Statement of Purpose for Physics Masters Degree Application

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  • #1
Foracle
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I need advice in writing statement of purpose, particularly on my field of interest. I come from an undergraduate university which there is nothing much going on, just take courses and lab work, no research or anything like that available, hence I don't really have enough experience to describe the field of physics that I am interested in. I have read online on several fields of physics and I am find astrophysics interests me, but I really don't know enough about the topic to talk about it.

Should I just not talk my field of interest at all?
Any advice on what I should write for masters degree application is much appreciated

My current progress consists of :
1. My background and achievement
2. Why I am pursuing masters degree in physics
3. My work experience as a lab assistant
 
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  • #2
symbolipoint
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undergraduate university which there is nothing much going on, just take courses and lab work, no research or anything like that available,
What do the professors there actually teach, and are the courses DIFFERENT than those at other universities? What kind of university holds faculty who do no research? No kind of process nor product development for other groups or companies?
 
  • #3
Foracle
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What do the professors there actually teach, and are the courses DIFFERENT than those at other universities? What kind of university holds faculty who do no research? No kind of process nor product development for other groups or companies?
I admit that it’s a very poor university. The courses are pretty much the same as other universities, but the lecturers don’t teach much at all, I study mostly from textbooks or online resources like MIT OCW. And the lecturers are mostly not professors, some are masters degree.
 
  • #4
Choppy
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I really don't know enough about the topic to talk about it.

There is potentially a bigger problem here. Do you really want to spend the next 1-3 years of your life studying something at an advanced level when you really don't know enough about it talk about it in a statement of purpose letter?

On one hand this could simply be a matter of confidence, i.e. you actually do know something, but just feel intimidated to speak frankly about it. In which case, I would suggest just try writing freely about it for a while and see what you come up with. Edit your rough draft until you have something you're confident with.

But on the other hand, if you really are struggling and don't know much about the field, you could be setting yourself up for problems by getting into a field you don't really have a passion for.

In your statement of purpose your goal isn't to impress the admissions committee with your background knowledge of express some poetic or witty anecdotes about how you fell in love with physics. In my experience they're looking for things like:
- you understand the commitment you're making, and what will be required of you in the program
- the program is a good fit for your long term goals
- you have investigated the specific program you're applying to, understand what makes it unique, and what makes it a good fit for you
- evidence you are going to be successful in the program
 
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  • #5
symbolipoint
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undergraduate university which there is nothing much going on, just take courses and lab work, no research or anything like that available,
This may be slightly clearer. You attend an UNDERGRADUATE university, and according to this kind, your university does not offer any postgraduate degree programs.

What kind of university is strictly undergraduate? That would be not any kind of university at all, but would be a community college, and would offer associate in arts degrees and certificate programs.
 
  • #6
bob012345
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I need advice in writing statement of purpose, particularly on my field of interest. I come from an undergraduate university which there is nothing much going on, just take courses and lab work, no research or anything like that available, hence I don't really have enough experience to describe the field of physics that I am interested in. I have read online on several fields of physics and I am find astrophysics interests me, but I really don't know enough about the topic to talk about it.

Should I just not talk my field of interest at all?
Any advice on what I should write for masters degree application is much appreciated

My current progress consists of :
1. My background and achievement
2. Why I am pursuing masters degree in physics
3. My work experience as a lab assistant
Is a this degree a step towards a further degree? Or a step to a job? Have you considered what kind of job you could get with an M.S. degree in Astrophysics? Maybe a job at NASA helping design and test space probes but probably not a career in advancing the science without a further degree. If you plan to continue studies after the M.S. you should make that goal clear.
 
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  • #8
CrysPhys
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This may be slightly clearer. You attend an UNDERGRADUATE university, and according to this kind, your university does not offer any postgraduate degree programs.

What kind of university is strictly undergraduate? That would be not any kind of university at all, but would be a community college, and would offer associate in arts degrees and certificate programs.
This is just wrong.

EDIT
Here's a start:
https://thebestschools.org/rankings/best-undergraduate-colleges/
Symbolipoint: Wholeheartedly agree with gmax137's response. I previously served as an industry mentor for STEM students. Two of my best physics undergrad students were enrolled in (ETA) 4-yr undergrad colleges that grant bachelor's degrees (not universities, but also not 2-yr community colleges): Wellesley and Carleton. They do not have grad divisions. But some professors do carry on research, either on campus, or in collaboration with other universities. And Wellesley has a cross-registration program with MIT. One student went on to complete a PhD in physics; the other worked a while in industry and is currently enrolled in a PhD program for medical physics.
 
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  • #9
symbolipoint
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This is just wrong.

EDIT
Here's a start:
https://thebestschools.org/rankings/best-undergraduate-colleges/

Symbolipoint: Wholeheartedly agree with gmax137's response. I previously served as an industry mentor for STEM students. Two of my best physics undergrad students were enrolled in 4-yr undergrad colleges: Wellesley and Carleton. They do not have grad divisions. But some professors do carry on research, either on campus, or in collaboration with other universities. And Wellesley has a cross-registration program with MIT. One student went on to complete a PhD in physics; the other worked a while in industry and is currently enrolled in a PhD program for medical physics.
What kind of universities could they possibly be? If such university offers only undergraduate degree then those who teach there those with PhD, are then doing some investigations or some research somewhere. Somehow, the university needs to have PhD faculty in order to issue any Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree to successfully students in the degree programs.

ADD: This post I did not arrange perfectly. I made the adjustment in a later posting. (post #15)
 
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  • #10
gmax137
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Can you help me understand what you are saying?
If such university offers only undergraduate degree then those who teach there those with PhD, are then doing some investigations or some research somewhere.
Are you asking, "does the faculty do research" -- answer is "yes they do"

Somehow, the university needs to have PhD faculty in order to issue any Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree to successfully students in the degree programs.
Are you asking, "does the faculty hold PhD degrees" -- answer is "yes they do. They got their PhDs at another school"
 
  • #11
CrysPhys
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What kind of universities could they possibly be? If such university offers only undergraduate degree then those who teach there those with PhD, are then doing some investigations or some research somewhere. Somehow, the university needs to have PhD faculty in order to issue any Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree to successfully students in the degree programs.
? I'm having difficulty parsing your response. But to clarify my previous response, the students I mentored graduated from Wellesley and Carleton with BA Physics degrees and then went on to other universities for their PhD studies.

[ETA: symbolipoint: Are you in the US?]
 
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  • #12
Foracle
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There is potentially a bigger problem here. Do you really want to spend the next 1-3 years of your life studying something at an advanced level when you really don't know enough about it talk about it in a statement of purpose letter?
Yes, I am very committed to this. I am doing a masters degree as a step towards PhD. But as I stated, I haven't done much except from doing course work, hence I don't have enough experience to talk about my interest.
In your statement of purpose your goal isn't to impress the admissions committee with your background knowledge of express some poetic or witty anecdotes about how you fell in love with physics. In my experience they're looking for things like:
- you understand the commitment you're making, and what will be required of you in the program
- the program is a good fit for your long term goals
- you have investigated the specific program you're applying to, understand what makes it unique, and what makes it a good fit for you
- evidence you are going to be successful in the program
Thank you, I will consider this in writing my statement of purpose
 
  • #13
Foracle
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This may be slightly clearer. You attend an UNDERGRADUATE university, and according to this kind, your university does not offer any postgraduate degree programs.

What kind of university is strictly undergraduate? That would be not any kind of university at all, but would be a community college, and would offer associate in arts degrees and certificate programs.
Sorry I guess I have written it ambiguously. My university does offer masters and doctoral degree. What I am trying to say is that I attend undergraduate study there
 
  • #14
Foracle
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Is a this degree a step towards a further degree? Or a step to a job? Have you considered what kind of job you could get with an M.S. degree in Astrophysics? Maybe a job at NASA helping design and test space probes but probably not a career in advancing the science without a further degree. If you plan to continue studies after the M.S. you should make that goal clear.
It's a step towards PhD. I understand that I am very inexperienced and not ready to take PhD yet, that's why I am taking a masters degree with a goal to explore physics by doing research and find out in what field my interest lies.
 
  • #15
symbolipoint
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I will try to re-express something I earlier said upon writing:
What kind of universities could they possibly be? If such university offers only undergraduate degree then those who teach there those with PhD, are then doing some investigations or some research somewhere. Somehow, the university needs to have PhD faculty in order to issue any Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree to successfully students in the degree programs.
.
Saying in an adjusted way:
What kind of universities could they possibly be? If such university offers only undergraduate degree then those who teach there would have PhD. They should be doing some investigations or some research somewhere. Somehow, the university needs to have PhD faculty in order to issue any Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree to successful students in the degree programs.
.
.
As foracle later explained, his university is not strictly undergraduate. It offers Masters, Bachelors, and PhD programs. This makes his original description difficult to understand.
 
  • #16
CrysPhys
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Sorry I guess I have written it ambiguously. My university does offer masters and doctoral degree. What I am trying to say is that I attend undergraduate study there
Just to clarify: Your university does offer Masters and PhD programs specifically in physics? If so, why don't you have a better feel for the various fields of physics research that are available?
 
  • #17
CrysPhys
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I will try to re-express something I earlier said upon writing:

.
Saying in an adjusted way:
What kind of universities could they possibly be? If such university offers only undergraduate degree then those who teach there would have PhD. They should be doing some investigations or some research somewhere. Somehow, the university needs to have PhD faculty in order to issue any Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree to successful students in the degree programs.
.
.
As foracle later explained, his university is not strictly undergraduate. It offers Masters, Bachelors, and PhD programs. This makes his original description difficult to understand.
Given the OP's recharacterization of his present educational institution in Post #14 (ETA: Now #13), I realize this is now a moot point. But I just want to make sure I understand you correctly. You are no longer questioning the viability of educational institutions that grant only 4-yr bachelors degrees (as you originally did in Post #5). You are now saying that, even at an educational institution that grants only 4-yr bachelor's degrees, the faculty should be qualified to advise their students concerning graduate programs and research elsewhere. Is that correct?
 
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  • #18
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I believe I had a much better experience for the first two years of my education at community college than if I had gone to the big state university I ultimately transferred to for all four years. Classes were smaller and more intimate not grand lecture halls with hundreds and the teachers were motivated professionals.
 
  • #19
Foracle
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Just to clarify: Your university does offer Masters and PhD programs specifically in physics?
Yes, the programs are specifically in physics.
If so, why don't you have a better feel for the various fields of physics research that are available?
Well, there are some "physics" research available. I just looked at my department's web, here are some of the researches conducted :
1. Chitosan based electric generator panel
2. The use of bismuth oxide as a high temperature superconductor by conventional method
3. Pt-Ni/NG as Counter-Electrode for Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
4. The production of cellulose nano-fiber based bionanocomposite
5. Utilization of Palm Oil Seed Alcogel (Arenga Pinnata) as an Adsorber of Vitamin E Palm Fatty Acid Distillate (PFAD)
(Note : I translated the research title from my language to English, so some might not sound right)
You can see where I am going. Unfortunately I am really not interested in these types of research.
 
  • #20
StatGuy2000
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This may be slightly clearer. You attend an UNDERGRADUATE university, and according to this kind, your university does not offer any postgraduate degree programs.

What kind of university is strictly undergraduate? That would be not any kind of university at all, but would be a community college, and would offer associate in arts degrees and certificate programs.
@symbolipoint , what you state above is not strictly true in the US. There are many post-secondary institutions which are in effect universities (often called "colleges" in the US) that are primarily geared to undergraduate education (Swarthmore College or Kenyon College are what comes to mind). These institutions are not community colleges, which do not provide full BS programs and also often are geared to providing technical training (e.g. technician training).

Even in Canada, there are universities whose focus is on providing undergraduate education, with relatively little focus on research. Trent University is an example of just such an institution.
 
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  • #21
symbolipoint
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Given the OP's recharacterization of his present educational institution in Post #14 (ETA: Now #13), I realize this is now a moot point. But I just want to make sure I understand you correctly. You are no longer questioning the viability of educational institutions that grant only 4-yr bachelors degrees (as you originally did in Post #5). You are now saying that, even at an educational institution that grants only 4-yr bachelor's degrees, the faculty should be qualified to advise their students concerning graduate programs and research elsewhere. Is that correct?
I do not know. Tell me! The only kind of university I understand is the kind at which most of or nearly all the faculty have PhDs, and certain universities offer Bachelors AND Masters Degrees but not PhD; the other universities offer Bachelor, Masters, and PhD degrees, and nearly all if not all of the faculty are PhD people. All the universities do research. If there really are universities which only offer up to Bachelors' degrees, I do not know of them. I then wonder, if such exist then do they hire mostly Masters' degree faculty or do they hire mostly PhD faculty, and can a group of Masters' degree people issue Bachelors' degrees to graduates of this universities programs, or is the PhD required for issuing Bachelor degree?
 
  • #22
symbolipoint
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Yes, the programs are specifically in physics.

Well, there are some "physics" research available. I just looked at my department's web, here are some of the researches conducted :
1. Chitosan based electric generator panel
2. The use of bismuth oxide as a high temperature superconductor by conventional method
3. Pt-Ni/NG as Counter-Electrode for Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
4. The production of cellulose nano-fiber based bionanocomposite
5. Utilization of Palm Oil Seed Alcogel (Arenga Pinnata) as an Adsorber of Vitamin E Palm Fatty Acid Distillate (PFAD)
(Note : I translated the research title from my language to English, so some might not sound right)
You can see where I am going. Unfortunately I am really not interested in these types of research.
This is only me guessing, but maybe the institution's faculties's research interests do not impress you, or you just have difficulty in naturally appreciating the set of research interests. So your school department DOES conduct research but you find that particular set of research interests, dull.
 
  • #23
symbolipoint
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@symbolipoint , what you state above is not strictly true in the US. There are many post-secondary institutions which are in effect universities (often called "colleges" in the US) that are primarily geared to undergraduate education (Swarthmore College or Kenyon College are what comes to mind). These institutions are not community colleges, which do not provide full BS programs and also often are geared to providing technical training (e.g. technician training).

Even in Canada, there are universities whose focus is on providing undergraduate education, with relatively little focus on research. Trent University is an example of just such an institution.
That is a concept I need to learn about more. I have been unaccustomed to such an idea. Does that passage mean, undergraduate "College" offers programs up to Bachelors' degree and that "University" offers either Bachelor and Master degree; or Bachelor, Master, and PhD?
 
  • #24
symbolipoint
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Given the OP's recharacterization of his present educational institution in Post #14 (ETA: Now #13), I realize this is now a moot point. But I just want to make sure I understand you correctly. You are no longer questioning the viability of educational institutions that grant only 4-yr bachelors degrees (as you originally did in Post #5). You are now saying that, even at an educational institution that grants only 4-yr bachelor's degrees, the faculty should be qualified to advise their students concerning graduate programs and research elsewhere. Is that correct?
Apparently, @StatGuy2000 in post #20 is telling me how the schools are characterized.
 
  • #25
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If there really are universities which only offer up to Bachelors' degrees, I do not know of them. I then wonder, if such exist then do they hire mostly Masters' degree faculty or do they hire mostly PhD faculty, and can a group of Masters' degree people issue Bachelors' degrees to graduates of this universities programs, or is the PhD required for issuing Bachelor degree?
At many North American universities/colleges, faculty can be divided into sessional lecturers (non-tenured contract), teaching track (possibly tenure track), and research track (tenure track). Many faculty at primarily undergraduate universities do conduct research but teaching duties may be supplemented by either contract sessional lecturers or teaching track faculty who do not. They most likely will all have PhD's. It is unlikely that despite the Op's post, that there exist no opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in research at their school. It just may take greater initiative on their part to connect with professors who would be willing to allow them to participate as part of their lab group.
 
  • #26
CrysPhys
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I do not know. Tell me! The only kind of university I understand is the kind at which most of or nearly all the faculty have PhDs, and certain universities offer Bachelors AND Masters Degrees but not PhD; the other universities offer Bachelor, Masters, and PhD degrees, and nearly all if not all of the faculty are PhD people. All the universities do research. If there really are universities which only offer up to Bachelors' degrees, I do not know of them. I then wonder, if such exist then do they hire mostly Masters' degree faculty or do they hire mostly PhD faculty, and can a group of Masters' degree people issue Bachelors' degrees to graduates of this universities programs, or is the PhD required for issuing Bachelor degree?
OK. Apparently you are not in the US. Here, there are many 4-yr undergrad colleges. Some are well-known elite colleges. I'm originally from the state of Massachusetts so I can rattle off Wellesley, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, and Williams from that state alone (previously there was also Radcliffe, but that got subsumed into Harvard). I don't know what country you're in, but you've posted that you grasp the concept of 2-yr community colleges that grant associate degrees or certificates, ^, universities that grant bachelors and masters, and universities that grant bachelors, masters, and PhDs. Yet you seem to have a hard time grasping the concept of an educational institution that grants only bachelors (whatever you want to call those institutions). I don't understand why that's such a bizarre concept to you. [ETA: Such institutions would fit nicely at the spot marked ^ along the hierarchy of institutions above.]
 
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  • #27
symbolipoint
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Yet you seem to have a hard time grasping the concept of an educational institution that grants only bachelors (whatever you want to call those institutions). I don't understand why that's such a bizarre concept to you.
Yes. The concept has been difficult. I never imagined them until this "Statement of Purpose for Physics Masters application" topic.
 
  • #28
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Yes. The concept has been difficult. I never imagined them until this "Statement of Purpose for Physics Masters application" topic.
Let me rephrase what I previously wrote in a more formal manner. You are familiar with, and comfortable with the concept of,

(I) Educational institutions that grant only associates degrees or certificates; and

(II) Educational institutions that grant only bachelors and masters.

So an educational institution (III) that grants only bachelors can be readily conceived by interpolation between two known endpoints (I) and (II) and does not require a stretch of imagination (extrapolation beyond two known endpoints).

Anyway, my apologies to the OP: this sidetrack is not helping you any.
 
  • #29
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In my experience in the US and Canada there are 4 degrees: Associate (2yr), Batchelor(4yr), Masters(+2yr) Doctoral~+4-6yr).
A College does not offer the two graduate degrees but a University does. Hence the term "undergraduate university" is a non-sequitur for the US system.

Edit: For the statement of purpose you need to be honest in your response. I think at your level my honest response was physics is extraordinarily intellectually demanding and the most powerful magic we've got
'
 
  • #30
symbolipoint
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Let me rephrase what I previously wrote in a more formal manner. You are familiar with, and comfortable with the concept of,

(I) Educational institutions that grant only associates degrees or certificates; and

(II) Educational institutions that grant only bachelors and masters.

So an educational institution (III) that grants only bachelors can be readily conceived by interpolation between two known endpoints (I) and (II) and does not require a stretch of imagination (extrapolation beyond two known endpoints).

Anyway, my apologies to the OP: this sidetrack is not helping you any.
You did not understand what I said. You have missed finding my progression of learning this concept of the undergraduate-only institutions.
 
  • #31
Foracle
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This is only me guessing, but maybe the institution's faculties's research interests do not impress you, or you just have difficulty in naturally appreciating the set of research interests. So your school department DOES conduct research but you find that particular set of research interests, dull.
Yes, they do research and I find that their research topic is uninteresting. By the way, I forgot to mention that the research I listed were conducted in 2015-2017, I can’t find any research more recent than that on the web. My point is research opportunity is very rare.

Anyway, is it necessary to talk about field of interest for masters degree application? Don‘t students choose their field of interest mid-way through their degree anyway?
 
  • #32
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Anyway, is it necessary to talk about field of interest for masters degree application? Don‘t students choose their field of interest mid-way through their degree anyway?
While in most cases you won't be held strictly to what you say in your application, in my experience departments do factor in student desires and intentions.

For example, if a department has four professors who are willing an able to take on new students in its condensed matter group, but no one in its astrophysics group can take on a student that year, those students who indicate a preference to work in the condensed matter group are likely to be favored in the admissions process.

And there's also a question of establishing purpose in such a letter. Which application looks better? One from a student who has rigorously investigated the program, spoken with potential supervisors and graduate students, read the recent papers from one group and indicates a specific interest in working with them on a project they're planning to do? Or a student who does not indicate what group or project they would want to work with/on?

That said, a lot depends on the specifics of the program. Course-based master's degrees can be a lot more flexible with who they admit, for example.
 
  • #33
StatGuy2000
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That is a concept I need to learn about more. I have been unaccustomed to such an idea. Does that passage mean, undergraduate "College" offers programs up to Bachelors' degree and that "University" offers either Bachelor and Master degree; or Bachelor, Master, and PhD?
Generally speaking that is true, but it's not always that straightforward, since in the US, the words "college" and "university" can be used interchangeably to any post-secondary educational institution that offers at minimum a 4-year undergraduate bachelor's degree (unless the word "community college" is used, which refers to post-secondary institutions that offer 2-year associate diplomas or technical training, similar to how the term is used in Canada, where I live). And many such "colleges" can also potentially offer graduate degrees.

I should also add that the word "college" can also be used in the US (and some universities in Canada) to refer to specific sub-divisions that offer specific programs within a larger university (e.g. College of Engineering and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan -- my father's alma mater).

And to further complicate matters:

1. In Canada and the UK, the term "college" has been used to refer to private secondary schools (e.g. Eton College in the UK, Upper Canada College in Canada). In the US, the more common term is "academy" (e.g. Philips Exeter Academy).

2. In the UK, the term "college" can refer to full-fledged universities that offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees (e.g. Imperial College London).

BTW @symbolipoint , as an aside, I was wondering if you are not from the US. I ask because of your unfamiliarity with the way the above terms are used in the US.
 
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  • #34
Foracle
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This is my statement of purpose that I have written for my M.Sc application. I haven't done the closing part.
Please tell me if I need to correct anything and please don't hold back.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Why is the universe so large compared to the parameters of the Standard Model? Why is the gravity so weak? How can the charge of proton and electron be so fine tuned to be exactly the same up to 30 orders of magnitude; by which a small deviation would not let matter to form? These questions were raised by Prof. Savas Dimopoulus from Stanford University in his lecture on Beyond the Standard Model, which immediately piqued my interest. I knew at that time that I wanted to learn more about that specific field of physics, which is why I am applying for MSc in physics, particularly in particle physics, as a stepping stone for my PhD in the future.

I attend my undergraduate studies at a university which is good in instrumentation physics, but unfortunately is lacking in the theoretical side. My lecturers didn’t get deep enough in core subjects like statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. But never once was I discouraged by this to learn more about physics. I self-studied the topics that my lecturers didn’t cover by using textbooks and online resources, and it was quite a success as I managed to win a silver medal in the National Physics Competition in 2021, which tested us on the following subjects : Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, and Quantum Mechanics.

I admit that without having been guided by an expert, my understanding in physics must still be incomplete. Therefore, My objective to undertake this M.Sc program is to develop a solid understanding in physics, particularly in the theoretical field, as well as to get the opportunity to do research (which I never managed to get the chance to due to the scarce opportunity available in where I live), which will give me not only a good understanding of the field, but also the chance to actually contribute to physics. Moreover, I would be able to get a first-hand experience on how physics research is done, which I project myself to do in the future.

After watching Prof. Dimopoulus’ lecture on Beyond the Standard Model, I went to look for study material for particle physics. Conveniently, Alex Fluornoy, a teaching professor from Colorado School of Mines, has posted his lectures on the subject along with the problem sets and exam problems online, which I had utilized to study. Having no research activity, I have a lot of free time which I currently use to study higher level subjects like quantum field theory utilizing the book by M. Peskin. I also plan on learning about General Relativity in the next few months before I begin taking course in the M.Sc program. With this, I believe that I will be ready to undertake graduate level courses.

I am currently working as a computational physics laboratory assistant, which began during my second year of undergraduate. I guide students starting from the basics of programming languages like Pascal, C++, Matlab, and Mathematica to solving differential equation with them. I am also responsible for arranging their coursework, like writing project problems and grading their work.

(Closing)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
  • #35
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Why are you going for a Masters? What I get is "a stepping stone towards a PhD" and "you like particle physics". This is a Statement of Purpose. Where's the Purpose?

I would also be wary of badmouthing your present institution. You don't want people thiniking "he did it to them; so he'll do it to us."
 
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