Statement by a Student from Bulgaria currently studying in US (01/2003)
The Physics Student admitted to the University of Chicago
Statement of Purpose
I always think of my knowledge the same way a wealthy person thinks of his bank account, all he really knows is addition. My strong analytical abilities invariably attract me to unresolved theoretical problems either at the foundations of physics or at the frontiers of technology. Challenge intrigues and motivates me to discover unique solutions. The act of solving difficult problems not only provides an excellent way of gaining a significant amount of knowledge per unit time but also enables me to derive a deep sense of pride and satisfaction from my hard work.
Before entering Sofia University, I studied at one of the best specialized science high schools in Bulgaria. XX, a well-known in Bulgaria high school physics teacher, profoundly impacted my intellectual development at that time by engaging me in the school’s physics center and teaching me calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations at the university level. In addition, he instilled in me a spirit of competitiveness and intellectual curiosity. While preparing to represent Bulgaria at two International Physics Olympiads, I realized that being good in physics requires constant effort. Like an athlete training his or her muscles for the championship game, I refined my abilities to solve complicated problems through many hours of daily practice. The fact that I was awarded a bronze medal at the 1991 International Physics Olympiad in Cuba, gave me a deep, long - lasting confidence in my abilities. Due to the high level of expertise in undergraduate physics that I acquired during my preparation, now I am confident in my abilities to be an effective Teaching Assistant. In fact, I am currently a grader for the honors physics class at the X State University and look forward to the challenges awaiting me as a Teaching Assistant next quarter.
Following my graduation from Sofia University, I engaged in further development of my analytical skills from 1998 to 2000 while being a Research Assistant in the field of theoretical optical pattern recognition at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. I was responsible for developing mathematical methods to obtain a scale and rotation invariant correlation filter that may have exciting applications for image recognition of fingerprints, faces, cells, etc. The problem has remained unsolved for over 30 years. I worked on an independent basis, since no one in Bulgaria had theoretical expertise in the field. This unyielding work contributed in developing my intellectual persistence. My adviser, Prof. X, frequently remarked, “I am amazed you have not given up yet!” Although I was unable to find the general solution, I succeeded in both generalizing the existing methods and finding two new partial solutions. The results of my strenuous work were published in the two attached articles. I am especially proud of the last article, which will appear in the January 2003 issue of Applied Optics. It presents an analytical derivation and computational test of a new scale-only invariant filter that has shown one of the best performances in the field.
I am currently concentrating in elementary particle theory, including string theory. My interest in this topic stems from numerous discussions with a friend who works in the field as well as numerous Internet searches on the subject. A book from Stephen Hawking, The Universe in a Nutshell, further struck my imagination with its powerful ideas about strings, quantum gravity, black holes, and time travel. The mathematical demands and richness of new physics concepts attracted me to explore this field in greater detail.
In the summer of 2001, my interest led me to the CDF (Collider Detector at Fermilab) experimental high energy group at X State University. My task in the group was writing C++ software for data analysis. The CDF’s software is very good although not perfect. For example, the analysis programs usually crash when the structure of the input file is not of the type expected. Such failures motivated me to write the first program that was able to probe the structure of the input file and not try to read nonexistent data. My program never crashed and the members of the group started using it extensively.
My major project in the group was developing xxxx. I was specifically responsible for writing the routines that selected the tracks pertaining to a common vertex. I developed and implemented two completely new methods for xxxx. I performed a substantial amount of analytical work and computational tests to complete the design. My enthusiasm for the project, often translated into working until the early morning hours. The result was great in that I substantially raised the efficiency of the primary vertex finder to the level of vxprim (the standard vertex finder) and above. I presented the results in the talk I gave at Fermilab in August xxxx (attached).
While exploring the experimental side of high energy physics, my interest gradually shifted towards elementary particle theory. The recent advances in the field are promising - the Grand Unified Theory is closer than ever, gravity may be reconciled with quantum mechanics, and the extraction of details about the superstring theories at the Large Hadron Collider seems plausible. In addition, my personal experiences listed above have enabled me to realize that I have a natural inclination towards analytical work. I have already taken one course unit in quantum field theory and three units in particle physics. Studying the Standard Model and mastering the math machinery behind it fascinated me. Despite being a successful theory, it has too many phenomenological constants such as the quark and lepton masses and there is a great deal of work for a researcher. The enthusiasm I felt during these courses convinced me that I had made the right choice of subject. Additionally, my time here at the X State University has enabled me to attend some impressive talks in superstring theories by leading lecturers in the field that have also further stimulated my interest.
I tested my general theoretical preparation in September xxxx when I passed the Qualifying Exam at the X State University with a score of 89% (results attached) compared to an average of 47% among my student colleagues. Next quarter, I will continue to strengthen my background by taking the last units of the quantum field theory as well as any course offered on superstrings. I have also been studying group theory on an independent basis. In my opinion, a good theoretician must have expertise in areas outside of the major field. That is why, led by my intellectual curiosity, I took a course in superconductivity during spring quarter 2002. Furthermore, next quarter I will be enrolled in courses on general relativity, nonlinear dynamical systems and chaos, and a nuclear theory course that will discuss applications of effective field theory to many body systems.
The intensive and more advanced level of research in elementary particles theory at the University of California at Berkeley has strengthened my belief that your program provides better opportunities for me to continue my studies of the Standard Model and the superstring theories. The Berkeley’s first-class faculty and the presence of a competitive student body that more appropriately matches my own high level of preparation would certainly stimulate me more to achieve the highest standards of academic excellence in physics. Furthermore, I find the research conducted at Berkeley more contemporary and intriguing. Of particular interest to me in my field is the research of Prof. Lawrence Hall in physics of extra spatial dimensions and symmetry breaking and that of Prof. Petr Horava in string theory. Graduating from Berkeley would have a profound impact on my future career in physics by providing better opportunities for professional realization in the academic sphere.
In conclusion, my comprehensive background in theoretical and computational physics, my strong interest in theoretical particle physics, and my proven abilities to independently obtain solutions in highly unyielding theoretical areas (optical pattern recognition), give me the confidence that I have the appropriate potential and motivation to meet to your high academic standards while being an innovative contributor to the science of physics.
IVAN IVANOV: DATE:
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