Exploring the Universe: Pursuing a PhD in High Energy Physics

  • #1
AditiShahani
4
1
Can somebody help review my SOP. I’ve already applied to one school but have many other schools to apply to, I know it needs lots of improvement so harsh critical comments are welcomed.

Thankyou. I first encountered the concept of virtual particles during my studies of the Casimir effect; I remember pondering how each person harbours their own set of virtual particles—dreams that lack the energy to become real yet hold substantial influence over their lives. Much like these elusive particles, my dream to become a physicist and delve into the unanswered questions of nature demands a considerable amount of energy and dedication to manifest. To that effect, I am keen on pursuing a Doctorate in High Energy Physics. In particular, I am interested in particle physics phenomenology beyond the Standard Model (BSM), Quantum Field Theories and their applications, Dark Matter and Blackholes.

During my undergraduate studies, I pursued a degree in Physical Sciences, a program encom- passing a blend of physics, mathematics, and chemistry. As the courses progressed I realised that I enjoyed the fundamental and tangible nature of Physics more than the complete abstractness of Mathematics and the derivativeness of Chemistry. Consequently, recognizing my passion, I proac- tively supplemented my education by reading additional materials from specialized physics courses, making sure that I built a good foundation in them. Moreover, witnessing milestones like the dis- covery of the Higgs Boson and Gravitational waves I naturally gravitated more towards Physics and Mathematics. In my senior year, I was fascinated by acoustics and how one form of energy can be translated into another. I did a project on thermoacoustic phenomena, where I studied how sound can be made from thermal energy altering the pressure between air particles. This project gave me the creative freedom to translate something purely theoretical into more substantial, and sensory; Allowing me to conduct diverse experiments, altering parameters to modulate sound waves. I wish to continue this endeavour in future, to utilize creative outlets to express physical principles.

My Masters’ education was the point where my curiosities in Physics started taking shape. My most influential experience was when I learnt that there exists a gauge symmetry in nature. That all interactions come from those internal symmetries, which implies certain conserved quantities of nature. With great mentors and courses in Quantum Field Theory, Particle Physics and General Theory of Relativity, I discovered my appetency for Theoretical High Energy Physics. During my Master’s thesis, I worked with Dr. Ashutosh Kumar Alok, from IIT Jodhpur, who not only incited a deep interest in me for High Energy Physics but also motivated me to pursue it. In my thesis titled “Analysis of b → sμ+μ− in a loop level model with dark matter particles”, I tried to account for the Lepton Flavor Universality (LFU) violation, observed in rare B meson decays, using a Dark Matter Model. The New physics models explaining these flavor anomalies required new particles in the same ballpark mass range as Dark Matter particles like WIMPs. Hence, it was interesting to see whether they could account for these anomalies. I worked with a new model which contributed at the loop level, as compared to the tree-level of some other particles like Z′ or leptoquarks, and could also be a candidate of Cold-Dark Matter. Z′ and leptoquarks are hypothetical particles which could contribute new physics to the b quark transitions. As a part of my thesis, I was able to reproduce a New Physics (NP) calculation for the Hamiltonian of the New Model containing the dark sector fields. This experience itself enthralled me, as I enjoyed understanding the nitty-gritty of mathe- matics and the underlying physics.
I concluded my thesis by doing a numerical analysis of the phase space, using constraints from the observables in the B-sector and finding the range of the Yukawa couplings of the new Dark Sec- tor particles. I implemented Python for the said phase space analysis. My results matched that of the literature. In the mean process, I learnt Effective Field Theories and how model-independent analysis is done. There were a few humps in the way, like not having direct access to my advisor and the research group because of the Corona Outbreak but I persevered through. Post-graduation, I di- versified my professional journey, immersing myself in somatic therapy while working as a freelance mental health writer. This phase imparted invaluable lessons in responsibility, accountability, and consistency.
Currently, I am working with Dr. Madhusudhan Raman of the University of Delhi, as a Re- search Assistant, in the regime of Supersymmetric Quantum Mechanics. I presented a paper by
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<Mentor note -- removed member's email address>
David Tong, “A Gauge Theory of Shallow Water” initially and later course-corrected and delved into the supersymmetric regime. My work is to study chiral operators in four-dimensional N = 2 supersymmetric gauge theories and find the exact relations among their expectation values in the Ω-background using non-perturbative Dyson-Schwinger equations. Moreover, my contribution will be to extend this procedure to an SU(N) theory with adjoint hypermultiplets. This project has been a steep learning curve as I have come across novel concepts like that of Instantons and the special property of supersymmetric theories of localisation. With this project, I am also stepping into the dominion of Pure Mathematics; With supersymmetry as a theoretical tool to come across some classic results of mathematics, like those related to Morse Theory and the Atiyah-Singer In- dex. Additionally, I am also interested in employing machine learning algorithms for analysing the mammoth data encountered in Particle Physics and am currently taking a course in the same.
Graduate School at the University of Maryland (UMD) offers me an opportunity to immerse myself deeper into the understanding of the most fundamental questions of the Universe; How did the universe come into existence? What exactly happened in the first 10−43 seconds of the Universe coming into being? Why gravity is the weakest of all forces and how to account for the accelerating expansion of the Universe, without running into the cosmological constant problem. I intend to continue my research efforts through graduate studies followed by a position in Academia. The in- novative and collaborative environment of the Maryland Center for Fundamental Physics (MCFP) will provide me with a unique opportunity to work with scientists who are at the leading edge of theoretical research and are working in tandem with current experimental advancements, fostering an interdisciplinary approach. I am particularly drawn to the Elementary Particles research group, specifically Prof. Kaustubh Agashe’s and Prof. Anson Hook’s work on Beyond the Standard Model phenomenology. Their research on model building and predicting experimental signatures of new particles is of high interest to me. I am also attracted to Prof. Zackaria Chacko’s immense work on Dark Matter detection, extra dimensions, baryogenesis, weak-scale supersymmetry and neutrino physics; all of which tackle some of the most exciting problems in Particle Physics. Lastly, I have interests in Prof. Raman Sundrum’s work on the implications of extra spacetime dimensions and supersymmetry. On another note, I’m also intrigued by the gauge-gravity (AdS/CFT) correspon- dence and its various applications. I believe my academic background, research experiences and fervor to pursue the most fundamental questions in Nature position me uniquely to contribute to BSM physics, specifically in understanding the nature of Dark Matter and have prepared me well to undertake the rigorous nature of a PhD and the collaborative nature of research work.
I am very excited about the prospect of working with esteemed scientists on the problems which encompass the very nature of our reality, like the fundamentality of CPT symmetry. I am fully committed to furthering my understanding of the Universe through a PhD in Particle Physics, con- tributing to the wealth of human knowledge and understanding. Lastly, I would like to express that I am also open to different theoretical and experimental avenues. I understand a PhD in physics opens a wide array of research areas and I will be happy to work in any direction where I can contribute meaningful work.
 
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  • #2
I am not a HEP so I cannot comment on the content except that I think it is too long you need to streamline your presentation. Apart from misspellings especially the hyphenated words, it is substantially more than two pages after you include margins and a readable font size.
 
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  • #3
To @gleem's point about streamlining, it is hard to tell what you actually want to do having read this. Sometimes you are focused on particular areas but then you close with "I understand a PhD in physics opens a wide array of research areas and I will be happy to work in any direction where I can contribute meaningful work." I wouldn't end with a sentence that says "Hey, everything I just told you, ignore it." I'd also avoid phrases like "pursue the most fundamental questions in Nature." You don't know who is reading this. It could someone not in the areas you discuss. They might roll their eyes like I did when I read that.
 
  • #4
Haborix said:
To @gleem's point about streamlining, it is hard to tell what you actually want to do having read this. Sometimes you are focused on particular areas but then you close with "I understand a PhD in physics opens a wide array of research areas and I will be happy to work in any direction where I can contribute meaningful work." I wouldn't end with a sentence that says "Hey, everything I just told you, ignore it." I'd also avoid phrases like "pursue the most fundamental questions in Nature." You don't know who is reading this. It could someone not in the areas you discuss. They might roll their eyes like I did when I read that.


I totally agree with you both. I’d already changed these things and rounded up my SOP within 1000 words, and removed that sentence already.

I’m uploading the edited version.

I first encountered the concept of virtual particles while studying the Casimir effect; I remember pondering how each person harbours their own set of virtual particles—dreams that lack the energy to become real, yet hold substantial influence over their lives. Much like these elusive particles, my dream to become a physicist demands a considerable amount of energy and dedication to manifest. To that effect, I am keen on pursuing a Doctorate in High Energy Physics. In particular, I am interested in particle physics phenomenology beyond the Standard Model (BSM), Quantum Field Theories and their applications, Dark Matter and Blackholes.
\\
My Masters’ education was the point where my curiosities in Physics started taking shape. My most influential experience was when I learnt that there exists a gauge symmetry in nature. That all interactions come from those internal symmetries, which implies certain conserved quantities of nature. In my Master’s thesis, I worked with Dr. Ashutosh Kumar Alok, from IIT Jodhpur, who incited a deep interest in me for Beyond Standard Model physics and motivated me to pursue it. In my thesis titled “Analysis of $b \rightarrow s \mu^{+} \mu^{-}$ in a loop level model with dark matter particles”, I tried to account for the Lepton Flavor Universality (LFU) violation, observed in rare B meson decays, using a Dark Matter Model. The New physics models explaining these flavor anomalies required new particles in the same ballpark mass range as Dark Matter particles like WIMPs. Hence, it was interesting to see whether they could account for these anomalies. I worked with a new model which contributed at the loop level and could also be a candidate of Cold-Dark Matter. As a part of my thesis, I was able to reproduce a New Physics (NP) calculation for the Hamiltonian of the New Model containing the dark sector fields. This experience itself enthralled me, as I enjoyed understanding the nitty-gritty of mathematics and the underlying physics.
\\

I concluded my thesis by doing a numerical analysis of the phase space, using constraints from the observables in the B-sector and finding the range of the Yukawa couplings of the new Dark Sector particles. I implemented Python for the said phase space analysis. My results matched that of the literature. In the mean process, I learnt Effective Field Theories and how model-independent analysis is done.
\\

Currently, I am working with Dr. Madhusudhan Raman of the University of Delhi, as a Research Assistant, in the regime of Supersymmetric Quantum Mechanics. My work is to study chiral operators in four-dimensional $N = 2$ supersymmetric gauge theories and find the exact relations among their expectation values in the $\Omega$-background using non-perturbative Dyson-Schwinger equations. Moreover, my contribution will be to extend this procedure to an $SU(N)$ theory with adjoint hypermultiplets. This project has been a steep learning curve as I have come across novel concepts like that of Instantons and the special property of supersymmetric theories of localisation. With this project, I am also stepping into the dominion of Pure Mathematics; With supersymmetry as a theoretical tool to come across some classic results of mathematics, like those related to Morse Theory and the Atiyah-Singer Index. I am also keen on learning further about Quantum Field Theories and have been invited to attend and scribe a two-semester course on it at the University of Delhi. Additionally, I am also interested in employing machine learning algorithms for analysing the mammoth data encountered in Particle Physics and am currently taking a course in the same.
\\

Graduate School of Physics at Cornell University offers me a distinctive opportunity to further capitalize on my interests in Dark Matter Phenomenology as well as provide me a parallel direction to develop in supersymmetric gauge theories. While I am broadly fascinated by the questions like: How did the universe come into existence? What exactly happened in the first $10^{-43}$ seconds of the Universe coming into being? Why gravity is the weakest of all forces and how to account for the accelerating expansion of the Universe, without running into the cosmological constant problem, my concerted efforts are towards model-building for beyond the Standard Matter phenomenology and collaborating experimentally to find signatures of said new matter or interaction particles. I am particularly drawn to the Elementary Particles research group, specifically Prof. Yuval Grossmann's research in B-physics and neutrino physics. His work on model building and suggesting new analyses for experimental data is quite adjacent to my interests and I believe I can positively contribute to his lab in that direction. I am also attracted to Prof. Maxim Perelstein's work on Elastically Decoupling Relic (ELDER), a novel dark matter candidate proposed, and its signatures. It seems like a good direction to extend my previous research work and explore alternative models of Dark Matter and their detection. His further work in constructing models for Electroweak Symmetry Breaking (EWSB) and designing their tests in experiments at LHC utilizing Machine learning algorithms, is a novel direction I see myself possibly diverging to. Lastly, I have additional interests in Prof. Thomas Hartman's work on black hole information, strongly interacting quantum fields and gauge/gravity duality as a model for a more complete theory of quantum gravity. I’m intrigued by the gauge-gravity (AdS/CFT) correspondence and its various applications, which also brings me to Prof. Liam McAllister's research direction.
\\

I believe my academic background, research experiences and fervor to pursue the most fundamental questions position me uniquely to contribute to BSM physics, specifically in understanding the nature of Dark Matter and have prepared me well to undertake the rigorous nature of a PhD and the collaborative nature of research work. Moreover, the innovative and collaborative environment of the Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics
at Cornell will provide me with a unique opportunity to work with scientists who are at the leading edge of theoretical research and are working in tandem with current experimental advancements, fostering an interdisciplinary approach. Finally I intend to continue my research efforts through graduate studies followed by finding a tenure-track position in a University.
 
  • #5
The good:
There is actual "statement of purpose" in your SOP. Congratulations! You're already in the top half!

The bad:
It's kind of dilute. There's a lot here that is not "purpose".

While specific is good, this is too specific. Raman Sundrum, for example, is a very smart guy and a student could learn a lot from him, but he's really working on cosmology more than large extra dimensions. Rather than saying you want to work with X on A, Y on B, etc. it might be better to sat you want to work on A, B and C, possibly with professors X, Y and Z. Or not even mention them. They know who is on their faculty; they don't need you to tell them.

Why on earth do you want to do pheno at Cornell but not with Csaba Csaki?
 
  • #6
That’s because Csaba Csaki didn’t answer my email. And I understand what you mean by too specific. I’ll try to see into this. Also, I am worried that my SOP doesn’t have my “personality” or “storytelling in it” I couldn’t understand how to go about it and what to focus more on research. Will that be deterrent to my application ?
 
  • #7
A Statement of Purpose is just that. It explains why you want to go to grad school, and why you want to go to grad school here. It is not a test of your personality and/or storytelling ability.

Requiring a potential supervisor to respond to you before you are admitted - or even applied - is unrealistic. Doubly so if the email appears unfocused or spammy.
 
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  • #8
Fair point,

One last question,

Does this part of my SOP for CMU, makes me look unfocused and not aligned with the program?

"
my ambitions are toward model-building for beyond the Standard Matter phenomenology and collaborating experimentally to find signatures of said new matter or interactions. I am particularly drawn to the High Energy Physics Theory group, specifically Prof. Ira Rothstein's research of complex, non-linear, strongly coupled systems using EFTs, especially Higgs boson production and black hole horizon physics. His work on calculating wave forms for inspiralling black holes and complementing with experimental data is quite adjacent to my interests and I believe I can positively contribute to his lab in that direction. I am also attracted to Prof. Scott Dodelson's and Tina Kahniashvili's distinct work on cosmology spanning the areas of Dark Energy Survey, phenomenological modelling of cosmological perturbations, and fundamental symmetry tests at very high energies. They seem like novel directions I see myself possibly diverging to. My additional interests are in the intersection of quantum field theory, gravity and holography. I’m most intrigued by the gauge-gravity (AdS/CFT) correspondence and its various applications. Along those lines, I find Prof. Rachel Rosen's research on quantum field theories in de Sitter space interesting too. Lastly, I have additional interests in Prof. Colin Morningstar's work in determining excited baryon and meson spectra using Lattice QCD simulations and study of hadron formation and confinement in quantum chromodynamics.
\\
"

Thank you
 
  • #9
They all seem kind of unfocused. "I have eleven different interests and by an amazing coincidence, they just happen to be the eleven things your department faculty are working on!" What do you think the admissions committee's reaction will be?

A word of warning on model-building:
  1. How much model building has gone on in the last, say, 30 years.
  2. What has it told us? What are the greatest successes in model building in that period?
  3. Given the answers to 1 and 2, do you think the field needs more model building? Or less?
 

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