2017 Scholarship Winner's Essay (Alex Simon)
Continuous Improvement in Transportation
Life in the United States has seen massive changes within the last few decades due to a technological revolution. Advances in transportation have provided a significant improvement of Americans’ quality of life. However, 27% of the world’s energy consumption is currently used for transportation. Due to the scarcity and the inefficient usage of resources such as petroleum, our society, as it currently functions, is not sustainable. Therefore, a major goal of mine is to develop processes to extract a greater amount of utility per unit of the Earth’s natural resources.
From an early age, I took interest in the maths and sciences. Even before I started school, I enjoyed wandering around the house, counting and measuring whatever happened to cross my path. As I became older, my interests shifted from measuring things to building things – such as a house of cards. Of course, being a child, I couldn’t go to the store and buy another deck of cards every time I wanted to build a larger house. Therefore, I spent hours trying to design an increase in the size of the house while using the same number of decks. It was scenarios like this that introduced me to the challenge of using resources more efficiently.
Next fall, I will begin my freshman year at the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, where I plan to major in Chemical Engineering. I then plan to further my skills by pursuing a master’s degree, also in Chemical Engineering. A key interest of mine, and an area where I believe I can make a difference in our society, is transportation. Internal combustion engines power nearly every vehicle on the road today and only a fraction of the energy released by burning gasoline is used to propel the vehicle forward. The rest is lost to the surroundings – as heat. This causes higher costs for American consumers and creates more stress on our oil reserves. Recently, direct injection and similar technologies have shown that engine efficiency still has potential for improvement. After I become a chemical engineer, I would enjoy being involved in the development of new fuel mixtures or additives to increase combustion efficiency. If this development is successful, Americans will collectively save millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on fuel and the United States will be brought closer to its goal of energy independence.
Above is just one example of the important work I hope to accomplish as a Chemical Engineer. Additional transportation challenges I expect to face during my career include reducing vehicle emissions, improving the longevity of brake and transmission fluids, decreasing the manufacturing costs for electric car batteries, and preventing corrosion. My goal, for a career as a Chemical Engineer, is to facilitate the research, design, production, and distribution of products to support continued improvement in transportation efficiency. By doing this, I aim to move the United States along a path towards energy efficiency and energy independence.
June 9, 2017