Naming a professor

pymtab
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Joined: Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:19 am

Naming a professor

Postby pymtab » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:42 pm

Is it really imperative to name a professor or a research group that you would like to work with? I am very distressed because when I look at personal websites of different professors, I immediately see 2 things:
1) I am interested in many many things, and would not like to commit myself to a very specific research group.
2) I have never done any work that is closely related to anything that I see. Therefore, to comment wisely on a research group and why I would like to join it, will require A LOT of studying on my part. All I can do right now is say something silly that shows my lack of understanding, such as, "I am very interested in joining this group due to their research in 'X' which I find to be compelling and to align well with my research interests."

Do I have to be a *** expert in any field imaginable to write a decent SOP? Did anyone get accepted by plainly saying "I am interested in condensed matter theory and experiment," or something of that sort?

:? I really thought that I have a good chance at a top 10 school, but now i'm thinking that maybe I should stay out of top 100 (and I didn't add that final zero by accident).

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HappyQuark
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Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:08 am

Re: Naming a professor

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Oct 19, 2010 4:40 pm

pymtab wrote:Is it really imperative to name a professor or a research group that you would like to work with? I am very distressed because when I look at personal websites of different professors, I immediately see 2 things:
1) I am interested in many many things, and would not like to commit myself to a very specific research group.
2) I have never done any work that is closely related to anything that I see. Therefore, to comment wisely on a research group and why I would like to join it, will require A LOT of studying on my part. All I can do right now is say something silly that shows my lack of understanding, such as, "I am very interested in joining this group due to their research in 'X' which I find to be compelling and to align well with my research interests."

Do I have to be a *** expert in any field imaginable to write a decent SOP? Did anyone get accepted by plainly saying "I am interested in condensed matter theory and experiment," or something of that sort?

:? I really thought that I have a good chance at a top 10 school, but now i'm thinking that maybe I should stay out of top 100 (and I didn't add that final zero by accident).


Many, if not most, students going into grad school don't know exactly what they want to do and rarely have research experience perfectly compatible with the research going on at a school. On top of this, many students will have a change of heart with research fields both early and late in their grad school experience. Admissions committees know this. Your best option is to tell them your research experience, tell them what fields you are interested in and potentially which specific research groups at that university you find interesting and could potentially see yourself working with. The worst thing you could say is

"The only thing that keeps me going every day is the prospect of studying in the field of X with professor Y. If I'm not accepted by this program and with this professor I will throw a tantrum and quite possibly end my unsuccessful and miserable existence."

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WhoaNonstop
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Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 1:31 am

Re: Naming a professor

Postby WhoaNonstop » Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:39 pm

HappyQuark wrote:"The only thing that keeps me going every day is the prospect of studying in the field of X with professor Y. If I'm not accepted by this program and with this professor I will throw a tantrum and quite possibly end my unsuccessful and miserable existence."


...Well, I suppose that means I'm re-writing my SOP.

-Riley

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grae313
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Re: Naming a professor

Postby grae313 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:14 pm

I think it's important to name a few professors, even if you aren't sure what you want to do and if you don't know much about what they are doing. The reason for this is that going to graduate school is about research and you need to show the admission committees that you know this. If you apply to a school without considering what research is going on there and whether there is any that fits your interests, that looks bad and it's important to show the schools that you have looked into their research. Also, in your statement of purpose you must discuss your past research experience. If you don't say anything about your current potential interests, they are likely to assume you are looking to continue your undergraduate research and they will wonder why you applied to a school that doesn't have any research groups doing that sort of thing. That's an easy way to get your application in the reject pile. It's fine to be unsure, but mention a few things that interest you and a few research groups that sound like they are doing cool things, and then at least they know you are thinking about that sort of thing.

pymtab
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:19 am

Re: Naming a professor

Postby pymtab » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:31 pm

grae313 wrote:I think it's important to name a few professors, even if you aren't sure what you want to do and if you don't know much about what they are doing. The reason for this is that going to graduate school is about research and you need to show the admission committees that you know this. If you apply to a school without considering what research is going on there and whether there is any that fits your interests, that looks bad and it's important to show the schools that you have looked into their research. Also, in your statement of purpose you must discuss your past research experience. If you don't say anything about your current potential interests, they are likely to assume you are looking to continue your undergraduate research and they will wonder why you applied to a school that doesn't have any research groups doing that sort of thing. That's an easy way to get your application in the reject pile. It's fine to be unsure, but mention a few things that interest you and a few research groups that sound like they are doing cool things, and then at least they know you are thinking about that sort of thing.


I guess that's a relatively easy solution. I just keep fearing that they see through my utter lack of knowledge on the subject matter.

But on second thought, I guess the vast majority of applicants aren't experts on what they'd like to study (that's why they'd like to study it), so most won't have anything smarter to say.

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grae313
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Re: Naming a professor

Postby grae313 » Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:42 am

pymtab wrote:I guess that's a relatively easy solution. I just keep fearing that they see through my utter lack of knowledge on the subject matter.

But on second thought, I guess the vast majority of applicants aren't experts on what they'd like to study (that's why they'd like to study it), so most won't have anything smarter to say.


I had fairly good knowledge of and experience in the field I wanted to study in grad school, but my reasons for naming the professors I named were basically that I thought their research sounded exciting and interesting. I don't think you really need any more justification than that.




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