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Sifting through the charcoaled rubble after a house fire taught me an invaluable lesson: that the
material possessions we collect are ephemeral, temporary. I’ve been shaken by many things in
my life, but surviving a fire had a much subtler impact. I embarked on a quest for purpose that
was more substantive, something which would outlast my assets. I began to consider my
father’s life and his choices in a new light. Although he was broadly autodidactic, he spent my
formative years working as an auto parts store clerk; much of his potential was unrealized. He
did however instill in me his own love and curiosity of physics, electronics, and programming.
My goal is to take that passion and allow it to expand into a broader realm, actualizing my own
potential while engaging in projects that will change the world.
I had my first substantive foray into electrical work during my 5 years at an ambulance
manufacturing company, where I was employed as a production-line electrician team leader. I
gained a broad set of traditional skills, including soldering, harness routing, and circuit board
wiring, although I persistently had my sights set higher. As such, I made an effort to familiarize
myself with the more fundamental underpinnings of the labor that I performed regularly, by
learning basic circuit analysis and diagnosis. Ultimately, I composed and implemented a logic
structure and user interface for our Intellitec windows-based Programmable Multiplexing
Controller, which became a standard for many of our ambulances.
Unfortunately, the economic recession of 2007 marked a rather difficult period for many. This
strain led to widespread layoffs, myself included. Looking back, it was an incredibly trying time; I
was facing unemployment and foreclosure, with no formal education, having experience in a
particularly niche market where I was living. However, I took the opportunity to become engaged
in work that was more vast in scope and purpose. Working in the non-profit realm was
challenging, but it gave me the chance to both use the skills I had learned, honing my drive to
become part of a movement larger than myself.
My involvement with Grassroots Campaigns was primarily managerial in scope, involving little
direct application of my electrical proficiency. Nevertheless, working in a chaotic, fast-paced
environment of smart, driven activists and organizers has myriad correlations to the
graduate-level academic environment. A notable success constituted founding an operation for
Repower America. We collected nearly 40,000 video clips of voters discussing renewable
energy. Our campaign outperformed many peer offices in major cities, despite being based in
rural Indiana.
I took another chance to build upon my knowledge of programming and electronics during my
time at Public Outreach, another non-profit campaigning organization. As a Special Projects
Manager, I had been given the autonomy to engage in countless ventures, including producing
a build of Tiny Core Linux to be distributed on point-of-sale terminals for our call centers in
Melbourne and Perth, Australia. Additionally, I wrote several donation email confirmation and
appeal scripts for charities including NARF (Native American Rights Fund), inciting a nearly 50%
increase in donor retention after implementation. After Public Outreach closed their doors, I decided that it was an excellent time to finally pursue
my interests in a more focused academic arena. Most notably, the opportunity to engage in a
research project has solidified my passions, affording me the opportunity to directly apply my
knowledge and work with like-minded individuals. I joined the research team at an early phase
of the project, allowing me to be pertinent to all stages of its evolution. I made deep
contributions to several research goals, including assisting with magnetic field probe installation
and spectroscopy telescope design. However, after considering necessary experimental
diagnostics that were not implemented, I determined my ultimate locus: the personal design,
construction, and realization of a quadrature heterodyning interferometery system, which
included architecting its optics, analog signal processing, and demodulation electronics
systems. Our interferometer has now successfully been collecting density measurements over
the last several months and I’ve been moving beyond pure instrumentation to carry out my own
scientific objectives. For example, I’ve recently been experimentally testing the validity of certain
theoretical values being used in our index of refraction density calculations.
Furthermore, I’ve delivered multiple presentations of the system in venues such as the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics annual conference, a physics department
seminar, and internal departmental talks. Mastering such a project has been incredibly fulfilling,
and I’m excited to continue. Though working as a STEM tutor while simultaneously conducting
research has certainly put a strain on my ability to maintain my grades, I wouldn’t trade those
opportunities for the free time it would afford me. My drive to commit to my research has been
amplified by my personal investment in the project’s outcome. I see a clear need for innovative
energy solutions in the future, and working on an experimental fusion reactor helps gratify my
desire to conduct world-changing work. I have an insatiable drive for growth, both personally
and in those with whom I work around. It has become very clear to me that I want to continue
working on similar research in the future.
Considering my own overlapping blend of interests between electrical engineering and physics
at the University of Washington, I’m incredibly excited about the prospect of working
side-by-side with pioneers in EE and physics, specifically working with the electronic, photonics
and nanodevices group at Yale, engaging with a dynamic and diverse team of people who
share my drive for success. 

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I'm Erica!

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