Wednesday, December 24, 2008

SOP Contest Entry #1

The following entry, submitted to the FSP Statement of Purpose (SOP) contest, is one of many fine entries that I will be posting over the next few days (if internet connections continue to be reasonably good from my remote location). The one posted today is by Naomi L. Ward and is particularly awesome because it has the following essential awesome elements: (1) an absurd quotation that is supposed to be deep and that is used to explain the applicant's reason for being interested in Science (or whatever); (2) obsequious statements and adjectives ('prestigious'); (3) mention of childhood (e.g. an important elementary school teacher; a relative etc.; special bonus points for mentioning a science fair); (4) mention of famous scientists (Albert Einstein is of course a particularly special choice); (5) unintentional mention of reasons why the applicant might actually be a loser as a person and a scientist; and (6) random cultural references (Vivaldi?)(extra bonus points for Leonard Nimoy).


"I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?
-----John Lennon

I am open-minded, just like John Lennon, and really want to explore some of these so-called "myths" by pursuing a graduate degree at your prestigious institution. I believe your joint Anthropology-Herpetology graduate program will nourish my efforts to prove the fairy-dragon connection. This hypothesis has been cherished by me since 2nd grade, when Mrs Lewis first introduced me to the different kinds of dragons and caused me to wonder "Where does all this diversity come from, and why do fairies and dragons appear in the same story books?"

My first experiments on this topic earned me a "Moderately Commended" at our school science fair, and really encouraged me to broaden my views. This led me to experiments in plants. As Albert Einstein said "A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?". The great man's insight sparked my curiosity and my next science fair project (in high school) was about whether gooseberries would ripen quicker if I got my little brother Ernie to play Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" to them. Unfortunately, I didn't get any awards for this project but this disappointment has taught me how to overcome great obstacles and persist in my scientific career. As somebody said, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger".

My most recent work experience has been great preparation for graduate school. I wasn't so good at making the cappuccinos so I was promoted to stacking boxes of supplies in the back of the shop, which has really improved my quantitative and spatial skills. I had to work a lot of hours at this job so my grades weren't so good for the last couple of semesters, but I've always believed that you can't really see the potential in someone based on their grades alone. My greatest role model in science, Leonard Nimoy, didn't make his Hollywood debut until age 20, so he was clearly a late bloomer just like me.

Naomi Ward


Notorious Ph.D. said...

The use of the passive voice, I think, shows real attention to detail in this SoP. Congratulations, Naomi, and may your fairy/dragon studies garner all the attention they merit.

Anonymous said...

FSM, you definitely have a good thing going here. The first statement is pretty good: it spoofs pretty well on all the things about statements of purpose that make us cringe, which, in my case, are items 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6.

The one thing I don't get, though, is your #3: why is tying your interest in science back to your formative years a bad thing?

Scientists have to come from somewhere! Usually they come from children. Since we know salary can't be what's driving children into science, it must be something else. If you believe the "The World Needs More Scientists" talking point, don't you think we should find out what these motivators are?

Anonymous said...

Great job, Naomi!

I wonder where this horrible quotation-itis originated? I find this "Lennon quote" a gazillion times on the net, but no proper reference (and not listed on Wikiquote).

Gah. Starting next semester we will be having applicants submit Statements of Purpose for starting our Master's program. We'll have to read them, unless we don't get many applicants......

Anonymous said...

Nice job Naomi - quoting Einstein will get you far in life. Or was that Seuss. Ah, you're hired.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, great application. I was particularly impressed by the "quantitative and spatial skills" thing... Had to laugh out loud!

liszt85 said...

extra bonus points.. I love that. Better would be "bonus bonus points" or for a better entry "bonus bonus bonus points".