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Looking for tips on my SOP? I feel like there's something I'm missing.

Posted: Sun Nov 20, 2016 10:47 pm
by jimbo1717
I'd really appreciate any advice!

Statement of Purpose:
I started my physics education in high school, where I learned to manipulate equations to solve real world systems, finally getting to put math to good use. My enjoyment of high school physics led me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in physics at University X. I quickly found myself wanting to learn more. During my sophomore year at University X, I started to become thoroughly interested in the field of particle physics. The idea of understanding the universe at an elementary level really took hold with me, and since then I’ve been keen to learn more.

In the fall of my junior year, I started undergraduate research with Professor John Doe, my freshman physics professor. His work with the Belle Experiment really piqued my interest, giving me insight into a career as a particle physicist. I started learning about the Standard Model, and how to program in Python, in order to model a decay typically found in the KEKB collider. As my education progressed, I was able to learn more in depth theory and history about the field, quickly realizing that I’ve only scratched the surface of what there is to learn. Recently, my research has been creating simulated collision data for the Belle II experiment, the upgrade to the Belle experiment, to explore rarer decays and quarkonium states.

I also decided to pick up a statistics minor to go along with my physics degree. I figured that this would be useful information to have handy, especially when working with large data sets typical of any particle physics experiment. It’s also just interesting to use statistics to observe real world behavior, an idea that would tend to get lost to me while taking the many math and calculus classes required for a physics degree. Applications of statistics have been invaluable to me in my physics classes and undergraduate research.

One day, I would like to pursue a career as a researcher in particle physics, helping myself and others to understand how the universe works at a fundamental level. However, in order to pursue my goal, the next logical step is to continue my education, working towards a Ph.D. in the field.

Throughout my undergraduate education, I have become comfortable working in a lab setting. Working in labs has given me good experience working with common lab supplies in physics in order to measure electrical and radiation phenomena.

Professor Tim Anderson’s work on the CMS experiment involving the Higgs boson and searches for supersymmetry is quite fascinating. One of my interests in the field of particle physics is the large amount that we still don’t understand. Experiments that push towards the boundaries of new physics beyond the Standard Model are what I find most intriguing.

In summary, I believe that my serious intention for the advancement of my education, my past lab work, academic background in various areas of physics, mathematics, and statistics will be beneficial for my graduate studies and research. I believe it would be a good chance to receive high-level education under guidance of strong scientists and excellent teachers and with the help of first-class equipment presented at University XYZ.

Re: Looking for tips on my SOP? I feel like there's something I'm missing.

Posted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 12:34 pm
by TakeruK
I think the biggest thing you are missing is the focus on your research---both past experience and future interests. Please see below for more tips and more on this topic.

Your first paragraph is a good second paragraph, however you can remove the first sentence. For your first paragraph, I think you should immediately start with your research interests that you want to follow in grad school (so something like your paragraph beginning with "One day,...." however, make it focused on your interests rather than career goals (write about career goals later).

You have a lot of extra details that aren't important, such as "John Doe" being your freshman physics prof. This paragraph can be expanded. You wrote a lot about what you learned, which is great, but you should write 2 or 3 more sentences about what you have accomplished in this research project.

I would switch your current 2nd and 3rd paragraphs so that you talk about education first (your physics degree, then your stats minor), followed by your research experience. You are missing a paragraph where you talk about what you want to do in grad school in terms of research. That should follow your Belle Experiment paragraph.

The next few paragraphs are both too short and in a strange order. Your paragraph on working in a lab setting should be absorbed into your physics degree paragraph (as part of your education), unless you are able to expand this into something more significant (then it should follow your Belle Experiment paragraph).

Your "One day, I would like to pursue a career...." should be the second-last paragraph (after your paragraph about Prof. Anderson). You need to expand both of these paragraphs (or combine them into one single paragraph). You need to add specific things about the department you are applying to that makes it good for your career and research goals.

Your summary paragraph should be more specific (name the equipment, for example). Also, and this is the same theme overall, you are focussing too much on "learning" and "education". That is only one part of graduate student life. I think you need to add more excitement and interest in doing the research as well. (And as I wrote above, in your Belle Experiment paragraph, write more about your research accomplishments, not just what you learned).

Re: Looking for tips on my SOP? I feel like there's something I'm missing.

Posted: Mon Nov 21, 2016 11:21 pm
by jimbo1717
Thank you very much! These are all great tips that I'll put to work. :D