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Sample Statement of Purpose for Product Design

Statement by a student from India (12/2002)
The Product Design Program Applicant admitted to Stanford

Write a brief statement concerning both your past work in your intended field of study and related fields, your plans for graduate study at Stanford, and your subsequent career plans. As this is an important part of your application, please describe the relevance of your past work and future intentions to the program for which you are applying.


One evening in xxxx, as I was strolling on the deck of the Motor Tanker X, where I was serving as Chief Engineer, I came upon the anchor which had been heaved up the day before, when we set sail the across the Atlantic. A thrill ran through me, as the anchor had brought up with it loamy clay of the finest quality. I picked up a bucket load of this clay and hauled it off to my cabin to model into a sculpture, a favorite hobby of mine when I was ashore on leave. I enjoyed making that particular sculpture so much, first building a metal skeleton using various tools from the engineer’s workshop, I decided that if there was a career which could integrate engineering acumen and artistic creativity together, that would be the career I would be most happy pursuing. But over the years, I had come to believe that these two were disparate and irreconcilable interests and that one could only be pursued at the expense of the other, at least as far as a career was concerned. It was only when I came across the Product Design course description as offered at Stanford University, that it became evident to me this need not be necessarily so.

I always had a keen interest in the study of Mathematics & the Engineering Sciences, and was always among the top three students in class. On passing out of Higher Secondary School, I was awarded a Certificate of Merit from the Government of India for achieving a score within the top one percent of students all over India that year in Physics. This predilection for Applied Science & Engineering led me to the study Marine Engineering for my Bachelor’s degree, so that I could work with large, powerful and varied machinery in a single capsule unit, aboard a ship. At engineering college, I secured the first rank in Academics during the final two years of study. I was also awarded the Gold Medal from the Office of the President of India for all-round excellence and possessing qualities likely to make the Finest Marine Engineer from my batch.

Having completed 10 years of active service last year as a Marine Engineer aboard X ocean-going tanker vessels, with about 2 years in the capacity of Chief Engineer, I had gained a large amount of hands-on, practical knowledge of marine & mechanical engineering systems, such as IC engines, steam & gas turbine machinery, cargo handling hydraulic systems, centrifugal pumping and purifying systems, advanced unmanned automation & control systems, etc. But I aspired to go beyond being a maintenance engineer to a design engineer, and realized I needed to gain a more research-based, theoretical foundation to complement my practical experience. I applied to and was admitted into the Master of Science degree program in Ocean Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, I was introduced to modern theory and practice of ship design and was specially fascinated by the field of Structural Reliability as applied to ship design. My final research project was the preparation of a report for a Reliability-based guideline, converting the deterministic Rules for determining structural scantlings for steel ships currently being applied by the American Bureau of Shipping, City, State. XX is a leading Ship Classification Society, a governing body that establishes and administers standards for the design, construction, and operational maintenance of marine vessels and structures. I am currently employed as a Ship Structural Engineer at XX, working on structural plan reviews for new buildings and creating Finite Element Models for analyzing dynamic and static loads on ships.

Yet, all through these years as a professional engineer, I fueled my passion for Art by devoting almost every moment of my leisure, at home and on board ship, to painting or sculpture or to the study of fine art. I created numerous paintings in oil and gouache, and many sculptures in clay, continually honing my creativity and artistic skill. I won many awards and prizes for painting and sketching at the school and inter-collegiate level. Although I could not find the time to learn painting in a formal art course, I have read extensively on various subjects in art and learned further by copying many works of great Masters such as Michelangelo, the pre-Raphaelite painters, and some ancient Indian Masters in Sculpture. I did finally realize a long-standing desire to study art formally when I did an intensive summer course in drawing at Berkeley.

The Product Design Course, especially in the form it is being offered at Stanford University, jointly by the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Art, seems to me to be the most perfectly suited to my dream of forging these two diverse interests of mine into a fulfilling new career. Though I have had no formal training in design, I have found that I could come up with innovative and original ideas for solutions to various problems faced during my career at sea, such as designing new types of tools for machinery maintenance, more efficient methods of overhaul or more effective automation systems. At leisure too, I have always enjoyed designing and building models, be they a set of rotating water fountains for ship-board decoration or a stable painting easel from the limited material available on board or architectural sketches for my future home.

I have also worked with keen interest in computer-based simulation models and training aids my father is currently involved in developing. I have designed numerous models for his company demonstrating lesson plans for the functioning of various mechanical systems such as principles of IC engines, fuel injection and fire detection systems etc., using software such as 3D Studio and Macromedia Director. I am currently engaged in developing a web-site for showcasing an exquisitely beautiful temple complex in Southern India, called X.

While I was studying at UC Berkeley, I had the opportunity of visiting the Stanford University campus and meeting with Professor Y of Design Division. He was very appreciative of my art portfolio and on his advice I visited the Design Loft on campus, which has left a lasting impression on me. There was a charged atmosphere of creativity in that room and it seemed ideas would almost shape themselves out in that melee of materials and tools and half-built models.

I am sure that formally studying Product Design can channelize my capabilities and enable me to come up with functionally efficient and aesthetically pleasing designs especially in the field of household consumer products and electronics. I would consider it an honor if I could study at Stanford University and assure you that I will put in my utmost effort into this domain.


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