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Cover letter for PhD in cancer. Confused if it looks like SOP?


NH Blush 2 / 3  
Feb 3, 2011   #1
Below is a cover-letter that I have written for applying for a PhD studentship in cancer. The application packet requires only CV and cover-letter, I am confused how much information I should include in the cover-letter in such a case. In addition, they have not mentioned any word limit, it only says

"Applicants should submit a cover letter specifying their 1st and 2nd choice project, a CV and the names and e-mail addresses of two academic"

Please provide feed back as to the content and flow of the letter, and also whether my motivation to pursue research in Cancer at this institute is evident from the letter.

Thank you

---

Dear Ms XYZ:

I am writing to apply for the PhD studentship in Cancer Studies through the *** Cancer Centre advertised on *** website. I have completed Master of Pharmacy specializing in pharmacology from **** University in August, 2010. Right now I am in the process of searching for a suitable doctoral program in the field of cellular and molecular biology. Having reviewed the studentship program, I believe I am a qualified candidate and would like to apply.

I received my undergraduate education in Pharmacy at **** College of Science, one of the best pharmacy colleges in India. During the penultimate year of my undergraduate course, I decided to specialize in pharmacology. Making a decision to pursue Masters immediately after undergraduate education was a tough one, mainly because of issues regarding funds for higher education. This is the reason I decided to appear for Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE). Qualifying GATE with a percentile of 93.99 entitled me to receive scholarship from All-India Council of technical education (AICTE) to fund my post-graduation. During this course, I worked very hard, studying in detail both basic and clinical pharmacology, physiology and various techniques involved in pharmacological screening of drugs during the first year. I greatly enjoyed the long hours of animal experiments involving behavioral and biochemical studies in my project work.

Although my post-graduate dissertation work "Influence of **** Derivatives on Diabetic Neuropathy and Diabetic Nephropathy" focuses on diabetes, studying the pathophysiology and molecular mechanisms involved in the complications of diabetes and the mechanism by which novel drugs can counter them reinforced my interest in pursuing higher education in the area of cell signaling. And of all the diseases, it is the signaling in cancer cells that has attracted much attention of cellular and molecular biologists over the years. This I feel is because studies of cancer cells have also illuminated the mechanisms that regulate normal cell behavior. In fact, many of the proteins that play key roles in cell signaling were identified because their abnormalities led to the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells. The sound theoretical background that I gained in cellular and molecular pharmacology has given me significant insight into the molecular basis of disease and therapeutics; this in turn has motivated me to take a step further with regard to my research experience so far.

My participation in a post-graduate lecture update competition by giving a presentation on "Calorie restriction and cancer prevention: metabolic and molecular mechanisms" introduced me to the finer details of the link between cancer and metabolism. It is this background that attracted me to the PhD project "Metabolism in *** cancer progression" under Prof ***. After going through the details of the project, I understand that studies involving both in vitro and in vivo systems are involved. The experiments in pharmacology that I performed as a part of coursework and research have enabled me to gain sufficient skills in both these areas. Further, the scope of metabolomic studies in the project is another aspect that has captured my attention. This is because of my familiarity with metabolomics through work on a review article titled ""Metabolomics: Concept, Techniques and Pharmacological Relevance" that has now been accepted for publication in the *** Journal o under the *** section. My second choice project is "Activated STAT3, cell death and metastasis in **** cancer" under Professor ***. I am interested in this project as it involves detailed dissection of the cell signaling pathways involved in breast cancer so as to develop new pharmacological approaches for the treatment of cancers that involve high level of constitutive STAT3 activity.

Upon going through information about *** Cancer Centre, I understand that cancer research at the*** Cancer centre involves an extremely broad approach ranging from early molecular events in carcinogenesis to the rapidly evolving domain of translational research. Pursuing a PhD in such an interdisciplinary setting will be the most logical extension of my academic pursuits. In the long run, my career goals after completing PhD include joining a reputed university as a faculty member or a post-doctoral research fellow. To accomplish these goals, I look forward to undertaking research towards my doctoral degree in the unique international and multidisciplinary scientific environment at *** University.

I have enclosed my CV, list of preferred projects and e-mail addresses of my academic referees as per your instructions. Please inform me if I can provide additional information to aid you in the evaluation of my application.

Sincerely

Naila Haris
EricJ - / 48  
Feb 3, 2011   #2
The salutation should be followed by a colon in a business letter.

I would delete the sentence: This is when I came across these studentships in cancer research and replace it with something like: Having reviewed the studentship program, I believe I am a qualified candidate and would like to apply.

I would also probably cut this paragraph: Cancer results from defects in fundamental cell regulatory mechanisms; it is a disease that ultimately has to be understood at the molecular and cellular levels. Indeed, understanding cancer has been an objective for molecular and cellular biologists for many years. However, the studies of cancer cells have also illuminated the mechanisms that regulate normal cell behavior. In fact, many of the proteins that play key roles in cell signaling were identified because their abnormalities led to the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells. Studying the subject molecular and cellular pharmacology in depth during the first year of my post-graduation aroused my interest in understanding the cellular and molecular basis of a disease and its treatment.

The first part of it is self-evident. The last part about you might be worthy of mention in the interview, but probably not in the cover letter.

No comma in this sentence: Pursuing a PhD in such an interdisciplinary setting, will be the most logical extension of my academic pursuits.

I wish you good luck.
EF_Susan - / 2,364 12  
Feb 10, 2011   #3
That first paragraph is presented well, but it needs one thing added to establish interest... what can you add to that first paragraph so that you will strike the reader's interest? As of now, that intro is uneventful, though certainly very clearly and professionally written.

Try to add something to that intro that will give the reader a word or concept to associate with you in their minds.

This is the sort of situation where you should separate the "extra" clause with a pair of commas:
Although my post-graduate dissertation work, "Influence of **** Derivatives on Diabetic Neuropathy and Diabetic Nephropathy," focuses on diabetes, studying the pathophysiology and molecular mechanisms involved ...

Just in case you do not know, I want to mention that the name of a journal should be italicized if possible:
...publication in the Journal of Medical Something or Other under the " Something Something" section.

Should these words be capitalized?
My second choice project is "Activated STAT3, Cell Death and Metastasis in **** Cancer" under Professor ***.

kay, this is a great essay, and I am to tell you something useful to help you I want to say that it can benefit from a little more expression of your Big Picture idea... what you are all about. I see that you are completing the necessary tasks for moving through your programs, but what are you all about. This is not a goal: joining a reputed university as a faculty member or a post-doctoral research fellow A goal is more specific, and it is based on one or more of your values or something you care deeply about. You already showed that you can write well and be professional, so now I think you should add at least a sentence or two that share your personal ideas and aspirations.
OP NH Blush 2 / 3  
Feb 24, 2011   #4
Thank you for your feedback. I will try to incorporate the corrections and suggestion you have given in my next essay.


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