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Help with personal statement for an REU

  1. Dec 28, 2015 #1
    I would like an opinion on what I've written as this is my first time applying/writing a statement. The question asks "500 words or less expressing your interest in LIGO science, including the kinds of science topics and projects you are most interested in pursuing."

    I am a current undergraduate physics student at the [University] planning to graduate in the fall of 201x. My interest in science wasn’t centered in physics specifically at first; my undergraduate career begun with an interest in engineering. The introductory chemistry courses lead me at first to pure science as I found the concepts to be more fundamental and engaging. The introductory physics courses then lead me further down the rabbit hole, I became fascinated with the curriculum and the knowledge I would be familiar with. My long term goals are now to further my education after graduate school in a PhD program within the gravitational wave field and eventually be a scientist in the field.

    I started participating within the [university research] group in the summer of 2015 working alongside Dr. X, under the supervision of Dr. Y and Dr. Z. My first project was developing a Pound Drever-Hall laser frequency stabilization feedback loop which would scan through one FSR of a Fabry-Perot cavity and lock onto the fundamental mode resonant in the cavity. It was this project which cemented my interest in research and graduate studies. The project sharpened my skills in the design and implementation of electronic components, the programming of microcontrollers used to perform the automation of the loop, and sparked my interest in gravitational wave interferometry and laser physics.

    I am currently setting up, characterizing, and modeling an electro-optical setup to test a new alignment sensing and control scheme for advanced LIGO which is referred to within the group as “RF Jitter.” While my first project helped me delve into electronics, I am now spending more time modeling using Python, Gnuplot, and Finesse. The project refines my skill set in precision interferometry as well as alignment sensing and control loops similar those used in advanced LIGO.

    I would be most interested in following a career in science which allows me to further my interests in laser physics and precision interferometry. I have read through the current research in Q’s page and would be interested in the 40m prototype interferometer and the laser frequency stabilization projects, as well as research experience within the Hanford or Livingston laboratories. I believe that Caltech’s involvement in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the level of research practiced within the University would benefit me in furthering my professional career in physics. My passion for my field and the knowledge I have acquired through my mentor, my research, and my own curiosity will make me a great addition to the team at Caltech.
    I was afraid the statement was not strong or passionate enough to be competitive.

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2015 #2


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    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Your current project is for LIGO, you want to continue working for LIGO - that is a great start in terms of motivation. You can highlight that more: you are not looking for a completely new project, you want to continue your work (or very related work) in the same collaboration. Do you like the collaboration? That's something you can write.

    Is there any public result of your work? The motivation is not the right place for a long list, but if a project lead to something result-like it could be worth mentioning it. Even if there are only LIGO-internal results, you can use them.

    Your supervisor(s) probably know the research group you want to go to, you can ask them as well.
    Depends a bit on who is reading the text, but "I love physics so much" in various ways is meaningless text everyone can write, "I contributed to LIGO before" is not, so focusing on your work is probably a good strategy.
  4. Dec 28, 2015 #3
    Thanks for your input. I will try to emphasize my time with the LIGO group has been enjoyable and I do hope to continue in that field in my career.
    I didn't necessarily mean by passionate the usual [I love.. I'm passionate.. or since i was a kid...] stories, but rather I'm asking if my language appropriately conveys excitement or passion for the field. I feel as that would make the application stand out, as opposed to directly spelling out my excitement.

    The PDH servo I built is used in the new experiment, perhaps that would be good to point out; it was a successful project.
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