Roshan Sivabalan is currently a first year undergraduate reading MEng in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London. This personal statement was part of his successful application to Imperial College London, University College London (UCL), University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester for Chemical Engineering.
Diamonds puzzled me – a substance so small and seemingly delicate, measured a 10 on the Mohs scale, and could survive being immersed in concentrated sulphuric acid unscathed. It is unfathomable that this glass-like structure remains as the only known natural substance that can cut anything and that really intrigued me. After doing some research, I learned that it was the tetrahedral arrangement of the compressed carbon atoms that make the carbon-carbon covalent bonds so strong, giving diamonds the aforementioned properties: making it breakable only under extreme pressures.
However, what I found more fascinating was the application of this knowledge about the chemical properties of diamond; engineers have fashioned synthetic diamonds by replicating diamond’s geometrical atomic structure to make it accessible to the masses. Yet others have created nanodiamonds with good reflective properties, which are used to monitor the cellular-level changes in cancer patients after medication is administered. Innovations like these piqued my interest in chemical engineering; I find myself intellectually engaged by the art of manipulating the structural components of atoms to yield creations capable of improving life for the average man.
To explore my interest in this field, I interned at an engineering firm, and was assigned to the Oil and Gas division. There, I shadowed a chemical engineer involved in the building of megastructures. I obtained valuable insight into the role that chemical processes play in the creation of concrete structures used in offshore drilling. I also learned about the assembly of subsea pipelines which are used to pump liquid natural gas from the oil rigs in Lekas, Malacca. Furthermore, I was trained to identify and distinguish good tenders from those that were not, by taking factors such as cost, materials used and construction period into account.
I enjoy the study of Chemistry – it allows me to understand how compounds exist, react and work with one another; this might allow for the identification of the quickest way to yield a product via application of Le Chatelier’s principle. Moreover, the interplay between Physics and Chemistry is fascinating; I find that I understand concepts better when I employ a multidisciplinary approach to my learning. For instance, I better grasped Hess’ Law – which gives that the total enthalpy change of a chemical reaction is independent of the path it takes – when I realised that it was merely a twist on the principle of conservation of energy, which I learned in Physics. Mathematics and Further Mathematics opened my mind to how numbers, although imaginary, have real world applications. For example, studying probability and statistics allows us to calculate insurance risks and estimate ocean current behaviors while knowledge about projectile motions, gravitational force and multiple other mathematical laws made it possible for us to put a man on the moon. My love for these subjects pushed me to participate in the National Chemistry Quiz and the Mathematics Olympiad. I was pleased to receive merit awards in both competitions as a validation of my decision to read a degree built around that subject matter.
In high school, I had to juggle my academics with my duties as the Head Boy, President of the English Language Society and the Vice President of the Taekwondo Club. These experiences helped develop my time-management abilities, while teaching me to work well in teams, a soft skill vital for engineers. Serving as a member of the Malaysian national debating team for 5 consecutive years in multiple local and international tournaments, trained me to think critically under pressure and I feel this will serve me well in university.
I am confident that my experiences, positive and negative, have prepared me for the challenges I will face in university. I am eager and ready to read a rigorous degree in chemical engineering and cannot wait to begin this exciting new chapter in my life.
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