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Motivation letter for Ph.D. in Max Planck School of Cognition (Cognitive Psychology & Neuroscience)

nie007 1 / -  
Nov 21, 2021   #1
PROMPT: maximum one page.. and no other than that.
A Personal Statement typically covers the following topics, but may diverge:
· Which research questions are you interested in?
· How did you come to be interested in these research questions, and why do you think they matter?
· Why is the MPS of Cognition is a good fit for you?
· Why are you a good fit for the MPS of Cognition?
· Which previous practical experiences and skills have you already acquired that will set you up for a successful PhD

For editing, content, and formatting needs please contact us at essayforum.com@gmail.com. Thank you! EF

Motivation letter - ph.d. application

My interdisciplinary research interest includes three keywords: adaptive rationality, perceptual decision making, and human-machine interaction. I have always been curious about why people do not make machine-like "perfect" decisions and incline to seemingly irrational decisions. Majoring Psychology in Ewha Women's University, I was fascinated that such behavior could be in fact explained with heuristics, its mechanisms formularized by computational modeling. Working on a research project on object recognition under ambiguity with Dr. Sungho Kim, I realized that perceptual decisions are made in uncertain contexts as much as high-level decisions. Consequently, I started to question if sensory evidence sampled under uncertain perceptual context can amount to adaptively rational decisions. Lastly, after auditing a course called Mind Perception, I was intrigued by how humans interact with robotic agents. While our representation of the objects relies greatly on perceptual priors, how do we acknowledge artificial minds that are relatively novel stimuli for us? How much do we expect them to behave like humans based on their physical appearance? To answer such questions, I investigated the Uncanny Valley for my Bachelor's thesis. These experiences lead me to set my research goal to model human minds focused on adaptive rationality, explain the mechanism from the perceptual stage, and integrate the findings with AI applications in terms of physical and algorithmic design.

Motivated to gain a more fundamental-i.e., biological-understanding of cognition and expand my methodological skills, I studied Cognitive Neuroscience at Free University of Berlin for a Master's degree. Specifically, through an internship at the Center for Adaptive Rationality of Max Planck Institute for Human Development and thesis writing in Charité Medicine University Berlin, I was trained in data acquisition with EEG and eye tracking, respectively. Furthermore, I attained skills to process time-series data and conduct mixed-effect model analyses studying integration of reward information in visual processing for the Master's thesis. Recently, I joined the Embodied Cognitive Science Unit of Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology as a research intern, where I will gain experience in EEG data analysis and robotic interface studying active perception.

Such diversity in my interest, knowledge, and skills, I believe, makes Max Planck School of Cognition and I a perfect match. Among the faculty, I am most enthusiastic to be advised by Prof. Dr. Ralph Hertwig for modeling adaptively rational decisions, Prof. Dr. Peter Dayan for neural substrates underlying decision making, and Prof. Dr. Iyad Rahwan for human-machine interaction. On the other hand, I believe that I have several strengths to be a good addition to the program. First, I am capable of practically executing a project that involves multiple fields of study. My second undergraduate major, Initiatives in Social Sciences, was an autonomous program where I could design my own major combining courses from different departments. In the process of digesting diverse courses such as philosophy and information processing, and integrating them into the thesis, I enhanced my capability as an interdisciplinary researcher. Secondly, I am able to perform a research project to the fullest extent, proven by my publication experience. Experiencing from ethics approval to peer reviews, I cultivated my potential as an independent researcher. Lastly, I value the relevance of scientific research. Working in a neuroscience start-up for a year, I incessantly convinced why our research would benefit people to the investors, ethics committee, and prospective clients. I learned that a researcher should always be able to address how her research can contribute to the betterment of society and humanity in the way of seeking the truth. And I also believe that this principle is shared with the objective of Max Plank Institute.

8 years ago, I was questioning why humans do not think like machines. Through education and diligence, I have earned some good answers to the question. Now, my goal is to delve into human cognition deeper and build an artificial agent that interacts with us most intuitively and efficiently. I wish that Max Planck School of Cognition will be my next base camp to fulfill this goal together.

Thank you to anyone who reviews this!
I thought I had to include all the points in the prompt, which made me shove in as much objective information as possible on one page. Now I'm wondering if I should have just focused on one or two of them because it seems to lack personality... Should I omit out some of the research experiences and focus on only one or two? 1 page is god damn too short to elaborate them all..
Holt  Educational Consultant - / 11,948 3857  
21 hrs ago   #2
You have the ability to control the content of your personal statement, based on what the prompt requirements are, you can say anything you want to, as long as it pertains to the development of your interest in the field. There are just 2 problems in a personal statement. Too much information could make you seem overqualified for the maaters you are applying to. Too little information, would make you appear less than qualified to take the course. Balancing the personal statement is therefore, a delicate balance. As far as I am concerned, your essay falls more under the over qualified aspect. Try to keep this presentation short, use only one or two highlights to discuss. Choose what you feel to be your most notable accomplishment in every area for the presentation. The information that you feel will best stand up to the competition when compared qualification per qualification. By the way, this is a personal statement, not a motivation letter. You misidentified it in the title bar.

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