I just finished my personal statement for physics REU applications, and I was wondering if anyone would be willing to read it and give it some critiques or general advice. If accepted, this will be my first REU. I'm applying to 10 schools.
Physics never actually caught my eye until much later in life. I think that my current passion for physics can be traced back to two points in my life that serve as the impetus. One of them was when I was in community college, and the other was when I was abroad.
In community college, I found that I enjoyed math and was relatively good at it, so I started working as a math tutor with the college. Over time, I started to notice that I had a strong preference for tutoring the math topics that I hadn’t actually learned yet. I found it very invigorating to work with someone to solve a problem that I initially didn’t actually know how to solve. For me, it stopped being a rote series of computations, but an exploration in problem solving. However, I didn’t realize at that time how this desire to engage new problems was related to physics until I took a trip to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.
As I toured the grounds in Greenwich, I learned of an entire community of people who loved solving problems, and did it for a living. This was something I already knew, but I believe it was the way in which the information was relayed to me that caught my attention. Instead of learning about great physicists and what they created, I saw their creations first, and learned why they wanted to make them. This gave me an entirely new perspective on what physics was, and what it’s value was. It became clear to me that physics was a way to understand reality in such a way that they could then use this understanding to benefit the world. At this realization, I was hooked.
After the observatory visit, I quickly found myself gravitating towards the night sky. I love the mystery behind how the universe works beyond our planet. I find that learning about the distant stars and galaxies, and their idiosyncrasies, is a lot like learning of a brand new place you’ve never been to, but really want to visit. It’s mysterious, it’s exciting, and it’s new.
Over the past semester however, I’ve realized that there are so many other new and mysterious things to get excited about in physics. For instance, this past January I worked alongside one of the physics faculty at my college to determine the energy required to extract carbon dioxide from manganese carbonate. This was done via ramen laser at different temperatures and energy levels, and my main role was to analyze the images given by the microscope. Specifically, I was tasked with finding the area of the leftover manganese oxide at the point of contact with the ramen laser, and comparing it to other samples. I found this research to be very exciting because of it’s potential to bring new information to the world about the nature of carbon dioxide extraction.
I loved the research I did so much in January, that I decided to work with another professor on a research project they are currently involved in, but in a completely different capacity. The faculty member is working with a microwave spectrometer, and having issues regulating the pressure in the system. So I’ve been tasked to develop a micro-controller that will monitor the pressure in the spectrometer and manipulate a flow valve to equalize the pressure at a desired value, much like a household thermostat. So far, I love the work that I’m doing. I’ve never built a micro-controller before, nor had much experience with electronics, but I am really enjoying the opportunity to work on a problem well outside of my comfort zone. I feel that I have already learned so much, and I’m very excited to continue this project through the semester.
These experiences have helped me to grow tremendously as a physics student, and aspiring physicist. I would really like to be a part of your research team at (university) this summer, and I feel that I would be a great contribution to the team. I’m very proficient in python programming, I’m comfortable with Linux and writing in Latex, and I’m currently learning C++. I know how to use various image analysis software, such as ImageJ, and OriginLab. I’m also currently learning how to build electronic circuits and manipulate physical instrumentation with robotics. I have a passion to learn new things, and a desire to solve new problems. Please consider me as a valuable resource for you this summer.