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Admissions Critique my statement of purpose for Ivy Physics Ph.D

  1. May 24, 2017 #1
    This is a draft of a my SoP that I plan to send out to all of the Ivy league schools for physics Ph.D. What do you think of it. Do you think it is superb, downright terrible or somewhere in between. All relevant information about me is contained in the Sop. Enjoy reading it and thank you very much in advance.



    "
    My life’s purpose is to further expand our understanding of the inner workings of the universe. To realize this, I want to earn a Ph.D in physics by conducting theoretical research at the intersection of Cosmology and Particle Physics. Within this field, I want to explore further the cause(s) of cosmic inflation and expansion in connection with the possibility of extra dimensions. These phenomena compel me to study them because they have profound implications for all observed length scales in physics. After my graduate studies I eventually want to become a professor of physics. Being a physics professor would give me the greatest ability to help advance the field as a whole. As a professor in addition to performing my own research I’ll be teaching and advising the next generation of physicists. As a result, I’ll exponentially be increasing my contribution to the science as a whole by teaching as well as performing my own research.

    I would like to conduct research at the Blank University, Department of Physics because it contains many researchers who have the same interests and goals as I do, such as the researchers at the Blank Center for Astrophysics. For example, I’m interested in Professor’s blanks research in cluster strong lensing because it can further explore the effects of dark energy models. Better experimental techniques to test dark energy models can also assist in the construction of models of modified gravity with the purpose of explaining the acceleration of space. I’m also interested in Professor blank research in universal extra dimensions because of its consequences for theories of modified gravity, such as the DGP model and the de Rham-Gabadadze-Tolley theory of massive gravity, and primordial inflation. As a result, I'm especially interested in the current research taking place at blank University, Department of Physics and would love to learn more about other projects that are taking place before choosing an adviser to work with.

    As an undergraduate, I honed my mathematical modeling and research skills in nonlinear dynamics by working with Professor blank of the Applied Physics. At the start, I knew nothing about nonlinear dynamics or numerical methods. However, through self-study in a few weeks, I learned Mathematica and became familiar with the field. My job was to numerically model the motion of a Physical Double Pendulum we built and to computationally study the dynamics of a theoretical one. After successfully creating a reasonably accurate model of its motion using Rayleigh Dissipation functions, we wished to refine it, but couldn't, due to difficulties in attaining a high-speed camera for future use. In hindsight, I would have added a third degree of freedom, which would have drawn energy away from the other two because I noticed the pendulum oscillated outside of its plane of motion and treated its support as an energy sink. While analyzing its dynamics, I sought to approximate the frequency of the lower pendulum by first converting its Hamiltonian to action-angle variables and then applying canonical perturbation theory. I also found a parameter (which, if set to zero) made the system integrable and studied its behavior as this parameter was kept small. While doing research, I learned much of the advanced mathematics of classical mechanics, including SU(2) symmetry, Birkhoff Gustavson perturbation theory, Lie Algebra, topology and differential geometry. This math aided me in interpreting my results and gave me the foundation to learn and conduct research in other fields of physics.

    In college, I quickly got into the tutoring profession by becoming a physics tutor at the blank Tutoring Center in June of 2012. After tutoring for a year and working on my communication skills as much as I could, I became the Team Leader of Physics. As Team Leader my job in addition to tutoring was to make and grade qualifying exams for prospective tutors. This allowed me to do something I wanted to do for a while, and that was make the qualifying exams more rigorous. I choose to do this because I got constant questions from students who wanted more than just help with the homework, they wanted to know where these principles of physics they are using came from. Eventually, after reformulating the qualifying exams to emphasize derivations over cookie cutter
    problems I began tutoring upper level classes such as Mathematical Physics, Analytical Mechanics and Advanced Electricity and Magnetism. I always enjoyed tutoring the upper level classes because that way I would always wind up teaching myself something new in my effort to communicate very abstract ideas to bewildered students. Tutoring really made me appreciate the skill of communicating knowledge to others because this skill enables us to hold so many lifetime's of thoughts in our single brain.

    Besides conducting research, I further prepared myself for graduate school by passing three graduate physics classes, Quantum I, II and Dynamics. Even though I learned many technical skills as an undergrad by doing research and taking graduate classes, the most important thing I learned was how to persevere through tragedy and stress. At the beginning of the spring of 2015 semester, my father died, shattering my world and sending a devastating shock through my psyche. Despite the emotional turmoil his passing caused, I completed 29 credits of coursework to graduate on time while working two jobs and continued to conduct research. That semester prepared me to overcome any challenge, whether it be academic or personal. In light of everything, I’m excited to undertake further coursework at blank University to entertain my insatiable appetite for knowledge and to conduct research at the frontiers of physics. "
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2017 #2
    Bump. Come on read it. I promise it is good.
     
  4. May 28, 2017 #3

    radium

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    I think most of the content is pretty good, especially the second and third paragraphs. I think the main advice I would give is to get rid of the flowery prose and write in a more matter of fact manner. The statement of purpose is not like a college essay. It's not a place to be verbose or say things along the lines of "I became interested in cosmology when I was a child gazing at the stars" or what not. So instead with "my life’s purpose is to further expand our understanding of the inner workings of the universe," you could say you want to study in cosmology because it is an area of physics which has "profound implications for all observed length scales in physics" then mention your interest in inflation etc. The kind of reason you could give for wanting to do a PhD is that you want to become an expert in the field and do original research, i.e. explore unknown areas.

    "Being a physics professor would give me the greatest ability to help advance the field as a whole. As a professor in addition to performing my own research I’ll be teaching and advising the next generation of physicists. As a result, I’ll exponentially be increasing my contribution to the science as a whole by teaching as well as performing my own research."
    I think this part is a little over the top, maybe you should say something like you want to be a professor because you are interested in doing research and advising students. You don't need to go into great detail.

    "it contains many researchers who have the same interests and goals as I do" Just say you are interested in the research at the center for astrophysics"

    In the third part, you can get rid of some of the more specific details and be more to the point. You can say that your research helped you learn about nonlinear dynamics instead of the unnecessary details about self study and not knowing anything before.

    The parts about reformulating the qualifying exams and "cookie cutter" problems sounds a bit negative, you may want to get rid of that and say something more positive along the lines of, I got to help reformulate the qualifying exams which taught me about the methods behind physics education or something to that effect.

    So what I would do is go through the whole statement and get rid of unnecessary prose/details and make the statement more to the point. Some advice a professor gave about writing in areas like history etc is that any sentence you especially like for those reasons is probably too verbose and you should get rid of it. Another thing you should do is to show it to one of your recommenders, I remember one of mine giving me pretty good advice.
    Good luck with your application.
     
  5. May 29, 2017 #4
    I coundn't agree more with radium. Get rid of all the "poetic" descriptions you've got in your statement.
     
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