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Help with my letter of motivation

  1. Dec 15, 2015 #1
    Hello, I will be applying to Utrecht University soon and I would like some constructive criticism of my letter of motivation. It is not complete and i am still working on it but i would like some feedback.

    Here are the questions i have to answer:

    Which subjects and subject areas are you most interested in and why?

    Why did you choose for this Master’s programme and for Utrecht University?

    What is your experience with this field / how does your interest in this field show?

    What proves you possess the required qualities for this Master’s programme?

    How does this Master’s programme connect to your career ambitions?

    Here is my letter:

    Discovering the fundamental structure of the universe gives me a unique satisfaction that I find nowhere else. In this, I find the motivation to pursue an academic career in Physics. Subjects that spark that unique satisfaction are Quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, and general relativity. I find beauty in unification and have recognized the power in abstraction. For this reason, I am drawn to mathematics and in particular subjects like topological/differential manifolds, Lie groups/Lie algebras and algebraic topology. The intersection of math and physics fascinates me why? for example, the simplification of Maxwell’s equations in terms of exterior derivatives acting on differential forms and the derivation of conserved quantities by way of Noether’s theorem.

    In my search for a university, I have been looking for one whose theoretical department has strong research in theories beyond the standard model such as string theory and supersymmetry. After further inspection, I saw that Utrecht specializes in supergravity and AdS/CFT which I am interested in. Particularly, the research done by Dr. Bernard de Witt and his Ph.D. students on supergravity. The thesis titled “The S-matrix of the AdS X S5 superstring” incorporates many of the mathematics that I enjoy and leaves me eager to learn more. The flexibility of the master’s program and the opportunity to enroll in the mathematics/physics honors program is precisely why I chose the theoretical physics program at Utrecht, considering my strong interests in both subjects.

    The Physics department at my university is primarily interested in experimental condensed matter. Consequently, I have not had the opportunity to formally research the topics I’m interested in. However, I do study independently. I prefer to learn the mathematics used in theoretical physics in full generalization from mathematics books as I feel this gives me a better understanding of the physics it applies to. Therefore, I have primarily concentrated on learning the mathematics in my free time. I self-study using books such as “Analysis” by Walter Rudin, “Introduction to Manifolds” by Loring W. Tu, and “Lie Groups, Lie Algebras and Representation” by Brian Hall. I have taken extra math courses such as foundations of mathematics, discrete mathematics, and modern abstract algebra. I have spoken to a faculty member about doing an independent study on general relativity where I will use my knowledge of differentiable manifolds. I take every opportunity to learn more about physics and mathematics.

    I have two years of research experience on the spectroscopic properties of lanthanide doped nanocrystals. During this time, I have confirmed my intuitions that the academic research environment is where I thrive and that I prefer theoretical to experimental work. I have gained considerable knowledge and experience during my time in the lab that will be valuable in your master’s program. I know the process of selecting a research topic, planning my experiments, collecting and analyzing data, writing of a manuscript, formatting to journals, and publication of my research.I have spent 20 hours a week doing research concurrently with my studies and 40+ hours a week researching during the summer. I am self-motivated and have carried out my research with minimal supervision. I believe my work ethic, intrinsic motivation, and experience show that I possess what is required to be successful in the master’s program at Utrecht.

    I am going to continue my education into a PhD program, and I aspire to eventually become a tenured professor. I believe this master’s program possesses the qualities that I’m looking for that will best allow me to realize my ambitions.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2015 #2

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    That is a bit too much I think (also relevant for some other statements). You don't want to marry it.
    Is there anything that would show results of this?
    What was the result? If it is positive why don't you mention it? Written like that it looks like the result was negative - then drop that statement.
    I would really rephrase this. It sounds like you hated what you did.
    Something "while the experimental parts were interesting as well, the parts I liked most were those more related to theoretical challenges ..."
    How does planning experiments, data collection and analysis help in theoretical particle physics?
    If you wrote published papers, mention them.
    How does that statement help? If you try to impress with those numbers: you don't.[QUOTE="annihilatorM, post: 5319323, member: 545328"[...] and have carried out my research with minimal supervision.[/QUOTE]That is a dangerous statement. It is (a) negative about your previous supervisor and (b) might indicate communication problems between you and your supervisor.


    More general points:
    - How do you have two years of research experience before starting a MSc program? That looks odd.
    - If you are interested in fundamental physics, why did you choose a university focused on experimental condensed matter physics and a corresponding research topic?
    - Did you take any QFT, GR, standard model, supersymmetry ... courses or at least learned those topics on your own? I don't know the masters program of Utrecht, but learning all those things in something like a year (+1 year thesis afterwards) sounds very challenging.
     
  4. Dec 22, 2015 #3
    That is a dangerous statement. It is (a) negative about your previous supervisor and (b) might indicate communication problems between you and your supervisor.


    More general points:
    - How do you have two years of research experience before starting a MSc program? That looks odd.
    - If you are interested in fundamental physics, why did you choose a university focused on experimental condensed matter physics and a corresponding research topic?
    - Did you take any QFT, GR, standard model, supersymmetry ... courses or at least learned those topics on your own? I don't know the masters program of Utrecht, but learning all those things in something like a year (+1 year thesis afterwards) sounds very challenging.[/QUOTE]

    Thank you for the response, I have made changes to what is posted and will take your input into consideration. I will post a revised letter of motivation tomorrow.

    I'm also considering scraping this paper and starting over, I feel like i'm trying to salvage something that just isn't turning out the way i want. what do you think?

    To answer a few of your questions:

    How do you have two years of research experience before starting a MSc program?

    Two years ago i approached my physics 2 professor volunteering my time in exchange for research experience. Ever since then i have been working in his lab, after learning to use to use the equipment i was given a material to research and the work i have done on that material has resulted in a published paper. The reason i did not explicitly state the name of the paper is because i was told not to repeat what is in my CV, which is where the publication is advertised.

    If you are interested in fundamental physics, why did you choose a university focused on experimental condensed matter physics and a corresponding research topic?
    I transferred from a community college with a 3.15 GPA and didn't get into UT Austin which is where i wanted to go (plenty of theory). I ended up at The University of Texas at San Antonio and honestly, I wasn't thinking this far down the road and wasn't exactly sure what i wanted to do. Thankfully my GPA has increased to 3.4 cumulative and a 3.76 at UTSA, so i have shown a lot of improvement

    Did you take any QFT, GR, standard model, supersymmetry ... courses or at least learned those topics on your own? I don't know the masters program of Utrecht, but learning all those things in something like a year sounds very challenging.
    No, I have not taken any of those, however i will be studying GR this spring using the textbook by Carroll. I have begun reading that book, but the extent of my self study of the other topics is casual. I have pdf books on all of those subjects but have not seriously sat down and worked out the problems. My self study has been mostly in mathematics, which i feel looks bad considering i'm applying to a theoretical physics program.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2015
  5. Dec 22, 2015 #4

    mfb

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    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Could still be interesting to mention it there, as long as you don't start lists - it fits to the remaining text.
    Hmm okay, maybe there is a nicer way to describe it. That question will come up anyway.
    Theoretical particle physics beyond the standard model is mainly mathematics, sometimes motivated by physics.
     
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