Friday, December 26, 2008

More SOP

Here is another fine entry to the Statement of Purpose (SOP) contest. I particulary like the first line of this one from Ambivalent Academic.

I have a passing interest in joining the Chemistry Graduate Program at FSP University. Most of my previous scientific experience is centered around biomedical research, including 4.5 years working toward a Ph.D. in Sub-Sub-Field of Biology. I have quit that program, in part because I was inadequately compensated for the work I was putting in, but mostly because I have come the realization that there are far more interesting and important questions to be answered by science. Hence my interest in your program.

A wise man (don't ask me whom, you don't know him) once told me:

"Most of the world's problems are ethanol-soluble...and those that are not you aren't likely to solve anyway, so the best course of action in either case is to go get pissed."

This is really the crux of what scientific endeavors are all about. One could not do better than solving the world's problems, and that is precisely what I propose to do as a graduate student in FSPU's Chemistry Department. Or rather, I propose to dissolve the world's problems in ethanol. During the course of my preliminary work on this problem, I have discovered that the most efficient and effective means of dissolving problems in ethanol is to directly imbibe solutions of ethanol as soon as a problem presents itself. I have found that problems go into solution more rapidly at a timepoint just after their inception, with the rate of dissolution approaching a more constant value as the problem matures. This work is fairly preliminary at this point, but I am confident that further problems inherent to graduate studies will provide ample opportunity to expand this data set.

In addition, I propose to examine the effects of different concentrations of ethanol solvent on the rate of dissolution of different sized problems. I have extensive experimental plans for this proposal, including careful titration of the problems in question into specific ethanol solutions. Furthermore, I propose to examine the ethanol production mechanism as it relates to efficacy of problem dissoultion. Specifically, I am interested in whether distilled ethanol solutions are more or less effective than fermented-only ethanol solutions in dissolving problems both large and small.

I think that you will agree with me on the importance of this research. Think of how much humanity would benefit from a specifically defined set of parameters for dissolving problems! I have attached several references (including my previous Graduate Advisor for the Ph.D. program I have recently left), all of whom can vouch not only for my long-standing interest in this project, but also for the diligence with which I conducted preliminary research for this project, even while attempting to complete my thesis work in Sub-Sub-Field of Biology. My references and previous efforts in this research speak for my ability to continue to excel in this field. I am only in need of the appropriate environment in which to conduct this research.

Given the fine history of the FSPU Chemistry Department and it's reputation for beating graduate students senseless (both literally and figuratively), thereby providing them with myriad problems upon which I may conduct my studies, I cannot think of a better program in which to pursue my research.

Thank you for your consideration of this application - Cheers!


Anonymous said...

Dear FSP,

Longtime reader, first-time commenter. I was mortified by your comments on the SOP contest - having recently entered a doctoral program, I wrote a SOP that referenced my childhood fascination with science. In all seriousness, where should one start when writing an SOP? Perhaps: "I love science, I'm super-awesome, and I promise I won't flunk out, drop out, or tune out."?

Anonymous said...

That project has been done, without the social angle, by Dmitri Mendeleev for his Ph.D. Before all that periodic table business. One of the chapters must have been on the social aspect, since it is well known he drank the results of his experiments.

You would be going up against some very famous and tough competition if you want to work on that project. Although, Mendeleev's thesis is in Russian, and there is a chance no one on your commiteee will bother to read it, so you could be in luck.

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde said...

The "cheers!" is an awesome send-off touch.

Female Science Professor said...

Don't be mortified, anon 2:22. You can write about your childhood or not. You can even start your statement with "I am born". However, the fact that so many applicants do write about their childhood, mostly in completely irrelevant ways, is why that is a theme of many of the parody SOPs.

I don't think it matters -- with respect to suitability for graduate studies -- whether someone has been fascinated by science since childhood or has discovered a passion for science much later. That is, you are not making a more compelling case by mentioning your childhood love of science. Also, a SOP is not a biography that must be started chronologically. I personally am most impressed with a SOP that starts with a clear statement of the applicant's research interests and relevant academic background.

Anonymous said...

I'm loving these SOP letters. I'd like to see the guidelines that potential applicants have explaining what to write.

Anonymous said...

Dear FSP,

Thanks for starting this -- I truly have enjoyed the first two SOPs. I would, however, use this opportunity to complain a bit about our academic world, and would love to read your feedback.

The question that I have is: Whose job is it to teach students the etiquette of writing SOPs? Whether it is an SOP for the graduate school, or whether it is the statement of research for job applications, no one takes the time to teach those poor souls who have been ridiculed here, except perhaps in satirical blog posts.

So should we be making fun of people who write such SOPs, or should we be making fun of people who fail to give the students the right guidelines? Or do you expect that all souls in the world should magically learn this art?

I think our academic world is as much a guilty party in this as are the ones who write stereotypical SOPs.

Another whining product of the academic world :)

Female Science Professor said...

First, I am not making fun of anyone in particular, or at least not in an unkind way. The SOP contest was inspired by the Imitation Hemingway contest and others like it. You can like or loathe Hemingway, but mostly it is fun to imitate the style.

Anyway, when my undergrads ask me for advice about applying to grad school, I talk to them about the various important stages: how to first contact professors, how to write the SOP etc. On occasion, there is also a more formal hour or two of advice given by one of my colleagues to the prospective grads as a group. Giving such advice is the responsibility of faculty who work with undergrads and/or the undergrad advisor (if such a position exists).

Anonymous said...

Dear FSP

How about posting some examples of effective SOPs, instead of beating up on folks.

Female Science Professor said...