My first junior level physics course was classical electromagnetism. Combined with my love for high-performance computing and experimentation, I looked up photonics. After a few weeks of understanding the nuances of the field, I decided to get first-hand experience: I applied for an internship at an integrated photonics laboratory at IISc, Bengaluru, and I was accepted. Ten weeks of work in the field would be a good test of whether I truly wanted to study light, its behavior and its uses, or this was merely a passing fancy. Ten full weeks of work later, my love for all things dealing with micro and nanoscale photonics had become, and remains, unwavering.
The internship involved the design of photonic circuit components. I also helped the members of the group to reduce data analysis times by automating large parts of the analysis process. Having learned about the design process and the nuances of waveguide technology, the last weeks of my internship were spent working with tunable lasers characterizing devices we had designed, specifically working with Keysight tunable lasers and automating them using pyVISA. I realized that despite my scant knowledge of the specialized topics involved, I was potent contributor to a research group based on my Python skills and love for both computational and experimental research.
The skills I have worked on for years before my acquaintance with photonics are well-fitted for a career decision taken about a year ago. Skill with Python allows me to automate complex multi-stage data analysis tasks. Knowledge of VISA allows me to be comfortable with instrumentation, and automate their use for rapid, convenient data collection and analysis. Experience with optimization allows for shorter design cycles than brute-force parameter sweeps. All the skills I have mentioned here come together for higher throughput in computational design and experimental testing. The internship helped me test my abilities, and I remain confident about my skills in these areas.
Perhaps the most overarching motivation for graduate study is to increase my understanding of photonic systems, and to engage in long-term research to both discover and apply new science. As of writing this essay, my fascination lies in dielectric, microscale waveguides and other passive optical components, numerical algorithms for design, simulation, and optimization of these components, 2D photonic and plasmonic materials, high-throughput optical information processing, photosensors, plasmonics, and metamaterials for photonic applications, and high precision photonic measurements. I have realized that I would like to do both computational and experimental work, ideally in complement.
I am graduating from my undergraduate career in three years, primarily due to financial reasons. This means that two career-critical courses: Advanced electromagnetism and solid-state physics, which I take in Spring 2017, are not in my transcript at my time of application. I expect to be much more fluent in the material by the time I start my graduate studies.
<Uni specific details about profs and their work. ~100 words or thereabouts>
I am very excited to become a part of the academic community of <Uni> and that I hope I am given an opportunity to contribute to the challenging and exciting research conducted here.
Notes: This may sound more cover-letter'ish than I intend it to be, so please feel free to shred it to ribbons.