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Physics REU Statement of Purpose - Help

  1. Jan 18, 2013 #1
    Hello, so over the next few days I will be applying to REUs, and as most of you know, this requires a statement of purpose/essay. Heres what I have so far.. keep in mid it's only a draft. Please be critical, I need all the suggestions I can get. Let me know what I can add, or take away from this essay to make it better. Thank you.

    I started my college career as mathematics major. I did not perform as well as I would have liked in my major courses, and it in reflected in my grades.

    I took my first physics course my third year and became obsessed with the subject. I found it more interesting than mathematics. I immediately asked my professor if I would be able to pursue a major in physics, in addition to mathematics. Together, we came up with a plan in which I would be able to complete the curriculum for the physics major in an additional two years (five years total). I was enthusiastic about taking upper level physics courses the following fall. I ordered my texts early, and began reading them during my summer job. Physics took over my life; in the best way possible, and I yearn to learn more about the universe and how it works.

    My enthusiam accompanied by my ambition allowed me to not only perform well in my fall semester classes, but drastically increased my knowledge of physics. Currently I've been watching videos, reading, and working with physics.

    Research at [insert University] would be extremely beneficial to me, not only as a future physicist and student, but as a person. I have never had the chance to do research, as my advisor only works on string theory requiring graduate-level physics, and this would be an amazing opportunity for me. I plan on attending graduate school to receive my PhD in physics and I feel this research experience would greatly increase my chances of being accepted.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 18, 2013 #2
    Other people can help more, but in general talk about the type of research you are interested in, the more specific the better. That should be the majority of your essay. Make sure the research you discuss is research that you would be able to do participating in the program.
    You need to demonstrate that:
    1) You have a good understanding of what type of research you are applying to conduct
    2) You would do a good job conducting this type of research (you know a lot about it, have certain skills, or have previous experience working in the field)
    3) That this program is a good fit for you and vice versa

    I think you did 3 well *enough*, but I would suggest starting from scratch, really focusing on 1 and 2. Also, I wouldn't open with the bit about your bad performance, maybe put that towards the end? Talk about "you" less, and more about what you would want to do *during the reu*. For instance, I would suggest not having anything similar to "Currently I've been watching videos, reading, and working with physics. " in your essay.

    But I'm just a dumb undergrad who made one of these threads a few weeks ago, so take that as you will.
  4. Jan 19, 2013 #3
    I agree with you, I did not feel comfortable with putting that in my essay, but then again I did just whip this up in a quick minute. I've been working on it all night though.

    In all honesty, I do not know what research I would like to do. My professor told me this was okay, and that I shouldn't suggest that I only wish to do (x) for research, as that would limit myself... is this incorrect?
  5. Jan 19, 2013 #4
    Again, I'm just an undergrad applying to REUs like yourself, so I certainly don't have any expertise and if someone else's input contradicts my own I would advise taking theirs.

    However, I find it very difficult to believe that REUs, which are very competitive (especially physics REUs) would be equally as likely to accept someone who stated they had no idea what they wanted to work on over the summer, as they would be to accept one who demonstrated knowledge of and interest in research performed at the institutions, as well as an ability to carry out said research.
    In my personal statements, I would address the issue by saying "I am interested in a variety of topics, and would be happy researching anything. However, my primary interest is optimizing the efficiency of metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistors (or whatever else type of research the particular program had)" and elaborate from their. As long as you make sure that the interests you express are actually covered by the program (which means you will likely need to write customized essays for each, as well as background research) I would not be worried about limiting yourself.

    As far as not knowing what type of research you want to do, perhaps you could just talk about the research conducted by the REU PIs that you found to be the most interesting.

    I, however, again repeat that I have no special knowledge on the topic, and am mostly just reporting my own strategies, parroting some things I have heard, and sharing my intuition.
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