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Please criticize my REU statement of interest

  • Thread starter tim_lou
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682
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Main Question or Discussion Point

phew... I've been looking over the REU applications and working on the statement of interest. Being from a non-english speaking country, I'm nervous about writing a statement for something as important as the REU.

I don't have any previous research experience, and am an undergraduate freshmen right now. I have completed a modern physics class and classical mechanics class and maintained a 4.0 gpa for all my first semester classes. I can only get one math professor to get a recommendation for me. (I've picked out the programs that only need one letter of recommendations). Below is my statement of interest, I've reviewed and edited it many times to insure that it is the best that I can come up with... I've tried to make it as concise as possible (I don't have too much to write anyway). Please criticize and correct any mistake I make:

I am a double major student in Physics and Mathematics at Rutgers University and will be graduating in the spring of 2010. After graduation, I plan on pursuing a Ph. D degree in physics and become a physics researcher.
Being a physicist became my aspiration during my junior year in high school—when I was taking an introductory physics course for the first time. The idea of using mathematics to describe and explain nature fascinates me. I would attempt to derive physics equation I learnt and seek physics problems to solve so that I can come up with more equations. I was particularly interested in deriving Kepler’s first law—a law stated as a fact in my high school text without proof. I spent many days thinking and writing about the problem, and eventually, I solved it. The joy and excitement was so overwhelming that I decided to share my derivation with my physics teacher. After finishing a Classical Mechanics class in Rutgers University, I gained another perspective of the central force problem through the Lagrange formulism. The idea of how a different interpretation of physics laws simplifies and generalizes problems intrigues me. I began to search through the library for a broader perspective and greater knowledge in physics.
The more I learnt, the more I realized I need to learn. In particular, I realized that understanding the postulates of physics is not enough—one has to prove these postulates through experimentations. The REU program will provide me the opportunity and experience of developing physics idea through experimentations, as well as integrating textbook physics with real world physics problems. By the end of this spring semester, I will have completed the Modern Instrumentation course which will provide me the basic skills of handling modern equipments. With my physics and mathematics knowledge, I believe that I am ready for the challenges of the REU program. Together with my sincere learning attitude and determination, I am confident that I will be a great candidate for your undergraduate research program.

Thank you for reading my post... any advice is appreciated.

Edit: fixed spelling and grammatical errors.
 
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Answers and Replies

cristo
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
8,056
72
I think it generally reads well. I'm not really in a position to comment on the content though, since I'm not a University lecturer, but I can point out a few grammatical mistakes if you want:

I am a double major student in Physics and Mathematics at Rutgers University and will be graduated in the spring of 2010.
Here you should say "will be graduating", or "will graduate."
After graduation, I plan on pursuing a Ph. D degree in physics and become a physics researcher.
Being a physicist became my aspiration during my junior year in high school—when I was taking an introductory physics course for the first time. The idea of using mathematics to describe and explain nature fascinates me. I would attempt to derive physics equation I learnt and seek physics problems to solve so that I can come up with more equations. I was particularly interested in deriving the Kepler’s first law
I'd omit "the" in front of Kepler's
—a law stated as a fact in my high school text without proof. I spent many days thinking and writing about the problem, and eventually, I solved it. The joy and excitement was so overwhelming that I decided to share my derivation with my physics teacher. After finishing a Classical Mechanics class in Rutgers University, I gained another perspective of the central force problem through the Lagrange formulism. The idea of how a different interpretation of physics laws simplifies and generalizes problems intrigues me. I began to search through the library for a broader perspective and greater knowledge in physics.
The more I learnt, the more I realized I need to learn. In particular, I realized that understanding the postulates of physics is not enough—one has to prove these postulates through experimentations. The REU program will provide me the opportunity and experience of developing physics idea through experimentations, as well as integrating textbook physics with real world physics problems. By the end of this spring semester, I will have completed the Modern Instrumentation course which will provide me the basic skills of handling modern equipments. With my physics and mathematics knowledge, I believe that I am ready for the challenges of the REU program. Together with my sincere learning attitude and determinism,
The word you're after is "determination"

I am confident that I will be a great candidate for your undergraduate research program.
 
682
1
thanks for the corrections... spelling and grammatical errors are indeed embarrassing...
 
J77
1,070
1
Corrections to use of English - good luck!

I am a double major student in Physics and Mathematics at Rutgers University, graduating in the spring of 2010. After graduation, I plan on pursuing a PhD degree in physics, leading to a career as a physicist.
Being a physicist became my aspiration during my junior year in high school—when I took an introductory physics course for the first time. The idea of using mathematics to describe and explain nature fascinated me. I would attempt to derive the physics equations that I was taught and seek further problems to solve, so that I can come up with more equations. I was particularly interested in the derivation of Kepler’s first law—a law stated as a fact in my high school text without proof. I spent many days thinking and writing about the problem, and eventually, solved it. The joy and excitement was so overwhelming that I decided to share my derivation with my physics teacher. After finishing a Classical Mechanics class in Rutgers University, I gained another perspective of the central force problem through the Lagrange formulism. The idea of how different interpretations of physical laws allows one to simplify and generalize problems intrigues me. I began to search through the library, in order to obtain a broader perspective and greater knowledge in physics.
The more I read, the more I realized there was to learn. In particular, I realized that understanding the postulates of physics is not enough—one has to prove these postulates through experiments. The REU program will provide the opportunity for me to experience the development of physics through experiments, as well as integrating textbook physics with real world physics problems. By the end of this spring semester, I will have completed the Modern Instrumentation course which will provide me the basic skills of handling modern experimental apparatus.
With my physics and mathematics knowledge, I believe that I am ready for the challenges of the REU program. Together with my sincere attitude and determination towards learning, I am confident that I will be a great candidate for your undergraduate research program.
 
cristo
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
8,056
72
thanks for the corrections... spelling and grammatical errors are indeed embarrassing...
I wouldn't say that. Your command of the English language is infinitely better than my command of any foreign language!

I am a double major student in Physics and Mathematics at Rutgers University, graduating in the spring of 2010. After graduation, I plan on pursuing a PhD degree in physics, leading to a career as a physicist.
Being a physicist became my aspiration during my junior year in high school—when I took an introductory physics course for the first time.
Actually, if tim wanted to say that his aspiration to be a physicist started whilst he was studying his first course, he could say:

"Being a physicist became my aspiration during my junior year in high school, whilst taking an introductory physics course."

Also, note that the phrase "for the first time" is pretty much redundant, since you describe the course as "introductory physics."
The idea of using mathematics to describe and explain nature fascinated me. I would attempt to derive the physics equations that I was taught and seek further problems to solve, so that I can come up with more equations. I was particularly interested in the derivation of Kepler’s first law—a law stated as a fact in my high school text without proof. I spent many days thinking and writing about the problem, and eventually, solved it. The joy and excitement was so overwhelming that I decided to share my derivation with my physics teacher. After finishing a Classical Mechanics class in Rutgers University, I gained another perspective of the central force problem through the Lagrange formulism. The idea of how different interpretations of physical laws allows one to simplify and generalize problems intrigues me. I began to search through the library, in order to obtain a broader perspective and greater knowledge in physics.
The more I read, the more I realized there was to learn. In particular, I realized that understanding the postulates of physics is not enough—one has to prove these postulates through experiments.
In fact, experimentation may be a better word to use here, however note that it will not be plural

The REU program will provide the opportunity for me to experience the development of physics through experiments, as well as integrating textbook physics with real world physics problems. By the end of this spring semester, I will have completed the Modern Instrumentation course which will provide me the basic skills of handling modern experimental apparatus.
With my physics and mathematics knowledge, I believe that I am ready for the challenges of the REU program. Together with my sincere attitude and determination towards learning, I am confident that I will be a great candidate for your undergraduate research program.
 
J77
1,070
1
"Experimentation" is a very old-fashioned phrase.

"Performing experiments" would be the more up-to-date phrase :smile:
 
682
1
Big thanks for the corrections. J77's version of the statement seems a lot more concise....I guess I will be submitting my statement with my application tomorrow...

then I will have to email my math professor and ask him to please write me a recommendation.. :uhh:
 
cristo
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
8,056
72
then I will have to email my math professor and ask him to please write me a recommendation.. :uhh:
If at all possible, I would advise going to your professor and asking him face to face. Whenever I've asked for something like this, I've done it in person. I don't know if any of the professors on here can comment, but I would have thought that the personal approach was more likely to get a positive response than an email!

Good luck with your application!
 
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verty
Homework Helper
2,157
198
The joy and excitement was so overwhelming that I decided to share my derivation with my physics teacher.
Is this a testament to your joy and excitement? I just wonder if the fact that you shared your derivation with your teacher is relevant. Also, you showed the teacher and then what? It seems a little unfinished to me. I think it also sounds a little over the top to say that the joy and excitement "so overwhelmed me". It sounds like a fisherman who caught a fish that was "this! big".

But please don't take me too seriously, I don't know what is expected.
 
682
1
well... at that time, many of the physics ideas were new to me, and I just finished calc 1. I spent 7 pages and a whole lot of time proving the Kelper's first law (more exactly, the one-body problem)... and I could not believed that the solution turned out to be all conic sections... I literally felt like I have discovered something that no one else has found before, so I showed the proof to my physics teacher the next day, and he is kind of surprised by an out-of-no-where physics project. I admit that it is kinda naive to think like that....anyway, after that, I realized that physics is indeed what I wanted to do with my life.

after verty has mentioned it, the sentence does seem kind of incomplete....

perhaps I can change it to:
...eventually solved it. The joy and excitement was so overwhelming that I decided to share my derivation with my physics teacher. After that incident, I realized that physics is indeed what I want to do in my life.
 
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57
0
I don't know if you want this kind of advice, but I just wanted to say that you probably want to apply to many (I'd say at least 10, since you are a freshman) REU programs. There are just so few spots for REU that people who are intellectually very well qualified could be turned down for reasons like not having a specific skill that the professors are looking for. I applied to 10 programs in the summer following my junior year, and was offered 2 positions, although I had a pretty well defined research interest, and only applied to programs that had related projects planed. I'm not saying or implying I'm better or worse qualified than anyone, but just wanted to give you an idea of the level of competition.
 
682
1
yeah, I know that the competition has to be tough. unfortunately, I can only get a recommendation from my math professor (he is the only one who... at least, really know my name... so) and there are only around 4 REUs that require one recommendation instead of two...
 
verty
Homework Helper
2,157
198
well... at that time, many of the physics ideas were new to me, and I just finished calc 1. I spent 7 pages and a whole lot of time proving the Kelper's first law (more exactly, the one-body problem)... and I could not believed that the solution turned out to be all conic sections... I literally felt like I have discovered something that no one else has found before, so I showed the proof to my physics teacher the next day, and he is kind of surprised by an out-of-no-where physics project. I admit that it is kinda naive to think like that....anyway, after that, I realized that physics is indeed what I wanted to do with my life.
This piece that you just wrote conveys far more for me than that line you suggest.
 
682
1
Sorry for reviving this old thread... But one of the institute I applied to replied to me.

I got accepted to the REU at university of Toledo!!!! I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW!!!!! Now, the first research opportunity for me in the field of physics! how exciting!

I really do not know if I should accept the offers yet... Since I applied to some other REUs and I would like to know results for the others as well.

Either way, thank you all for your help!
 
ranger
Gold Member
1,654
1
Sorry to digress from the thread a bit. But I'm also applying for an REU. They require a resume, what should I put for the Objective?

Mayb something like "To participate in a REU project at your University"?
 
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