Could someone critique my SOP?

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Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2015 2:24 pm

Could someone critique my SOP?

Postby P2C2E » Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:23 am

Hey. I've prepared a draft of my SOP, although it will be suitably modified depending on where I apply. Could someone suggest edits?

The last paragraph is incomplete as I'll be adding how the university I'm applying to will help me achieve my professional goals.


In the summer of 2014, I was faced with the important decision regarding what I would do after finishing my bachelors in engineering. I was no longer intent on pursuing a career in engineering, but I was also uninterested in working in any sector not connected to STEM. I had always harboured a fascination for the physical sciences, but my experience in engineering made me realise that I am more interested in studying science at a fundamental level than simply putting it to utilitarian purposes. With this in mind, I decided to make use of my final year studying physics courses and obtaining opportunities to research and explore as many subjects as I could.

I received help from many quarters, beginning with Professor T of our physics department. He advised me to familiarize myself with the content of a physics undergraduate program, and I soon decided to work with him on a study project in information thermodynamics. The work involved studying a paper published in 2013 that attempted to model Maxwell’s demon as a basic information processing device, thereby linking the loss of thermodynamic entropy with a gain in information entropy. This attempt at accounting for the apparent violation of the second law of thermodynamics struck me as remarkable due to its philosophical implications, as well as its elegance. Having understood the theory, I also managed to simulate the proposed demon model using MATLAB. This was my first introduction to numerical simulation.

I had also taken on elective coursework in physics, and this opened up many more opportunities. I worked on a course project in my introductory astrophysics course that focused on the techniques for mass measurement of neutron stars in binary systems. This project proved to be a pivotal one, as it immediately introduced me simultaneously to astronomy, astrophysics and general relativity. Not only did I understand how mass estimation is made through elementary calculations of the mass function, I also learnt of the five post-keplerian parameters that characterize relativistic binaries.

Having enjoyed my work up until then, I decided that I should pursue an undergraduate thesis with additional elective courses in my final semester. I approached Professor K and he agreed to mentor my thesis. In the course of my thesis work, I examined the constraints on the theoretical and observed maximum mass for neutron stars. Specifically, I made use of tabulated equations of state for neutron star matter to integrate the Tolman-Oppenheimer Volkoff equations that describe the pressure gradient inside a star. The calculations seemed to yield maximum masses that agree with the maximum observed mass for neutron stars, and I understood that if massive neutron stars are observed with masses greater than that predicted by these equations of state, the equations of state will have to be discarded. This relationship between direct astronomical observation and astrophysical calculations was an eye-opener and I was inspired by the interconnected nature of these disciplines.

I also worked on a project that surveyed Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) as part of my course in general relativity and cosmology. The work involved a literature survey of the missing mass problem that has spurred the dark matter hypothesis in astronomy, and the phenomenological approach taken by Mordehai Milgrom. I reviewed and worked out derivations for Miglrom’s force law using the proposed modified lagrangian for gravity in the far field limit. I enjoyed tinkering with the gravitational action integral and using it to obtain modified inertial laws, and although it is a controversial theory, I was impressed by its remarkable ability to account for many astrophysical observations that are not easily resolved by the dark matter hypothesis.

Prior to exploring physics, I was also interested in the humanities and had worked with Prof S of our humanities department as his teaching assistant for two semesters. I had taken his course on modern political concepts. In the process, I gained a much broader knowledge of contemporary social and political issues and I learnt valuable skills working as his teaching assistant. My experience working with him convinced me that I enjoy teaching and can convey complex ideas simply and effectively. In a sense, my decision to pursue graduate studies was initially motivated by my interactions with him.

In the course of my studies, I learnt about the possible existence of gravitational radiation as predicted by general relativity, and have since followed developments at the LIGO interferometer very closely. It was with this in mind that I decided to take up a project on gravitational wave signatures from Gamma-ray bursts with Professor P of X university. The field of gravitational wave astronomy is ripe for new discovery and insight, and I feel privileged to be choosing to enter this field an exact century since Albert Einstein first published his field equations.

In the course of the past year, I realized that I enjoy the process of scientific research, particularly the process of utilizing theoretical knowledge to generate viable models or simulations as a means of better understanding physical phenomena. My long term career goals are now focused on obtaining a PhD in fundamental physics, preferably in relativistic astrophysics and gravitational wave astronomy.

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