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Math REU Personal Statement Help Please

  1. Jan 9, 2014 #1
    Hello all, I am currently applying for math REUs and I was wondering if anyone would help me proof read my essay and criticize it (as much as you'd like please).

    I know most of them accept mostly juniors and seniors, but I really want to get into at least one of the programs so that's why I am applying to 15. My GPA is 3.8/4.0 and I am a sophomore majoring in math at a small liberal arts college with limited research opportunities. I am also a first generation female immigrant. Those of you who have successfully been accepted previously, pleeeease tell me, what are my chances?

    My Personal Statement:

    Mathematics is the foundation of the study of quantity, structure, space and change. I have experienced many changes and challenges in my life. The most significant one would be moving to the U.S. from ___ when I was __, as a first generation immigrant. While everything in my life changed, my strong interest in mathematics remained the same. One and a half years ago, I graduated as the Valedictorian of my class and was accepted into ___ College as a recipient of the ____ scholarship. At ____ College, I have continued my studies in mathematics. I am currently a sophomore and because of my accelerated progress in ___ College’s mathematics program, I have been promoted to the upper college level.

    The courses I have taken at ___ College have taken math to a new level for me that is more modern, integrated, sophisticated, and challenging. I have taken up an interest in applied mathematics as I am becoming more aware of the fact that the demand for math is advancing at a spectacular rate in the areas of science, technology, and economics. I have also been taking courses in computer science because I believe both mathematical analysis and computational modeling are important for solving some of the most pressing issues of our time – climate change, new energy resources, epidemiology, and risk management. My next goal is to conduct research of my own as a project during my senior year, utilizing mathematical modeling to formulate and solve a practical problem related to issues facing the government. I also believe in higher education. I plan on pursuing at least a M.S. degree (perhaps a Ph. D degree) in applied mathematics and hopefully work for the U.S. government after graduate school.

    ___ College is a great small liberal arts college. Because of its limited opportunities for research in mathematics, my advisor has strongly encouraged and recommended me to participate in an REU. I was thrilled to hear from one of our math professors that your program aims to accept rising sophomore and junior students. When I read about the projects you are offering this summer, I became even more excited. I am very interested in Dr. _____'s project ‘_____’ because I just took a ___ course and enjoyed it very much. As a matter of fact, my ___ professor ____ is writing one of my reference letters. With my programming experience, I believe I will be a great fit. I am also interested in the mathematical modeling aspect of Dr. _____’s project ‘____’. I have never had any research experience thus I believe that participation in any of the ____ projects can provide the first research opportunity for me and facilitate my interest in the field of math, especially mathematical modeling and applying mathematical concepts to solve practical problems. Being immersed in a scientific community, and viewing research methodologies and the collaboration process would build cornerstones, I believe, that would benefit my education in applied mathematics.

    Although I have no prior research experience, I have worked as a Calculus teaching assistant/dedicated tutor and also volunteered for the ___ College Math Club, which works with elementary and middle school students to promote their interest in math. These experiences have helped me to build a strong sense of responsibility and leadership, as well as an exceptional ability to work well with people. With my strong mathematics background and programming experience, I believe, I will be an asset to your program. Furthermore, I believe I would bring a female and first generation immigrant into the field of mathematics. I am the first in my extended family in both ___ and the U.S. to study mathematics and science-related subjects, and I believe my work ethic is rooted in determination and perseverance.

    In conclusion, participation in this program would benefit my science education, career goals, and personal curiosity about the research environment. I know your program will provide me with an opportunity that is not just about “knowing things” and “being able to solve homework problems”, but about being creative and discovering new truths, proving new theorems, and initiating new research programs. In addition, I know my energy and passion will show the ___ community that I can be a great asset to the team.

    Albert Einstein said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. What I love about mathematics is that you can arrive at the solution to a problem using different methods but there is only one right answer. I am willing to work hard for years until I arrive at my solution/destination of becoming a full-fledged mathematician, and participating in this program would be an essential first step.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2014 #2
    Is there any final class project in math that you could elaborate on? In lieu of research experience, independent projects offer good evidence about how you will be able to thrive in a research environment (learning some relevant coding/mathematical skill through the project, going above and beyond in researching/working on your project, or giving some final presentation/paper that trained you to articulate yourself.) Such an anecdote might tie your personal statement together and demonstrate some of the things you mention (for example, your work ethic or your interest in applying math to real-world problems).

    Also, when you mention your interest in the REU project, you may want to add a sentence or two elaborating on the particulars of the project that interest you in addition to having taken a class on it. Read up on the professor's overall research and the overall focus of the REU program, and comment on why those attract you. I did this, as well as elaborate on one of my independent class projects, when applying for REUs as a sophomore from a small liberal arts school, and got into 4 out of the 6 that I applied to.

    Overall I think your statement is pretty good. One final thing to consider is that it is pretty long. You can also afford to cut out some sentences to make the statement more succinct. For example, "As a matter of fact, my ___ professor ____ is writing one of my reference letters" will be given from your reference letter (liberal arts professors will generally write good detailed letters) You could also cut the sentence "Furthermore, I believe I would bring a female and first generation immigrant into the field of mathematics." These will also be given from your first paragraph as well as the personal information you'll need to fill out in your REU submission form, and they will definitely take note of those factors when making REU decisions - you don't need to emphasize these. In general, read your statement over and ask yourself "what might be extraneous information, or might detract from the main point of each paragraph?" Otherwise you have a pretty good statement.
  4. Jan 10, 2014 #3
    myranaira, you gave me a very nice critique, exactly what I need to improve my essay. Thank you! I totally agree that I should cut it down. As for a project, I might talk about a group project I did in a proofs class. It might be too simple a project, but it is a good start and better than not having any research experience at all. I am going to talk about how it strengthened my ability to work in a team environment and also initiated my interest in researching more sophisticated topics. What do yo think?
  5. Jan 10, 2014 #4
    That sounds like a good example. Good luck in revising your draft, and on the REU application process!
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