Would be ever so grateful for a look at my SOP

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Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2016 12:42 pm

Would be ever so grateful for a look at my SOP

Post by Chronum » Fri Nov 25, 2016 12:46 pm

My first junior level physics course was classical electromagnetism. Combined with my love for high-performance computing and experimentation, I looked up photonics. After a few weeks of understanding the nuances of the field, I decided to get first-hand experience: I applied for an internship at an integrated photonics laboratory at IISc, Bengaluru, and I was accepted. Ten weeks of work in the field would be a good test of whether I truly wanted to study light, its behavior and its uses, or this was merely a passing fancy. Ten full weeks of work later, my love for all things dealing with micro and nanoscale photonics had become, and remains, unwavering.

The internship involved the design of photonic circuit components. I also helped the members of the group to reduce data analysis times by automating large parts of the analysis process. Having learned about the design process and the nuances of waveguide technology, the last weeks of my internship were spent working with tunable lasers characterizing devices we had designed, specifically working with Keysight tunable lasers and automating them using pyVISA. I realized that despite my scant knowledge of the specialized topics involved, I was potent contributor to a research group based on my Python skills and love for both computational and experimental research.

The skills I have worked on for years before my acquaintance with photonics are well-fitted for a career decision taken about a year ago. Skill with Python allows me to automate complex multi-stage data analysis tasks. Knowledge of VISA allows me to be comfortable with instrumentation, and automate their use for rapid, convenient data collection and analysis. Experience with optimization allows for shorter design cycles than brute-force parameter sweeps. All the skills I have mentioned here come together for higher throughput in computational design and experimental testing. The internship helped me test my abilities, and I remain confident about my skills in these areas.

Perhaps the most overarching motivation for graduate study is to increase my understanding of photonic systems, and to engage in long-term research to both discover and apply new science. As of writing this essay, my fascination lies in dielectric, microscale waveguides and other passive optical components, numerical algorithms for design, simulation, and optimization of these components, 2D photonic and plasmonic materials, high-throughput optical information processing, photosensors, plasmonics, and metamaterials for photonic applications, and high precision photonic measurements. I have realized that I would like to do both computational and experimental work, ideally in complement.

I am graduating from my undergraduate career in three years, primarily due to financial reasons. This means that two career-critical courses: Advanced electromagnetism and solid-state physics, which I take in Spring 2017, are not in my transcript at my time of application. I expect to be much more fluent in the material by the time I start my graduate studies.

<Uni specific details about profs and their work. ~100 words or thereabouts>

I am very excited to become a part of the academic community of <Uni> and that I hope I am given an opportunity to contribute to the challenging and exciting research conducted here.
Notes: This may sound more cover-letter'ish than I intend it to be, so please feel free to shred it to ribbons.

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Joined: Thu Nov 03, 2016 12:54 am

Re: Would be ever so grateful for a look at my SOP

Post by tman1027 » Sun Nov 27, 2016 3:17 am

I really like your SoP, but I think there are somethings you should rephrase. First, you want to rephrase why you applied for the internship. Instead of talking about it like you were just doing it to see if you really liked it, you should say that you did it to expand your knowledge and delve into this field that you were so fascinated by. After that you should say that your work their turned your fascination into passion (or something less cheesy but that basic idea). You also don't want to mention the "ten full weeks" thing more than once.

In your second paragraph you don't wantto say "I also helped". You should say that you contributed (or assisted or helped, etc) by [what you said about automation]. That is the first time you are mentioning what you did and the "also" minimizes what seems like a great contribution. You might also want to talk this up a bit if you can, since it seems like you really drove this effort.

In your third paragraph, you probably want to talk about your skills in programming more generally and how they can help research in ways beyond automation (reducing complex code, creating programs to perform long calculations, creating graphs and diagrams, etc). I know a lot of those are ultimately automation, but it helps to show that you understand what you can do with your skills. You also should talk about your skills beyond programming (problem solving, experimental design) especially if you have another research project that you have done or any papers that you have written.

I don't know if you really need to mention that you haven't taken those courses, since most people applying are in pretty much the same boat of needing an extra course or two before they graduate.

Also be sure that you focus on one professor in this 4th paragraph. I think it helps show that you have more commitment.

You should use your conclusion to expand more on what you hope to gain from the school and restate why you would be a good addition to their program.

You statement also needs something about your goals beyond graduate school. It doesn't have to be anything major since there are lots of routes you could end up in, but even something as simple as "this is the kind of work I want to do in my career" could be helpful. It just helps show that you have thought a bit beyond graduate school.

Overall though this is good. You should stand a really good chance at getting in somewhere.

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