Monday, August 14, 2006

Creativity pays too

Tony blogged about how persistence pays here. I want to add that a little bit of creativity in addition to persistence can also go a long way. That was probably the extra "edge" that helped Nurjuanis Zara Zainuddin get into Oxford.

I think it's not sufficient just to have great results to get into Oxbridge. Certainly, a terrific SAT score alone won't get you into Harvard or Princeton or Stanford. You have to have that something "extra" in your CV to differentiate yourself from the crowd of overachievers. That something "extra" for Nurjuanis was the fact that she wrote a book called "The Art of Seeing Science". What impressed me most about her was not only the fact that she wrote that book (and has completed a first draft of "The Art of Seeing History") but more importantly, her genuine passion and conviction which led her to write these books.

Very often, overachievers would attempt to "pad" their CVs with activities which they might not necessarily be passionate about - achieving a grade 8 in piano playing, taking up equestrian, doing community service, organising fund raising events, and so on.

I think that it's of utmost importance for us to have interests outside our studies and that these interests should be allowed to be developed or even flourish while we're young. We should be encouraged to be creative in our interests. If we like playing RTS (Real Time Strategy) computer games, why not gang up with a few friends to enter a few Warcraft competitions? Or get together to design new and interesting maps? Or if we like playing Civ IV, why not learn to create new and interesting mods? I'm sure a CV or application form to Stanford or MIT which has a link to your own homepage with downloadable CIV IV mods or new Warcraft or Counterstrike maps would impress the admissions office. (Although the old fogies at Oxbridge might not be similarly blown away)

So for the aspiring Ivy-leaguers or Oxbridge hopefuls, take some time off from the books and go do something else more interesting and challenging.


Tiara said...

oooh! nifty! she's got the right idea :)

Anonymous said...

Well, some overachievers are published writers, too :) And then you'll get a case not unlike the brouhaha in the US earlier this year, when a Harvard student was charged with plagiarism---writing a teen-chick lit. (sort of "Bridget Jones's Diary" for teenagers), no less!

But Kian Ming's point still stands, so long as the activity is being engaged in with passion, not with CV-padding in mind. Frankly, you can spot these things 9 out of 10 times.

Anonymous said...

When your father owns the publishing company, it is not difficult to publish your book!
Frankly, I read or browse at her book and find nothing there at all...just lots of words and adjectives typical of secondart school students learning to grasp the language. At any time Sunny Yees books on physics and maths are thousands times better.
To write a good technical book or a science book you do need a lot of factors...foremost:


I see none in her book, maybe it is suitable for the students as a light reading what she do between the ringing of the bell

As I say it...It helps if your father is a publisher

Anonymous said...

black mojo: Thanks for the additional info left out of the Star article. Not by accident, I am sure, but perhaps because the Star writer assumes that everyone would remember reading another Nov 13, 2005 Star write-up about the teenager writing her first science book.

For all we know, she might be truly passionate about what she's doing, so I do not want to knock her for this. But boy, her father should start a PR firm in addition to his publishing concern. And to the Star writers: Good reporting is putting press releases into your own words (Colbert, 2006).

Anonymous said...

Come man,

give the girl a break. Do u expect a teenager to write a book like a professor? At least she produce a book at her age and wrote it based on her understanding. The title "The Art of Seeing Science" also reflect it. It will be a great help for student of her age to understand basic principles. See The Star dated Sunday August 13 2006

'Her 70-page book had aimed to inspire young people to learn Science and Mathematics.'

A good start young girl. I hope that you will be a prolific writer in the future.

Anonymous said...

Black mojo is not against her..or for the matter anyone writing. It is good to write.

How ever it is not easy to get your book published..every aspiring writer knows that.

The point is..IF YOUR FATHER IS THE PUBLISHER, YOU CAN PUBLISH ANYTHING...( even if it means publishing rubbish or what ever nonsense )

A reputable publisher would not easily accept just about anything as it might be a financial fiasco. Even then, the book to be published would be critically reviewed by your peers or those in that field.

In her book, I only see songs and hymns of praises about the book from her own teachers. He He He

To Ah Piau, even senior lecturers and professors find it difficult to write a good book. A book need to represent a deep and holistic understanding of the knowledge if it were to be respected. Writing a research paper in a journal would be less daunting as you only cover a very narrow aspect of a knowledge.

I have known many who tried to write a single decent book even after 20 years....Its not easy! Unless perhaps you write all the so called "cinta cinta "books

Anonymous said...

Black Mojo,

I agree with u 100% that a good academic book must go through several processes such as review by an expert in a particular area, marketability, credibility, issue of defamation.

Academic writer will also look for credible and establish publisher. Normally university press is consider credible.

But in this case, a small time writer writing about something she knew. I think can la. After all it mend only to school children - to understand science from the perspective of their peer.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ah Piau,
I raised my white flag! I surrender! You win!
But I enjoyed so much sparring with you and Learn From History

Black mojo

Anonymous said...

Black Mojo,

where got win lose one. but the discussion is more important ma. Me too enjoy. Never mind next topic la.

have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

Hey fellow commentors, what do you all think of the recent Newsweek ranking of universities? Malaysia completely down in the drain, whereas Singapore's still quite well. And after all those people declaring this and that, all just bull***t

Check these:

1. Harvard University
2. Stanford University
3. Yale University
4. California Institute of Technology
5. University of California at Berkeley
6. University of Cambridge
7. Massachusetts Institute Technology
8. Oxford University
9. University of California at San Francisco
10. Columbia University
11. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
12. University of California at Los Angeles
13. University of Pennsylvania
14. Duke University
15. Princeton Universitty
16. Tokyo University
17. Imperial College London
18. University of Toronto
19. Cornell University
20. University of Chicago
21. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich
22. University of Washington at Seattle
23. University of California at San Diego
24. Johns Hopkins University
25. University College London
26. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
27. University Texas at Austin
28. University of Wisconsin at Madison
29. Kyoto University
30. University of Minnesota Twin Cities
31. University of British Columbia
32. University of Geneva
33. Washington University in St. Louis
34. London School of Economics
35. Northwestern University
36. National University of Singapore
37. University of Pittsburgh
38. Australian National University
39. New York University
40. Pennsylvania State University
41. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
42. McGill University
43. Ecole Polytechnique
44. University of Basel
45. University of Maryland
46. University of Zurich
47. University of Edinburgh
48. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
49. University of Bristol
50. University of Sydney
51. University of Colorado at Boulder
52. Utrecht University
53. University of Melbourne
54. University of Southern California
55. University of Alberta
56. Brown University
57. Osaka University
58. University of Manchester
59. University of California at Santa Barbara
60. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
61. Wageningen University
62. Michigan State University
63. University of Munich
64. University of New South Wales
65. Boston University
66. Vanderbilt University
67. University of Rochester
68. Tohoku University
69. University of Hong Kong
70. University of Sheffield
71. Nanyang Technological University
72. University of Vienna
73. Monash University
74. University of Nottingham
75. Carnegie Mellon University
76. Lund University
77. Texas A&M University
78. University of Western Australia
79. Ecole Normale Super Paris
80. University of Virginia
81. Technical University of Munich
82. Hebrew University of Jerusalem
83. Leiden University
84. University of Waterloo
85. King's College London
86. Purdue University
87. University of Birmingham
88. Uppsala University
89. University of Amsterdam
90. University of Heidelberg
91. University of Queensland
92. University of Leuven
93. Emory University
94. Nagoya University
95. Case Western Reserve University
96. Chinese University of Hong Kong
97. University of Newcastle
98. Innsbruck University
99. University of Massachusetts at Amherst
100. Sussex University

Anonymous said...

black mojo, ah piau: Wait, we can't drop the subject just yet :)

Remember a few years back when a few kids got 26As or something like that in SPM, then milked the heck out of that by holding motivational seminars all over the country (perhaps writing a book or two, too?) about how to score As in exams? And the press went gaga featuring him/her/them every chance possible.

The more I think about it, the more similarity I see with the topic at hand. Just that this time the goal is nobler---or the PR machine is slicker?: "to inspire blah blah science and mathematics blah...", as opposed to "to learn to score bucketful of As". And I am supposed to buy into it just because the Star said so?

And when does one get anything out of those motivational talks? From black mojo's review, it looks the same to me with this "seeing science" thing.

Like both of you, I hate to knock her down with all this negativism/cynicism/what-have-you. But I am nevertheless siding with black mojo: get a publisher-dad.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Black Mojo. I wonder if the Admissions Tutor at Oxford knew that the Publishing House was owned by her father? Perhaps, they might have viewed this 'creative extra' a little differently.

Anonymous said...

Black Mojo still cant help laughing how these "over achievers" are being exploited by individuals and companies

Not many years ago, they even advertise that ( to that effect") if you want to score you have to buy a certain brand of pencil!

Then there was a motivational company who claim to help students become "A" students by attending their course. He He He , my neighbour send his son. He flunked badly despite attending the course and using the certain brand of 2B pencil

Lincoln is right! There are always fools out there! But one thing I cannot make sense out of non sense

Anonymous said...


got 26As ma? I think less than that la. I myself not sure. (never mind getting old already)

MY point is that for school kids best motivation (talk based on my experience as student long very long time ago)will be from their age group that success. If you give example an adult who became millionaire or scientist or doctor, they cannot appreciate it. But if they senior from school succeed in becoming on of those. Speaking for myself I'll will be much inspired.

On issue of publisher, I agree with my learned blogger Black Mojo.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't need world ranking reviews to be carried by THES or Newsweek or for the matter any otherbodies to know where our universities are..

We all can see it in front of our eyes. The only strange thing which I cannot comprehend is that how come AAB, Minister of Education, the VC's, TNCs and their Deans and Heads of Departments CANNOT see it.

Are they blind or what? Dont they all feel ashamed or not responsible enough to see it?

Anonymous said...

Yeah writing is considered good enter Oxbridge. I got a place to do a DPhil at Oxford starting next January and got it after a tough interview! Perhaps, interview perfomance is pivotal in securing place at Oxford.

Anonymous said...

Agree with black mojo about the publisher dad thingy.

Anyway, I think she is a bright young lady.

Anonymous said...

Ah Piau and Learn From History,

It seems the ex-VC of UM, 'BillBoard Hashim' is giving a talk soon on something religion...but this time his announcements not on huge bill boards or colourful banners or Buntings.....only on an A4 xerox paper!!

Ah Piau and Learn From History are invited to attend!