Statement of Purpose to the University of Oxford [accepted: MSc in Computer Science]
by Haikal Pribadi
It was 3 am and the date on my calendar had changed twice. I had been sitting at my desk for 29 hours, teaching myself J. A. Sethian’s Level Set theory to create an object segmentation program, and the fluid-motion movement of shapes had started converging to detect objects in the test image. The memory of adrenaline rushing through me during the next several hours as I sped towards completing the program, to successfully detect objects within images, has never been forgotten. At that moment I knew I would be the only undergraduate to develop this advanced object segmentation algorithm. This was my second year as an undergraduate, I had taught a machine a trait of human intelligence and it opened up my mind to a whole new world of passion in Computer Science. I have convinced myself to continue my studies and pursue a career in research and academia.
My intellectual development especially in the area of mathematics dates back to the days of my childhood. As a child that grew up in an immigrant family in Australia, owning as many books (mainly encyclopedias) of all kinds from the Salvation Army since I was 4 were my best memories. Having a room filled with books as my own small library by the time I was 8, the drive and thirst for knowledge started since then. Mathematics being my strongest skills and having represented my home town for 9th rank regional and 133rd rank national in the Pasiad Mathematics Olympiad Indonesia, I was exposed to advance topics of mathematics including number theory, algebra, induction, proofing methods, graph theory, set theory, advance calculus, probability, combinatorics and Boolean algebra at a young age. Computer Science being a field built upon my interest and strongest skills in mathematics, I decided to pursue this field at a university level although I was never privileged enough to have a personal computer to call my own back then.
The theoretical foundations of Computer Science were always the most intellectually satisfying, stimulating and intriguing. Discrete mathematics, theory of computation, cryptography, data structures and algorithms have inspired me to excel throughout my undergraduate studies. The passion towards applying these theories in wide ranges of Computer Science have led me constantly challenging myself to take all my research projects to levels higher than faculty requirements.
As I fell in love with computer science, I discovered the thrill and satisfaction of solving problems algorithmically and I started growing a motivated habit of completing weeks’ worth of projects in matters of day and night. Every piece of work was an incomparable exhilarating experience as intense work to tight deadlines became second nature. Being able to absorb and implement new concepts at a rapid pace encouraged me to develop a positive attitude towards educating my peers various topics of our studies, especially those involving complex algorithms. As the person I have grown into, I am confident I can pursue a career in research as well as sharing my knowledge through teaching.
This pursuit of my passion and dream has been through sacrifices. Although I have graduated as a 4.0 GPA student from Sunway College and received the Merite scolaire de l’Ontario award upon entering Monash University, I have had to work 2 jobs to support myself and my family through a terrible financial crisis during my 1st year in Monash. However, I still maintained a GPA of 3.625 for that year. The following year, I took a year break and decided to work in America where labor work earns 20 times more than my country which allowed me to save up for school. Upon selling all my valuables and owning only US$475 I traveled half way around the world to the USA to work. After 4 months of my visa and returning to Malaysia with only half of what I needed for a year’s fee, I continued my journey to Sydney, Australia with the same intention. My dreams inspired me to continue to overcome these challenges.
Since the day I returned to Monash, I have constantly maintained a GPA of 4.0 in all my studies while continuing my work commitments. I am also confirmed to receive the 2011 Achievement Awards in February 2012 as well as having the highest ever GPA to graduate from my faculty in the last 4 years. As the best programmer in my undergraduate course, I recently represented Monash University in a Malaysia-Singapore invitation-only 24 hours programming event and received the best student team award, as well as runner-up investors’ votes. I believe my performance will stand me in good stead for the expected standard of excellence in Oxford.
During non-school hours, I work as a research assistant in my faculty. I am currently developing a robotic benchmark environment on which agent controllers can be tested. This testbed environment will simulate robot-human interactions, with the objective of examining the ideas of free will. I will also take part in developing the agent controllers. Not only I am gaining invaluable knowledge and experience, but being a research assistant also becomes the solution to afford my education fees.
The prominence of my creative talent stimulated a passion in augmented and virtual reality involving artificial intelligence, image processing and computer vision as I find them being a promising pathway to new trends of future arts and technologies. More specifically, I find it fascinating how these fields allow computing to extend our physical world that we live in and at the same time produce artwork that stimulates emotional experiences. These interests are reflected in the current work on my final year research project, an artwork involving real-time fluid simulation and movement recognition using the Kinect sensor from Microsoft; it is a fluid simulation projected on a wall where people may dance and wave their body to, as if they were splatting paint aligned with the rhythm of music.
The burning passion within me leaves me craving for knowledge and convinced me to continue my dream of studying in Oxford. The Oxford Department of Computer Science is the perfect place for me because it suits my personality. I am a spontaneous person with high curiosity – the person who raises his hands the most in every class he attends and experiments with all ideas for the sake of learning. Famous for its exposure to wide range of actual research projects under professional and direct supervision, the individual attention tailored to my needs will allow me to excel at a rate I could not imagine. With Oxford’s cutting-edge technology and being an ambitious person full of creativity and imagination, Oxford will provide me the guidance and opportunity to learn and develop my ideas towards significant original contributions. As a globally renowned university, graduating from Oxford would set me a big leap leading into further intellectual growth and advancement in the field of Computer Science.
I am 20 years old and my focus is to become a Professor of Computer Science. The Master in Science degree at Oxford and then a doctoral degree are the steps to achieving my ultimate dream of a lifelong career in research and academia. I am fully aware of the dedication, commitment and sacrifices of this path I’m pursuing, but I believe it will always be offset with the intellectual satisfaction and gratification of contributing to knowledge that will make a difference to the world. I believe I possess the motivation and intellectual ability for this graduate study.
I am thankful of everyday of my life to have found something that I truly love and dreams that reflect my personality at a really young age. Last but not least, I would like to thank the admission committee for their time and effort. I look forward to joining Oxford as a graduate student at your esteemed department.
PS: I would like to thank my lecturers, Dr. Simon Egerton, Prof. Chris Messom, Dr. Saadat Alhashmi and Dr. Thomas O’Daniel: I greatly appreciate all the advices and support that you have given me in the process of Oxford’s application – I can never thank you enough. Also I would like to thank my dear friends Glenn Suryo, Joshua Newn, Soroush Saffari, Arafah Edruce, Ardelia Maraya and Ganeshwara Hananda for helping me proofread my essay and all the inputs given. Thank you everyone.