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Admissions Personal Statement for my PhD application

  1. Dec 4, 2017 #1
    Hi!
    I'm applying for some PhD programs and I would like to have some advices. I think I will use the same statement for personal and purpose, in different universities. They ask only for one and their prompt are similar. I'll change some particular details on research. Is that a bad idea?
    Here the Personal Statement I've written. Thank you in advance.

    "
    I have always been seeking for explanations, to satisfy both curiosity and that sense of order when many pieces come togheter. So, it seemed natural to undertake studies on physics. It was during a particular lecture of General Relativity course when something blew up in my mind. Exactly the moment I saw the laws of black holes mechanics, which resemble extraordinarily those of thermodynamics. There, I saw as thermodynamics laws were derived from the equivalence principle. Stunning. I decided I need to understand more on the subject and my master's thesis should have been related to that subject. I have realized subsequently that I want to undertake graduate studies. Eventually, I want to become an expert and a Professor, in order to be directly involved in research on gravity, thermodynamics and information and to teach and discuss physics with students.

    I want to pursue a PhD in Physics at [...] University because I am very interested in research that Professor [...] conducts on black holes thermodynamics and gravity. I believe that black hole entropy can be the key to get insights on the quantum nature of gravity. In fact, it emerges from General Relativity and seems to be connected to entanglement, the core of quantum mechanics. My background and thesis experience can be useful in Professor's research, since I dealt with quantum information computational analysis. Moreover, his studies will definitely complete my knowledge about the field.

    I took up undergraduate studies in physics and I earned a master's degree in theoretical physics at the University of City, the city where I live. I chose courses mostly from theoretical particle physics. When I asked for thesis, Professor [...] told me about entanglement entropy and that someone had seen the possibility to link it to the quantum nature of black holes. So, I read through many papers, starting from Srednicki's ``Entropy and area". The thesis purpose shifted gradually towards entanglement and the area law of entanglement entropy. This is a measure for quantum correlations between two subsystems. Under certain conditions, entanglement entropy scales as the boundary surface that divides two correlated subsystems and through which the two sides are correlated. Thus, an area law arises. This area law would be the tempting connection to black holes. I worked on the original part of the thesis at the University of City, during a three months period up to January 2017 under the supervision of Professor [...]. The work's angle was that of information theory. Analysis was mainly computational, therefore I learned to use Mathematica and to write a Python code, which I had never done before. The task was not simple, since I had relatively short time to learn computational tecniques. Furthermore, I needed to find all the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of a matrix exponentially large and then extract independent eigenvectors in order to build up a basis, but my code worked well.

    Besides this, I got into a tutoring activity in City. The most challenging was taking exercises for bachelor's students of ``General Physics II" course, so electromagnetism and special relativity mostly. I found satisfying discussing with younger students and thinking about some of their uneasy questions, because I saw some sharp angles that I had never seen. It was also a chance to improve my communication skills for presenting convincing arguments. Even if short, the whole experience had been instructive for me and I saw students' final gratitude as the highest grade.

    Although my average and final grades are excellent, both for bachelor's and master's degrees, I went through some difficulties that affected short moments of my studies. At the beginning of bachelor's, I did not get good grades in few early exams, but I found my studying method was inadequate for university. I adjusted it consequently and within a few months I reached good results and I eventually got the degree with an excellent grade. During master's, I went through a period of stress and overwork that made me slower. It was still possible to earn the degree in time, working in City. But when the chance to work with Professor [...] came up, I decided to get it, for an experience abroad in a new environment. However, it was needed to take more time and graduation had been delayed.

    The experience with my master's thesis and tutoring activity made me realize which are my career goals. Researching offers a way to learn completely different from attending courses. Being directly involved in thinking about a problem is deeper and much more satisfying than understanding how others had done it. Moreover, I would like to be part of a large community in which to discuss and compare thoughts about a subject. For these reasons, I strongly think the PhD program at [...] is the best option to pursue my ultimate academic goals. Research areas fit in my interests and the multidisciplinary department would enlarge the level of contact I may have. "
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2017 #2

    symbolipoint

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    I read first two paragraphs, but instead of commenting and trying to express some judgement about your goals and interests in Physics, let me just ask some questions.

    What were one or two of your laboratory exercises from your undergraduate (bachelors degree) program which you found most interesting, or from which you learned greatly? Have you had a technical or scientific job as an employee? If so, what was it?

    Now, as I look above what i wrote, I see in your last paragraph you report having been in a Master's program, so my first question to you should be reasonable. I also wonder if you have only academic experience, or what.

    Your answering the questions I gave is your decision to do or not. I leave any other comment about your personal statement to other members.
     
  4. Dec 4, 2017 #3
    Sure, I can answer.

    First, I am only a student. I have just finished my master's. As I said in the fourth paragraph, I was tutor for bachelor's students. That is the only experience different from being a student.

    Laboratory. I can think about 2 laboratory exercises from my bachelor.
    1)Measure of (e/m) ratio for electrons.
    We used Helmoltz coils to generate a magnetic field in which electrons were moving. A uniform electric field was also produced. By setting tensions, it was possibile to control electrons' deflection and eventually measure e/m.
    2)Measure of Planck constant.
    We used a simple apparatus with LEDs in different colours and a cathod from which we extracted electrons by the photoelectric effects. Then, we stopped the electrons setting a tension. The measure of Planck constant is very simple then.

    I found these the two most interesting. For the first one, I really enjoyed seeing the beam on a plate easily controlled by a knob. For the second one, a very simple exercise to measure h, which I thought of as something "exotic", almost distant from the real world. I think both experiments served to make closer lectures and practice.

    Actually, my master's program was a theoretical one. At first, I chose that because I found annoying analyzing data and thinking about the setting of an experiment. But I found also proper reasons. What I wrote in the first paragraph is real, not invented. It is something that hit me.


    I feel you read my statement as pretentious. I am not like that. Actually, I'm filled with insecurities, so maybe it was a compensation.
    Please, tell me any kind of comment on my statement, I posted it here even for fix these things.

    P.S. I am not attacking you. If you feel like that, it is only my bad use of english, and I'm sorry. I'm grateful for your help.
     
  5. Dec 4, 2017 #4

    radium

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    Your personal statement is supposed to be very matter of fact and to the point. It is not a place to be stylistic and use flowery language. That distracts from the point you are trying to make.

    My main advice would be to get rid of around 2/3s of the first paragraph and just state that you are interested in studying the black holes as they are related to many fundamental questions across physics and want to become a professor, get rid of the entire fifth paragraph. And possibly move the second paragraph after the fourth. After that you should go back and clean it up, cutting out anything unecessary.
     
  6. Dec 5, 2017 #5
    How is that?
    "I am interested in black holes physics, since I saw the laws of black holes mechanics for the first time. These resemble those of thermodynamics. Black holes physics seems related to other fundamental questions in physics. I have realized that I what to undertake graduate studies, because I want to become an expert and a Professor. I want to be directly involved in research on gravity, thermodynamics and information and to teach and discuss physics with students. "

    I'm taking the third paragraph as a quick example.

    "I took up undergraduate studies in physics and I earned a master's degree in theoretical physics at the University of City. I chose courses mostly from theoretical particle physics. When I asked for thesis, Professor [...] told me about entanglement entropy and that someone had seen the possibility to link it to the quantum nature of black holes. So, the thesis purpose shifted gradually towards entanglement and the area law of entanglement entropy. I worked on the original part of the thesis at the University of City, during a three months period up to January 2017 under the supervision of Professor [...]. The work's angle was that of information theory and analysis was mainly computational. I learned to use Mathematica and to write a Python code, which I had never done before. The task was not simple, since I had relatively short time to learn computational tecniques, but my code worked well."

    I cut off some details. I hope I got what you meant.
     
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