of mechanical engineering (fluid dynamics, heat transfer, finite element analysis, etc), were the things which I found intriguing. Consequently, I decided to take two courses in computer science as a freshman (a first-course in programming for CS majors, based in Python, and a subsequent course in data structures and algorithms, based in Java) due to the dominance of computing in these subfields of mechanical engineering. In the year to follow, with the understanding of the basic structure of programming languages I gained in these courses, I was able to quite easily (and independently) pick up the fundamentals of Mathematica, Matlab, C, and LaTeX; tools which, even as a sophomore student, have proven very useful (though I have yet to see their true power put to use).

    More recently, my inclination towards the more mathematical side of engineering has been taken to a new extreme. At first this showed itself in the form of a newly declared major. Next it was a slight deviation from the typical engineering curriculum to a more math oriented fall semester (Introductory Differential Equations, Set Theory and Logic, and Applied Linear Algebra). Now it is enrolling in a nearly exclusively Mathematics-oriented semester for the coming spring (Partial Differential Equations, Applied Statistics for Scientists and Engineers, Linear Algebra, and Number Theory), and the prospect of dropping my Mechanical Engineering double major entirely and preparing for applied mathematics graduate studies.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2011
  2. jcsd
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