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Check my SOP for a PhD application in material science

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Nov 25, 2020   #1
Milind Suryawanshi

statement of purpose

As a child I was very curious, and I constantly had this question "why?" running in my mind. I remember asking my teacher 'What's at the bottom of the ocean? Is time travel possible?', in the 4th grade, and getting a pat on my back for asking a good question. It is one of the happiest memories I have of my childhood. There were times when their answers satisfied me; but often I felt the need to go beyond and explore. I would try to read books that would provide me with the answers to the why's in my head. Thus, since a very early stage I knew that I wanted to venture into a field that provided an outlet to my inner world of questions, I thus, took up science in my high school, where I got introduced to higher level chemistry, physics, and biology. I would enjoy studying all these subjects, especially the practical portions where I could see all the textbook theories coming to life. Out of the plethora of subjects which I studied, Chemistry was always the subject that stood out for me, as the process of adding two reactants to get something new out of was truly magical.

Leading up from this, I took chemical engineering as my undergraduate major. Courses like process calculations, heat and mass transfer operations, process dynamics and control gave me a strong base in reaction engineering. They provided me insights about the process of two reactants combining to form a new product all together. In my third year of engineering I got an opportunity to work as a summer intern at XY insitute with Prof.XY . The work here in Institute was the pathway to my inclination towards the field of research where I was given an opportunity to work on the project "Conductivity in non-polar liquids". The objective of this project was to tailor the electrical conductivity of hydrocarbon systems and to obtain a detailed understanding of ionic and charge development in non-polar liquids. In the course of working on this project I learned the methodology of how research is supposed to be done, various characterization techniques like FTIR, Zeta Potential and particle size analyzer.

During my bachelor's degree thesis, I worked on the project of generating hydrogen gas from aluminum using water splitting reaction. The main goal here was to optimize the flow of hydrogen that has generated during the reaction between water and aluminum so that it could be used in hydrogen fuel cells. I also studied the kinetics of the reaction by modelling it shrinking core model. I was thrilled to be awarded the first prize for presenting this project in the Mumbai University organized, National level competition.

I was exposed to the field of polymers and material science during my undergraduate coursework and it got me fascinated by how these small monomers come together to form polymer chains with completely different properties. On further reading into the chronicles of this field I discovered the importance of these materials in our mundane lives and without thinking further I wanted to pursue my graduate studies in polymer and material science.

To dive into these waters, I chose YZ institute to pursue my master's degree due to its reputation and high research output in the field of polymer engineering and technology. I started assisting senior students in my lab before the start of my work. This helped my acclimatize to the lab environment and also gave me time to sharpen my understanding of my project. This gave me time to pace my research appropriately and thus I was able to develop my work to the point of writing a paper in international journal during my master's degree. I worked on a novel application of polybenzoxazine as an irreversible thermochromic material. Under this, I did a comparative study between the traditional methods of synthesizing polybenzoxazine, using the solvent free microwave irradiation method, and the catalyst free method of synthesis. The synthesized monomer was cured in an oven at varied temperatures to observe its thermochromic effect. As a result, the synthesized material showed different colors at different temperatures which was seen absent in the conventional method of synthesis. The polymerization in both cases was confirmed by FTIR. This work was published in the journal of Colloids and Polymer Science, Springer.

For my master's thesis, I worked under the guidance of Prof. XY towards the development of bio-based aqueous polyurethane dispersions, with a vision to synthesize coating system based on bio-based feedstock. Castor oil being one of the most widely used fatty acid in the synthesis of polyurethanes, in this project I prepared a polyol by modifying castor oil with amines. This polyol was further utilized for making water-based polyurethane dispersions for wood coating applications, as it's considered a bio based polyurethane dispersion. Along with the polyol, isophorone diisocyanate (IPDI) as the isocyanate component of the polyurethane. During the course of this project I have gained a lot of knowledge about polyurethane dispersions through literature survey, different characterization techniques like DSC, TGA, FTIR, Particle size and zeta potential analysis, DMTA.

I was awarded an internship at XY company after a long selection process at their India Technology center (DITC). During the internship, I worked on a project to study the effect of additives (amines, solvents, and surfactants) on MFFT (minimum film forming temperature) and Open time of paints, under the guidance of XY and YZ. The task here was to study the effects of these products in paint formulations and design a multifunctional additive which can reduce the MFFT (from the base MFFT of the acrylic emulsion used in paint formulation) of the paint and increase the open time of the paints. Towards the end of my tenure, I had successfully designed a product matching the requirements, which got forwarded for further testing before commercialization. In addition, I worked on testing multiple paint formulations and generated data relating the effect of concentration of around 30 solvents in reduction of MFFT and increase in the open time, in order to help the marketing team to endorse certain products in markets that match their specifications.

At present, I am working as an Assistant Manager- R&D at AB company. My role here is to look after the research and development of the polyurethane based adhesives for flexible packaging. Working on this project I learned a range of different things, from developing a product in the lab and scaling it up to the plant, observing the consumption trails of these products at the customer end, reporting their requirements and problems faced, if any, and formulating a product accordingly.

With over two years of experience in synthesis in the field of polymeric materials and keeping up with this vision of using bio-based feedstock in the in the synthesis of performance polymers which will be used in the biomedical applications of polymers which will help enriching lives, I have channelized my interests and wish to focus on research on bio based polymers for biomedical applications. XY University being at the forefront of this research becomes an obvious choice for me to pursue my PhD. The work of Prof. XY in the grounds of synthesizing bio-based materials for waste feedstocks to make performance polymers is affiliated with my interest and hence I wish to learn under their teaching. YZ University will allow me to pursue research in my field of interest, thus providing me the ideal environment for research. With that conviction, I wish to continue on this long, enriching journey at the University.
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Nov 25, 2020   #2
The only comment I have about this essay is that The first paragraph is out of place in a PhD presentation. That paragraph is more relevant to a college application. It has no place in a PhD application because it goes too far back into your educational background which is no longer relevant to a PhD discussion. The college experience shouldn't need to use 2 paragraphs. You just need to summarize your college education and fully focus on your thesis presentation instead. The same goes for your masters studies. The research involved in both your undergraduate and masters thesis will help prove your acumen for research, which is very important in your statement of purpose. The internship presentation is acceptable as it shows your ability to work with a team while still doing individual research. I would have liked to read something about how your work in the internship came about. How you ended up developing the product that matched the requirements. Why did the others fail and you succeeded?

You may want to throw in a better explanation as to how your interest in the work of the professor coincides with your potential dissertation project and how there can be a potential collaboration between you and the professor's research team.
OP bLANK_95 1 / 1  
Nov 25, 2020   #3
Thanks a lot for your valuable feedback!

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