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Scholarly and research area(s) of interest, experiences that led to your preparation in the field


Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 4, 2016   #1
This is the prompt. I can understand every single sentence of it and I wrote one or more paragraphs to each sentence. What confuses me is how long should I go with each answer? And which part is more important, that is, I should describe more about? And how should I arrange different answers together to make the whole essay a consistent one?

Please state your purpose in ...

Here's how I categorize these prompts:

Please state your purpose in applying for graduate study:
Here I state briefly that my research interest, my willingness to conduct independent research work, and my career goal motivate me to pursue PhD study. It is a small paragraph, about 4 rows (44 words).

Describe your scholarly and research area(s) of interest:
I describe my research interest, and give two specific areas I am especially interested in.(49 words)

Experiences that contributed to your preparation in the field:
Briefly describe experiences that have prepared you for advanced study or research, and provide any additional information that may aid the selection committee in evaluating your preparation and aptitude for graduate study at UCLA.


I know it says "briefly", but I wrote 217 words to show I am prepared in this field in two way:
1. Background knowledge through course work and literature review
2. Research/project experience on XXX topic.
I've only described my experience, should I add how these experience should facilitate my future study? Like what skills did I learn from these experience?

I think this is an ample paragraph because this is where I could show my qualifications and aptitude.

your plans for your future occupation or profession
My previous experience has sparked my passion for achieving better understanding on the unknown part in atmospheric chemistry, through original research by instrumentation development, controlled laboratory experiments, field observations and numerical models. I want to pursue a career in academia as a research scientist or a professor in this area. Eventually, I hope to make my own contributions to atmospheric science, helping sharpen our scientific "visibility" in the air.(69 words)

If you are applying for a research masters or doctoral program, you are encouraged to indicate specific research interests and potential faculty mentors.
Here I indicate some specific faculty's name and their research, say that my research interest aligns with theirs and I deeply admire their work, want to be a contributive part in their team, etc.(94 words)

Now I've got all the materials the prompt asked, how should I tailor and arrange these materials to make a systematic, coherent essay? If you have any suggestions, whether it's about the whole structure, or each answers, please tell me. Thank you very much!

Holt [Contributor] - / 8,610 2506  
Dec 4, 2016   #2
Shuting, the rule of thumb for a statement of purpose is that it has a maximum word count of 750 unless otherwise specified. Keep in mind though, that the maximum word count is not the target here. Your essay need not be too wordy or descriptive in order to be informative. You can actually write 600 words and have a pretty solid statement of purpose to present for consideration.

Try to avoid duplicating the content of your statement of purpose with the other essays that you will be submitting. I assume that you were also required to submit a letter of motivation along with your statement of purpose right? Therefore, you need only concentrate on an convincing presentation for your purpose in that paragraph. Duplicating information makes the essay not only repetitive but unnecessarily long so reviewers often appreciate non- duplication of content.

As for describing your scholarly and research area of interest, be sure to present the question that you wish to respond to during the duration of your studies. Explain your perceived importance and relevance of this research for future use in this field of study in order to convince the reviewer of the future benefits of your research in the field.

The experience that you share in relation to your previous work or research should be more than enough for the reviewer to properly analyze your skills. You must refrain from over explaining your skills to the reviewer. Always let him be the judge of your skills based upon your work experience. One thing they hate is when the student runs long in the explanation in an effort to better explain his skills. Your description of your work or research experience should reflect the kind of development and skills that you have in this section. He can make his decision based upon the related experience that you present in this section.

Your future plans should cover a solid presentation of a 5 year career plan. Not just some general comment about your future plans. Right now, the information that you have shared with me makes me think (and I could be wrong) that you don't really have a solid career development plan covering your possible immediate short term goals. Strengthen this paragraph with a more solid, almost visual explanation.

As for the chronological order, I won't be able to judge that until I see the draft of the essay you have written. I cannot really advise you regarding the best way to present the information until I know what you have specifically developed for the essay. I hope you can trust us to read the essay draft that you have developed. That is, if you want our help regarding how to best present it to the reviewer. No pressure.
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 4, 2016   #3
@Holt Thanks for your advice again!

For UCLA, I don't have another application material other than the Statement of Purpose. A PhD program may well cost 5 years or more so I guess that is my short term future plan. Should I add some more information about what I want to do after PhD? like Post doc? I just assume it's a normal path for someone who wants to pursue a career in academia.

I'm more than willing to post my draft for your review, I'm just a little worried if my essay would be plagiarized by someone else. After all it is an open site for everyone. Should I be worried about this?

Anyway, I still think my essay would be improved more with your guidance. So here it is:

My enthusiasm for deeper understanding of the chemical mechanism of the atmosphere, my desire for conducting independent, original research and my career goal of becoming an atmospheric scientist in academia, have motivated me to pursue higher education in the prestigious Ph.D. program in UCLA.

My research interest is Atmospheric Science, with an emphasis on atmospheric organic chemistry and instrumentation development. Specifically, some of my research interests include: [...]
Holt [Contributor] - / 8,610 2506  
Dec 4, 2016   #4
Shuting, thank you for the vote of confidence. I admire your trust in me and my advice. I hope to never fail you and to continue helping you achieve your dream of getting into your first choice PhD university. By the way, you can always work out having your essay deleted from the system with the admin so that you can avoid any possible plagiarism after we are done editing your work. So, let's get started shall we?

It would be best if you combined your paragraphs about your motivation and purpose for enrolling this course. The motivation and purpose are synonymous and are best presented in a combined paragraph at all times. That way you clearly explain the motive behind your purpose and, from the very start, display a career or educational goal that you have set for yourself.

This being a PhD essay, it would be best if you concentrate your experience only on the work that you did in relation to your masters degree dissertation. Normally, your next round of research should be a step above the previous work that you did. So, in order to accurately reflect the development of your skills, in relation to your preparation for the Phd course, it would be best for you to detail the specifics of that research. Start with the question then proceed to explain the method of research and results of the research. This will adequately show the reviewer how you have prepared to take on the demands of a PhD course. Needless to say, the project experience should be integrated into this presentation as well.

When you refer to specific professors and their research, note how your own previous and current / future research work ties in directly with the current work the professor is doing. If you can create a seamless connection between the two projects, the reviewer may give your application higher consideration.

Work on presenting your essay in a fluid, conversational manner. Don't divide it into discussion topics by outline the way you have now. This is still a formal interview on your part so it should come across as you presenting information to the reviewer in an almost interview sort of way. Break it into connected paragraphs with transition sentences, not into numbered outlines.

I think that if you reformat the essay in the manner I suggested, you will find that you do not need too many words in order to deliver the prompt requirements. You will have an essay that is informative and just the right length for the reviewer to finish reading in just the right amount of time.
Holt [Contributor] - / 8,610 2506  
Dec 5, 2016   #5
Hi Shuting. Your statement is definitely taking shape by leaps and bounds. There are only a few areas of correction as I see it in this current version. These are minor corrections that should not affect the overall development of your statement. In fact, I believe taking these specific portions out will help to enhance the presentation on a more professional or academic scale. Let's work out the problems by paragraph.

In paragraph one, I would like you to be more specific in the statement about solving pollution problems. Since you mentioned China's problem early on the paragraph, mention it again at the end to remind the reader that you are doing this for China's improvement. If you can find a way, say something about an interest in developing a problem to pollution on a world-wide scale after you graduate from the PhD course.

Paragraph two should not indicate your responsibilities in the project in numerical form. That makes the paper look unprofessional. Just enumerate your duties in order of performance. The reviewer will be able to keep track of those duties himself. You did not perform so many duties that warranted a listing or bullet point presentation for the tasks so don't do it that way. The same advice applies to the work of the professor in paragraph 4.

In the last paragraph, you need to explain how and why UCLA became your university of choice for higher study. Was the choice based on their current research in the field? The work of a specific professor you hope to collaborate with? The kind of advanced laboratory that they offer their PhD students? Or maybe it has something to do with the kind of research networking you can do while attending the college? These are all reasons that you can turn to in an effort to explain why UCLA is your first choice school. These are necessary components in a statement of purpose.

Definitely end the essay on the most positive and hopeful note that you can. Your future plans, which hopefully can tie in with your PhD career at UCLA should help to boost the chances of your admission. I am looking forward to the further enhanced version of your essay at this point. By the way, what is the maximum word count? At this point, we should also start editing for word count compliance.
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 6, 2016   #6
@Holt
I asked the department admission officer about the word count, she said there's not specific requirements and it's up to the applicant. BTW, the UCB officer still doesn't reply about the PHS prompt.

Thank you again for your kind help!
Holt [Contributor] - / 8,610 2506  
Dec 6, 2016   #7
Shuting, in the paragraph where you are explaining the work that you are doing as an assistant to the professor, it is not enough for you to simply enumerate the work that you did and the equipment you used. It would be beneficial to your application if you can present the observations that you made while executing your duties. I am guessing that somehow, the work exposure you got during this time had something to do with your interest in higher studies. So you should try to include that information in your essay.

Regarding your post study plans, you don't have to worry about it being only something you imagine at this time. Why don't you try to include it in the essay so we can decide how to best tie it in with the previous information? You don't have a word limitation so you should consider yourself lucky. You can be as definitive, information inclusive, and detailed in your presentation. Although, I believe we should aim for the maximum 750 in this case. Anything longer may just become redundant for the reviewer.
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 6, 2016   #8
@Holt
I added some challenge I overcame and feelings I got during my research, and here is the ample paragraph, I believe I need to edit it in a more concise way.

For advanced study and research, I have gained some instrumentation experience through master's thesis research. Under the supervision of Prof.XXX, I am working on the project "AAA" (paper in preparation). The main focus is to develop a compact, automated method to detect ambient BBBs, with higher time resolution and requiring less power. The instrument combines a sampling system based on adsorption/thermal desorption method, and an analytical system. [...]
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 6, 2016   #9
@Holt
For the future plan, I added my teaching tendency in the future, wondering if this could be a connection.

Furthermore, the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, having faculty members with varied specialties and perspectives, from controlled laboratory experiments, field and satellite observations to model studies, will definitely be a prospective and outstanding platform for my future study in this interdisciplinary field. Additionally, I'm passionate about being a future professor, guiding motivated young adults using my knowledge and expertise, as well as teaching philosophy gained from the world recognized faculty of UCLA. Therefore, UCLA is my first choice school.
Holt [Contributor] - / 8,610 2506  
Dec 6, 2016   #10
Shuting, in reference to the experience paragraph, the first you have to do is remove the sentence that starts off the statement. Specifically, remove the part that begins with "For advanced study and research..." The reviewer will automatically know what you are talking about because you will be referring to the project in the discussion. Now, to further cut down on this portion, you will need to focus / concentrate your statement on simply presenting the problem, giving an overview of the experiment done, and finally, the results of that experiment.

You need not describe the method or instrumentation in great detail. What you should do, if you haven't done it already, is let the reviewer know that this paper will be published some time in the future. Being published or soon to be published usually makes the reviewers take note of applicants because the acceptance of the applicant and subsequent publication of his word is normally fantastic publicity for the university.

For your future plan, look into developing the professor side of your plan. This will tie in with your 5 year plan accurately and also let the reviewer know that you are keen on information sharing and development based upon your studies and professional skills. The opening sentence for that paragraph doesn't really work because it still relates to your potential studies at the university instead of the fast forward to your future career, after you graduate. The post study plan should not mention what you hope to learn and how during your time at the university. That is why it is called post study and covers up to 5 years after your graduation.
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 7, 2016   #11
@Holt
Thanks again! Very very much!

For my research project part:

I have gained some instrumentation experience through master's thesis research. Under the supervision of Prof. XXX, I am working on the project "AAA" (paper under review). The main focus is to develop a compact, automated in-situ method to detect ambient BBBs, with higher time resolution and requiring less power. I'm responsible for developing an automated sampling system, combining the sampling system with time of flight mass spectrometer (ToFMS), and applying the instrument on urban roads, as well as plateau background sites. The combined instrument is able to achieve a detection limit (3σ) of ~60 pptv (for most BBBs), with a 10 min temporal resolution. Furthermore, the small physical dimension (60×40×32cm) and low energy-consumption (< 300W) allow on-vehicle measurement.

During the combination process, the incompatible flow rate imposed a major challenge. I worked closely with Prof. YYY's group to address this problem. After intensive testing, we found a solution by employing a novel inlet design and a different VUV light source. It allows a balanced flow rate, which would achieve acceptable enrichment effect, while compromising little to the ionization efficiency.

Although high temporal resolution is achieved in this project, a challenge lies in the identification and quantification of complex air samples, due to the interference brought by fragmentation. In the future, I want to work on improving this by exploring variable ionization approaches.

From these research experiences, I learned that good instrumentation requires a lot of error-checking and problem solving skills. It is much more than simply designing and setting up an instrument. Advanced instruments that meet our ever growing environmental monitoring needs require a solid foundation of theoretical studies as well.


The first paragraph is a brief intro about the project, the second is a challenge I solved during the project. Third is the future challenge and possible direction for future development.And the last one is what I learned from this. Since my project is mainly about developing a novel instrument, the method part is actually quite important. But I followed your advice, deleted some details, I'm not sure if the first paragraph is good enough.

How do you think I should tailor the latter three paragraphs? Should I only keep the challenge I successfully solved and delete the other two? Please give me some suggestions about this.

If you think this is not good, don't hesitate to point out for me.
Thank you so much for all your effort!
Holt [Contributor] - / 8,610 2506  
Dec 7, 2016   #12
Shuting, you don't have to delete the important parts of the paragraph. You should only summarize it. If you feel that it is essential to your paper to present the information in its entirety then go ahead and do so. I am only here to guide you. The final content of the paper, specifically when it comes to your experience, is up to you. I am not familiar with the work you are doing so if you feel that you should present the whole experiment to the reviewer, then go ahead and do so. I do not want you to weaken the content of the paper in any way.

The summarized 5 year plan sounds sufficient enough to me. It touches on some points as to why you have chosen to study at UCLA in relation to your future plans and creates a forward thinking image for you. At this point, all that is left is for you to conclude the essay. Remember to reiterate your desire to attend the university this upcoming semester and summarize your desire too help enhance their student community and their international image as a top caliber university as well. After that, the essay will be done.
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 7, 2016   #13
@Holt
Thank you soooo much! I'm not a native speaker so I don't know how to exactly express my appreciation for your kind guidance, I hope you can get my gratefulness anyway.

About the last paragraph, I'm not sure if I should mention my desire to contribute to their international image.In fact, I don't quite understand "summarize your desire too help enhance their student community and their international image as a top caliber university" you mentioned. Because I didn't demonstrate any contributions in this essay. The only thing I might be able to offer is the fact I'm a Chinese, this might enhance the diversity. But I know there are a looooot of Chinese students in UCLA. So I'm not sure how I could enhance their international image. I'm afraid this may sound a little too confident.

Maybe there's some cultural difference here I don't understand?
Holt [Contributor] - / 8,610 2506  
Dec 7, 2016   #14
Shuting, consider that being Chinese is a generic term for someone from China. It does not define who you are or the region of China that you came from. As far as I know, there are various provinces, with varying cultures, traditions, beliefs, and other unique aspects of life and personality that make the residents of that region stand out. That is what I was referring to when I said "enhancing their international image as a student at the university".

At the end of your academic attendance at UCLA, you should have been able to make some sort of marked contribution to the organization that you are a member of, which will help the student body better understand what it really means to be Chinese or, to be a Chinese from a particular region. It ties in with the South Asia research in a way.

Does what I am saying make sense to you? Or would you like me to offer you an example of how you might be able to write about that part of the essay? On my end, I would like to see what you can come up with first in relation to my suggestion.
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 7, 2016   #15
@Holt
Here's the current version of the essay. I'm especially not sure about the ending paragraph.

My research interest is Atmospheric Science, with an emphasis on atmospheric oxidation chemistry and instrumentation development. A major motivation for pursuing my career in this area is China's severe air pollution, which poses threats to human health for millions of people. A comprehensive understanding of atmospheric chemistry is the key to helping our understanding of how to solve the complex air pollution problems. Despite recent progress made investigating radical-driven oxidation mechanisms, their importance in ozone and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation, and the quantification of free radicals (e.g. OH, NO3, etc.) remain uncertain, thus hampering our understanding about photochemical smog. This is part of the puzzle I want to help decipher. In addition, advanced analytical instruments, with higher temporal resolution, identification and quantification capacity, are urgently needed to provide detailed information about chemical processes of highly reactive species. Therefore, atmospheric oxidation chemistry and instrumentation are the two areas I would like to work in. I hope accurate observation results and clarified atmospheric mechanism could shed light on future emission control strategies in China, and also bridge the gap in our learning of the interaction between global climate change and regional air pollution.

I have gained some instrumentation experience through master's thesis research. Under the supervision of Prof. XXX, I am working on the project "AAA" (paper under review). The main focus is to develop a compact, automated in-situ method to detect ambient BBBs, with higher time resolution and less power consumption. I'm responsible for developing an automated sampling system, combining it with time of flight mass spectrometer (ToFMS), and applying the instrument on urban roads, as well as plateau background sites. The instrument is able to achieve a detection limit (3σ) of ~60 pptv (for most BBBs), with a 10 min temporal resolution. Furthermore, the small physical dimension (60×40×32cm) and low energy-consumption (< 300W) allow on-vehicle measurement.

From instrumentation development to field campaigns, I experienced achievements and setbacks, from which I gained a lot of error-checking and problem solving skills, independent experiment design principals, which are all based on a solid foundation of theoretical studies. Now I am ready to push my study a step further.

During Ph.D. study, I want to develop my research in two main areas: developing and applying state of the art instrument for detecting trace gas precursors of photochemical pollutants, and the highly reactive radicals; and clarifying oxidation chemical processes through controlled laboratory experiments and field observations. Specifically, I hope to clarify three scientific questions: How do NOx concentrations affect OH-initiated VOC oxidation pathways? How important is NO3 chemistry in daytime O3-rich environment? What controls the heterogeneous reaction rate of N2O5 and to what extent does it impact NO3 and NOx budgets? I hope to conduct research on these topics with a professor sharing similar interests.

I deeply admire Prof. YYY and his colleagues' efforts on the development and application of spectroscopic observational techniques like CCC and DDD. Also, I am quite interested in their innovative work on daytime HONO mixing ratios and their impact on HOx budget, nocturnal and heterogeneous chemistry of NO3, and particulate nitrate photolysis in marine boundary layer. These focuses fit well with my research interests, and my experience in instrumentation, laboratory experiments and field campaigns will definitely facilitate my future study in Prof. YYY's group. Therefore, I hope to join as a contributing member of the team.

I am passionate about my dream career as a future professor, who is not only able to conduct independent research, share his/her results with peers, but also has the opportunity to teach and mentor various students, including potential young scientists, using knowledge and expertise accumulated along the way. The DDD Ph.D. program in UCLA, with the worldwide recognized faculty members and extensive peer communication opportunities, would definitely serve a perfect platform to enhancing my research skills teaching philosophy for the future career in academia.

I am excited to share my research experience in heavily polluted China and contribute my own perspective to the community. I have diligently pursued my environmental education for the past few years, and I deeply desire to continue strengthening it with a Ph.D. program. I have learned from the best that China offers. Hopefully I can now learn from the best that the world offers. I sincerely hope UCLA would be a gateway to my future career as an atmospheric science researcher.


And the word count is 741 now. Do you think I should tailor it to be more concise?
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 7, 2016   #16
@Holt

Oh sorry I just saw your last reply. I can understand more about the contribution part. Diversity could be some specific, yet unique aspect from anyone, right? I think I can come up with some ideas, but I guess it should be relevant to my academic topics. And since it's a sentence-long idea to express, I can't write too many details about it. Do you think it is ok like the way it is now? I am excited to share my research experience in heavily polluted China and contribute my own perspective to the community. Is this too vague?
Holt [Contributor] - / 8,610 2506  
Dec 7, 2016   #17
Shuting, in the last paragraph, you need to rephrase it for clarity. It should sound something like the following:

It is my hope to be able to share my previous research in the field of pollution based upon the experience of my home country, China, with the UCLA research community. Having pursued my environmental education for a number of years now, I feel that gaining a PhD in this field will allow me to make a greater contribution to the field of environmental protection and pollution prevention in the future. I have already learned all that I can from the brightest minds in China. I view this chance to attend UCLA as a PhD student as an opportunity to learn from the best minds in the world. I sincerely hope...

As for the length, I agree that you are running a bit long at the moment. I am not sure where we can cut or compress paragraphs at this point because you told me that the longest parts of the essay are actually quite important to your essay presentation. I guess you will have to be the judge of where you can shorten the essay or remove some parts. Don't worry, I will be here to guide you, It is just that I am not familiar with the topic being discussed so you have to do this yourself. Sorry about that.
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 8, 2016   #18
@Holt
Thanks!!
Do you think this paragraph is necessary? Experiencing achievements and setbacks from instrumentation development to field campaigns, I gained independent experiment design principals, and error-checking and problem solving skills, which are all based on a solid foundation of theoretical studies. Now I am ready to push my study a step further.
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 8, 2016   #19
@Holt
Which part do you think is the longest part? The experience paragraph is only 129 words without the paragraph I mentioned above, but I still got 700 words for the whole essay.

Maybe I should cut some of my future research plans? or my interest in the first paragraph?
Holt [Contributor] - / 8,610 2506  
Dec 8, 2016   #20
If you can combine your research plans at the beginning with your future goals, you should be able to significantly lower your word count. I don't suggest removing any part of the essay that might render the paragraph incomprehensible or lacking in information presentation. Since your application is highly technical in nature, we have to be very sure that your final paper does not have any holes that can be considered weaknesses in you as a candidate. If you feel that you can cut back on the introduction without affecting the succeeding parts of the essay, then go ahead and do so. It is important that you review the essay after you have removed certain parts so that you can tell for yourself if the overall information about you was affected or not in the presentation. Make sure that the message or objective of the essay remains clear to the reader even after you have edited your work. Bringing it down to a total of 700 will be sufficient enough for the reviewer to finish reading what you have to say.
OP Shuting 3 / 23 4  
Dec 8, 2016   #21
@Holt
Thank you for all the suggestions and assistance! I think I'll leave the essay the way it is now, with 702 words because I think that's the best way to convey all my research interest and purposes.

My two essays, the PHS and SOP have experienced major progress under your guidance. I feel so lucky to find EF and have such a warm-hearted instructor to help me.

Thanks again! With all my sincereness.


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