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Last minute SOP review/help?

  1. Dec 15, 2013 #1
    Pretty unlike me, but I've waited until the last minute to put together my statement. Finals (and grant proposals and having to fly out of town for both GRE's (not offered at my school)) reallllly got the best of me this year, but it is what it is at this point. I was hoping that someone would look over my SOP for UCSB due tomorrow and give suggestions for it. I really need to reduce my word count a bit and figure out how to work in references to programs at the university [I have specific interests in mind but I'm having difficulty making plugs for them]. I'm trying to keep it under 1000 words.


    Statement of Purpose Super Rough Draft..

    Condensed matter physics lives at the crossroads of simplicity and complexity, and thus, theory and application. The subject matter is a charming study and -[STRIKE] unlike many of its aloof cousins[/STRIKE]- has immediate potential to improve aspects of human life. For these reasons I have chosen to study it and I would like to continue my education at UCSB where I will be surrounded with a energetic research atmosphere with many attractive research opportunities, especially in the fields of HTSC and frustrated magnetism. While I have strived to be a physicist since the age of twelve, over the past few years I have found my passion falls into these vast and supple fields. My interest in condensed matter is rooted in a series of undergraduate research experiences that have not only added to my skill set, but also to my love of the subject.

    My enchantment with CMP started in the lab of Dr. S, a prominent photochemist at ABC University. As a young student I was given lofty goals by my advisor, namely, to continue the project of a previous chemical physics postdoc on Vitamin D field cholesterols: conducting experiments, working with data and developing methods to improve results. Shortly after joining this lab I became completely submerged in the physics of phototransitions, reading every book I could find in the lab. It became clear to me that I desired to study this kind of physics and I should pursue it. While I didn’t complete the project I developed crystallization methods which improved yields and paved the way for the next postdoc to isolate the necessary conformers. I left the lab with a year’s worth of experimental experience, newly found data mining skills and a renewed appetite for physics.

    Soon after my last semester with Dr. S, I took a course in partial differential equations which I found to be particularly enticing. My enthusiasm caught the eye of my professor, Dr. Z, who suggested I do a DIS (Directed Individual Study) with him on a new project of his related to Bose-Einstein Condensates. This year working with Dr. Z has turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my undergraduate career, producing two manuscripts to be published on his return from sabbatical.

    The first manuscript reflects interesting results on a self-dual form of the Gross-Pitaevskii Equation (SDPDE) and is the subject of my honors thesis. The equation turned out to be mathematically fertile, producing many useful results. With my advisor, I spent months exploring many aspects of the SDGPE, such as the numerical solutions, stability, time evolution, uniqueness, integrability and a wealth of other structures that were of theoretical importance. Most importantly I was given a large amount of independence. I was driven to read more on techniques in applied math and many body physics which resulted in my discovery of a closed form solution to our PDE and a set of algebraic relations that put constraints on further solutions. Additionally, I found a physical representation of the SDGPE in the form of an appealing two-body Hamiltonian which produces the equation after a mean field treatment. Overall the study was very fruitful and the publication of this manuscript is a very exciting prospect for both my advisor and myself.

    The second manuscript is of my own imagination with the goal of studying the behavior of a system of BECs when subject to a random spacial perturbation of the potential, much like one might expect in an experimental setting. Early in the 2013 spring semester the merit of my research with Dr. Musslimani earned me an NSF travel award to the 8th international IMACS conference to give a powerpoint presentation on my work. With the primary project far from complete, I proposed putting my new skills to use in a computationally focused project. In an intense two weeks I read relevant papers, generated numerical programs based on spectral methods, and put my results together in a meaningful way to present at the conference, essentially with no help. The experience was rewarding and my success was reassuring for my ability to conduct research professionally. This project has earned me a number of awards, a public presentation of my work, and a spot as a featured student of my university. The past semester I have been working to generalize the premise of my work to two dimensional systems, integrating it with the work of another of Dr. Z’s graduate students. This too has plans for publication in the near future.


    I regained contact with Dr. S and worked on a simulation based project in the computational lab of Dr. Yang. I spent the summer learning CHARMm and writing simulations for the reaction I had studied previously in hopes of predicting some spectra which were yet to be obtained due to the instability of the confermer. This work was much more difficult than anticipated, but significant amount of progress was made such to help a new paper by Dr. S.

    Though my advisor has been away, I have not quit in my pursuit of research opportunities. By invitation of Dr. V I audited a course on many body physics this semester in order to continue improving my competence in the research. The class inspired my interests in the fields of high temperature superconductivity and frustrated magnetism, two forefront fields at UCSB. Dr. V is the professor who directed my attention to UCSB, specifically to the wide focus Dr. B's group which is centered around my interests. After reviewing ....... In the coming semester I have plants to join Dr. Vs group to work on research realted to HTSC systems while also auditing his superconductivity course.


    Annnnnd thats what I have so far
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 15, 2013 #2
    I stopped after "- unlike many of its aloof cousins-".

    Think about the impression you're about to leave if there happens to be an astrophysicist or theoretical particle physicist on the admissions committee, probably not a good one.

    Some generic advice for SOP's I got from my advisors: be aware that they're reading tons of these letters and if there's anything you want to get through, you better get it done within the first 1-2 paragraphs before the reader potentially starts getting tired. Think long and hard if each sentence in it actually adds to your case for going to grad school and remove all embellishments.
     
  4. Dec 15, 2013 #3

    ZapperZ

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    Oh man! Is it a common practice for you to burn your bridges BEFORE you even crossed them?

    I agreed with Lavabug. And I also stopped reading it at the same point! I almost thought that today was April Fools.

    Zz.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2013
  5. Dec 15, 2013 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Thirded. The magnetism was not the only thing that's frustrated.
     
  6. Dec 15, 2013 #5
    Thanks for the tip and everything, but I wish you would have kept reading. I'm sure I've made a bunch of mistakes that need fixing that might be worse than this!
     
  7. Dec 15, 2013 #6
    I think a typo here and there can be forgiven, the content is more important. Run it through a word processor... take a break from the computer screen for a while, print it out and look at it on paper again after a few hours (or after a few days). Rinse and repeat. It's what I've been doing (14 more or less individually tailored SOP's and 1 or 2 more to go).
     
  8. Dec 15, 2013 #7
    It is due today at 5!!! Like I said in my post, I screwed up with finals studying and didn't have a chance to write one until yesterday. I was just really hoping someone on the board could paragraph-by-paragraph criticize it!
     
  9. Dec 15, 2013 #8

    Vanadium 50

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    Is it our fault you waited until the very last minute?
    Is it our fault that your reaction to a bad first paragraph is not to rewrite it, but to demand that we read more?
     
  10. Dec 15, 2013 #9
    When did I say that? Don't start with the rhetorical, hyperbolic bullcrap. I am not here to learn a lesson or play games. I screwed up and I'm looking for help. If all you want to do is bully me over a mistake then please do not reply. I am just sincerely asking for help because I am having a very difficult time with this and I was hoping that experienced eyes could cut through my SOP more effectively.

    Also, I crossed it out above. That was actually the first thing that I did, so I ask that you take back your remark. I just hope that you see that your comment really would have been much more useful if you continued to read and leave more feedback.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2013
  11. Dec 15, 2013 #10
    Studying for finals isn't what screwed you over; you should have started writing this about a month or two ago. Like you've said, it is what it is.
     
  12. Dec 15, 2013 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    And now I'm really motivated to help you.
     
  13. Dec 15, 2013 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    Against my better judgement...

    The tiny part you crossed out is only a tiny part of the problem. The only thing useful in that paragraph is frustrated magnetism and HTSC. Overall, the flowery text is unneeded and comes across as very middle school. Enchantment? Good heavens.

    Paragraph 2 says nothing about why UCSB and nothing about what you want to pursue.
    Paragraph 3 says nothing about why UCSB and nothing about what you want to pursue.
    Paragraph 4 says nothing about why UCSB and nothing about what you want to pursue.
    Paragraph 5 says nothing about why UCSB and nothing about what you want to pursue, although perhaps it hints at it. But the committee won't know this.
    Paragraph 6 says nothing about why UCSB and nothing about what you want to pursue.
    Paragraph 7 says nothing that isn't in Paragraph 1.

    It should be totally rewritten. It completely misses the mark in term of its function: it's not a statement of purpose at all. There are only two facts that are conveyed - one is that you are interested in HTSC and frustrated magnetic systems, and the other is that you will need to be taught how to write clearly.

    I would toss it and start afresh.
     
  14. Dec 15, 2013 #13
    Thanks for the response. Do you have any advice on how to work my research experience into my statement? There doesn't seem to be any place to mention these things otherwise and I'm having difficulty directly relating them to my goals at UCSB. Do you think I should be less specific about my interests and try expressing a general interest in CMP?
     
  15. Dec 15, 2013 #14

    AlephZero

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    I read these type of letters in industry not academia, but believe me, you would have hit my "reject" pile at the word "charming". There are times where you just KNOW you are going to find a better application lower down the pile, and this is one of them. If I have 100 letters in front of me and an hour to read them all, I'm not going to spend any more time on yours in the hope that you really are a prince disguised as a frog.
     
  16. Dec 16, 2013 #15
    Here's the second draft:
    Prompt asked for a run down of my past research and why i want to study in graduate school

     
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