How I selected my College Major – by an Emerging Innovators Program alumni

I always knew I wanted to study a STEM major in college, specifically engineering, but I never knew which one. After all, students are not introduced to the full breadth of all of the niche fields in high school. There’s no way of knowing what you are truly interested in with the current curriculum or have a full understanding of what each major option entails. Going into my junior year, I knew I had to make a decision fast as I would soon have to write applications on why I wanted to major in a field I hadn’t even chosen at the time.

When hearing about the Emerging Innovators Program, I was immediately intrigued. The concept of biomimicry seemed so beneficial, and I was shocked that I had never heard of it before. Also, not having done any research project before, I did not know if research is something I could pursue further.

This program allowed me to explore the extent of the applications of biomimicry, and introduced me to the critical strategies of design that will be used in the future. The concept of whole system design thinking was what I found to be one of the most beneficial aspects of this program, giving me a leg up in college, and the workforce. This new form of thinking and observing problems is not taught in schools. And unlike schools, the real world does not provide you textbooks with all the answers. I knew that the knowledge and skills I had gained through this program would be invaluable to me in college and beyond.

Near the end of this program, also the end of my junior year in high school, I began exploring different majors once again. It was clear that I wanted to pursue a field where I would be able to use and further my knowledge in whole system design thinking, in order to create sustainable solutions in the future. My research project introduced me to the vast applications of nanotechnology. And I was hooked. However, I still wanted to pursue engineering. This led me to choose Materials Engineering, as I would be able to do both.

The Emerging Innovators Program allowed me to delve into the harsh truth of the design process many industries use, and helped me find a cause I wanted to help solve in the future. I chose a research topic that I found interesting, and was able to thorough my extensive research in the relevant topics.

In the end, in my college applications, I chose to write about my research paper and found it extremely easy to express the reasons behind my choice in major. I believe it was the depth of my understanding and decisions behind how I can benefit the world through my chosen major that appealed to the admissions committees of several colleges. I was fortunate enough to have gotten into amazing engineering programs at UCLA, UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, and more. I will be pursuing Materials Engineering at UC Berkeley and I believe my time at the Emerging Innovators Program helped me find my path to higher education.

About The Author:

Saniya Shrotriya completed the 2 semester Emerging Innovators Research Program in 2019-2020. She is an incoming freshman at UC Berkeley (2021- 2025) and will be majoring in Materials Engineering.