College Admission Essays

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David Foxe – Sussex – Wisconsin

What began as a curiosity in a few architectural sites resulted in something much larger. Over the past five years, David has visited over 600 architectural landmarks in the Midwest and Northeast, exploring the works of those including Wright, Pei and Eero Saarinen. He did much of his research while a student at Hamilton High School, where he was a National Merit Scholar, Tandy Scholar and Wal-Mart Scholar. He has accomplished all of this in spite of having Lamellar Ichthyosis, a rare and energy-consuming skin condition. About his condition he says, “It has caused me to realize my limitations but also to strive with my best efforts.” For his application to MIT, David was asked to write his own question and then answer it.

Aesthetics and Calculus – MIT

David’s Question: Describe how such seemingly different subjects such as aesthetics and calculus can be integrated (pun intended) to exemplify a larger pattern of interrelated creative and applied thought. Include obscure but pertinent references to Heisenberg, conga drums, Maurice Ravel, the history of German Literature and Alden B. Dow when applicable. A principal characteristic that exemplifies my essay is that the question is more important than the answer, especially when the question requires thinking outside the box.

This topic is based on my research presentation, The Aesthetics of Calculus 1, which I found extremely interesting as a discovery process. The mathematical analysis tools of calculus can be applied to the artistic elements of life including photography, visual art, architecture and music. The relations described by calculus functions are crucial to a true comprehension of photography, technical aspects that allow for enhanced artistic expression within the realm of light and optics, media which allow us to visualize and appreciate the realm of visual art.

Stimulating and intricate works of art can be created from the math topics of topology, fractal geometric regression (an example of which I discovered in a math contest problem) and general aesthetic proportion. Especially meaningful to me are the examples I analyzed in the field of architecture in which hyperbolic functions of structural caternaries, hyperbolic paraboloid concrete marvels and other unit-based geometric works by Alden B. Dow, F.L. Wright and Santiago Calatrava. Finally, I explored the mathematical descriptions of waves for musical instruments, such as organ pipe lengths and the volume of wood that allows percussive resonance in conga drums.

This independent research has helped me to clarify that I want to pursue an education that will allow me to enrich an understanding not only of scientific analysis, but also of the aesthetic creative development. This mathematical learning has caused me to enjoy such hobbies as photography and (almost concert-level) piano even more because I can appreciate the principles supporting them, such as the complex harmony of compositions by Maurice Ravel. I have learned that architecture best integrates many different elements of art, music, engineering, history and math to create a more efficient and beautiful environment to benefit the people who live and work with these buildings. Therefore, the intellectual environment of MIT best encompasses the knowledge to pragmatically accomplish the creative problem-solving for building people up through their architectural environment.

Why This Essay Succeeded

Good essays demonstrate how a student sees his or her fit with the college. Without beating you over the head, David shows his match with MIT. This college seeks students who are talented in fields like mathematics and who can relate their book learning to the real world. Wouldn’t you agree David has demonstrated he is MIT material? We certainly believe the admission officers did.

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