Although most undergraduates are fretting over acceptance letters1, there has been recent interest in personal statements2,3,4. Below is an outline of what I would consider a typical chemical personal statement. With slight modification, it can also be used as a general outline for all bright-eyed science undergraduate personal statements.
- Why you are in science.
- Why you enjoy chemistry.
- Why this or that specific sub-field of chemistry is interesting to you.
© Molly Kelly
- Your accomplishments in the chemical field (research experience, poster presentations).
- Favorite experiment/class and why. A lot of details on why it’s your favorite.
- Briefly discuss your volunteer work and/or outreach experience. (This may sound silly, but remember academic scientists are becoming more-and-more like bureaucrats and buzz words like that tend to ring well in their ears.)
- List relevant clubs and organizations you belong to. If you were an officer, write about that.
- List how your skill-set/experience would be applicable to the institution you’re applying to.
- List some professors you would like to work with.
- Finish with some broad statement including the institution’s name.
In my personal opinion, personal statements should only be one page; you really should be able to summarize yourself that succinctly. If you have a blemish on your record, I’m not convinced it should be mentioned in a personal statement. Negative statements about yourself will stick out more than all your positive ones; so it’s upon you, to make sure your negatives are even worth discussing.
Addendum: From my P.I. Heino Nitsche
I am asking students requesting a letter of recommendation from me to send in electronic form (preferably WORD not PDF so that cut and paste is as easy as possible) the following material:
1. Newest unofficial transcript;
2. Updated resume, including honors, etc., and undergraduate research
3. Statement about their academic future;
4. List of anything good/volunteer work they have ever done;
5. List of Universities (including detailed addresses,points of
contact, and deadlines) they are applying to;
6. Pre-addressed and stamped envelopes for mailing of the
A very important point is that the recommendation that will take the least amount of time for me is the one which I will provide first, i.e,. the better the students prepare their case, the less effort I will have to write it. I usually ask the students to use the letter recommendation service of their university. This makes thing so much easier for me because I have to write only one letter and the rest is
taken care of by the service.
If you have further advice for the eager undergraduates, leave a comment. 😉
Chemistry Personal Statement
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I have been greatly fascinated by chemistry since my first exposure to the Periodic Table of Elements. The natural order of the first 12 elements, discovered approximately 450 years ago, made it possible for the elements to be placed on a chart consisting of rows and columns, such that elements sharing a column were discovered to have similar characteristics. This led Russian scientist Dmitry Mendeleyev to predict the existence of the element with the atomic number 32, germanium, as well as its colour, weight, density, and melting point. The predicted elements have since been discovered and I was greatly marvelled at this feat amongst many others. My interest in chemistry has been further stimulated as I have continued to learn more about the characteristics of the individual elements, the nature of their atoms, and how they form familiar chemical compounds that are particularly critical to the existence of life and the practice of medicine.
Arriving at the decision to study Applied Chemistry took me quite some time. This was because I was determined to find out where my interests really lie as I excelled in most of my Science subjects. However, I knew that I love experimenting in Chemistry and also that it is one of my favourite subjects. I dutifully attended a number of career sessions and open days for science subjects at various universities, and the ones focussing on Chemistry left a lasting impression on me. Also, I took time to visit one or two commercial chemistry-oriented laboratories in my area to talk with the chemists there. Their experiences have reinforced my love for the subject. They helped me to understand the wide variety of careers available for a graduate with a good knowledge of Chemistry, i.e. research, pharmaceuticals, and even environmental management. The prospect of a career in research and pharmaceuticals is of great interest to me. At this point, I was finally convinced that studies in Chemistry and a career in research in the same subject is what I wanted to pursue, this is largely due to my love for Chemistry as a science.
My first work-experience in Chemistry was a two-week work placement in a school chemical laboratory. During this two weeks period, I actively participated in the setting up of apparatus for different practical classes, and I also actively participated in carrying out the experiments. I saw an array of chemical reactions firsthand and vivid displays of the properties of the chemical elements. The activities gave me an opportunity to put textbook knowledge to use as well as gaining further knowledge, and this has greatly improved my ability to conduct experiments. The day-to-day experience at this laboratory further stimulated my growing interest in Chemistry and it made me want to learn and study more, especially on the applied side.
To gain an insight into Applied Chemistry I decided to seek and secure a week’s experience in the laboratory of a hospital. At the hospital, I discovered how Chemistry is applied to tests relating to disease agents. The experience at this laboratory brought all my textbook knowledge to life. I was particularly impressed by the versatility of Chemistry and the role that it plays in the life of man. At the end of the week I was totally convinced that I wanted pursue a degree, and subsequently a career, in Chemistry. This decision was based on my interest in the subject and my work exposure to both pure and applied chemistry in real life situations.
I have always known that it will require more than just an interest in Chemistry to ensure success in my chosen course of study and career. Hence, I have paid particular attention to the supporting body of science such as Biology and Mathematics. A good foundation in Biology will ensure that I understand the intricacies of life while a good foundation in Mathematics is essential to having a good hold on the chemical reactions and their attendant calculations. My A–Level results of B in Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics demonstrate my excellent understanding of these subjects. Besides these, I also have nine GCSEs with grades ranging from A to C.
My interest in Chemistry as a subject is huge. This interest is built on a fascinating exposure to this subject and my work experiences. My work experience for three weeks in total has left a lasting impression on me. All of these, over the years, have made me resolute about studying Applied Chemistry at a notable university that will adequately prepare me for a life-long career in Applied Chemistry within the health sector. I have worked hard in my studies, with particular focus on Chemistry and other critical sciences, that have helped ensure that I have a good foundation for my study and subsequent career in applied chemistry. I sincerely look forward to attending the course in Applied Chemistry at your university as a necessary and critical step on my chosen career path.