When it comes right down to it, all I really want to do is build cool stuff. My medium of choice just happens to be digital circuitry. Throughout my years at the California Institute of Technology, I have participated in a number of research projects that have convinced me that I want to continue in digital design. My undergraduate career has laid the essential foundations for a future career in academia, and I hope to build upon these foundations at [school name].

At Caltech I have always enjoyed the opportunity to be in a learning environment where I can acquire new skills while applying old ones. I want to pursue a career in academia because it provides an environment where I can keep learning without the restrictions of working in industry. I want the freedom of research as well as the ability to share my work and knowledge with others. This is why I want to pursue a career in academia; and this is why I want to continue doing research.

Caltech is well-known for its demanding coursework, and while there have been times when I have wished that the workload was just a bit lighter, I have come to appreciate the challenges that could only have come from such highly comprehensive coverage of the material.

When I began my undergraduate coursework, I didn't know for certain that I wanted to pursue a career in digital design. It wasn't until the middle of my freshman year, when I took a course in the principles and design of microprocessor-based systems, that I found myself more and more inclined towards studying computer architecture and processor design. The courses I took in designing and creating embedded systems gave me the opportunity to approach a design problem from a creative point of view. Whereas project courses stood as unpleasant and time-consuming chores for many, I saw them as my own artistic outlet.

I also took a course in application-specific computers in which I learned the general principles of computer architecture and CPU design. After designing and implementing several different processors using FPGAs, I began to think not only about the inventive aspect of digital systems, but also about the optimization of these digital circuits, and making them faster, better, and smarter. I spent the summer after my freshman year working in André DeHon's Implementation of Computation group at Caltech. There, I developed a CAD tool to place and partition the logic blocks of FPGAs. This tool creates a hierarchical binary tree of subcircuits from an FPGA in order to estimate layout area and wiring for different circuit architectures.

My current research interests lie in the realm of VLSI circuit design. As with many other things, I first realized the appeal of this field when I took a VLSI design course. VLSI design is one of the wide-open frontiers in engineering, as the VLSI designer is constrained only by the two-dimensionality of the product; other things, like logic families, clocking schemes, and layout, are all open to modification. With so many variables to work with, there are limitless approaches that can be taken towards creating a digital integrated system. For the individually chosen final project for this course, I completed the design, layout, and verification of a three-layer neural network, my proudest undergraduate accomplishment to date. After that, I joined Alain Martin's Asynchronous VLSI group, where I have been contributing to the Lutonium project, which aims at developing a clockless version of the Intel 8051 microcontroller. In conjunction with this project, I have developed a program that automatically generates production rules as well as ready-to-fabricate layout for asynchronous read-only memories specified in an input file. This tool, "ROMantic", will also ultimately be able to generate layout for asynchronous programmable-logic arrays.

I find asynchronous VLSI design so appealing because it makes such a simple, intuitive change in the way hardware units communicate - by removing energy-inefficient clocks - to so drastically improve the performance of hardware systems. In my graduate education, I would like to continue to do research in the area of VLSI design; however I do not intend to limit myself to asynchronous VLSI. My main interest is in [something that your school does]. I am particularly interested in [some group] at [insert university name] because [give a reason].

I've found that my coursework and research background has provided me with a solid basis for analyzing engineering problems both theoretically and practically. I feel that I could best make use of my current foundations and build upon them in [insert university name]'s [insert department name] department. I have always been interested in [what that group does] and would like to join the [department name] at [insert university name] as the next step in my education and career.