I have a generic intro that I hope conveys my reasons for attending graduate school. I've had several people read over it, each giving a different opinion.
Background: I received my BS in physics and math in 2011, doing research in particle and materials labs, and I have since been employed as a test engineer and a researcher in an optical physics lab. I'm applying to AMO groups for the most part.
This is just an intro, and any other sections included would just outline my research experience. Also, the last sentence of the second paragraph is likely to be changed depending on the school.
Here it is:
Up to now, I've been fortunate to land positions in research. However, it is unlikely that this work will last forever, and my qualifications limit my prospects for independent research. I want to have a career in physics where I'm doing my own original experimental AMO research, and I want to be surrounded by others who have the same goal.
The balance of small and large problems attracts me to this field. When it comes to the daily laboratory tasks, such as aligning a laser cavity, characterizing neutral density filters, data analysis, or even being a mechanic while I hunt for a leak in a chiller, I tend to enjoy myself. The quick gratification that comes from solving these small problems keeps me motivated all day. However, I'm not content to act just as a technician. Working on important problems in physics or industry is my motivation for being in a lab to begin with, and I see AMO as providing many places for creativity, exploration, and contribution. Admittedly, I'm not absolutely certain of which specialty I want to focus on. Development of faster and more powerful optical sources, or studying exotic states of matter is exciting, and I would be happy doing either.
As for my post-graduate plans, a position in academia would be preferred. However, knowing that academic positions are rare, I am open to work in industry. My current employment in optical physics research gives me confidence in this area.