Materials Girl: The science of appliance

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Posted on behalf of Materials Girl

Now that the small flurry of blogging on the ACS meeting has subsided, posting resumes!

Applications for schools/scholarships inevitably want you to discuss how participation in their programs would be beneficial to you, what makes you qualified, etc, etc… Sometimes I really wish they would be more specific and not ask vague, broad questions. For me, the answer can easily be summarized by one word: experience. Unfortunately, no matter how universally true the response, its length is by no means sufficient to create a proper statement.

It seems that all essays in the genre boil down to an inherently dry rehashing of past experience, present thoughts, and future plans. There seem to be few techniques to make the reading of personal statements interesting or even enjoyable*, aside from mentioning specific science, notably work you have done, to attract – hopefully – the interest of admissions staff. Another method would be to take a lighter tone and throw in some humor – however, that may well be unfavorable, considering that scientists should maintain a professional tone. (Or is that just my inexperience speaking?).

Anyone can read a [good] resume** and decipher a decent amount of a person’s abilities – why restate details in an essay and bore the readers? To those who are writing and have written a multitude of applications, what non-academic features did you include to single yourself out? To those reading the essays, what has made applicants stand out past their intellectual accomplishments?

P.S. – When a program claims to be “highly competitive”, what type of quantitative data can generally be assumed to support that statement?

*This is without considering college/undergraduate application essays, which run the gamut from horrendously employed grammar and monotone statements of extracurriculars, to whimsical stories of adventures and unique lessons learned. (Many moons ago, one of mine began with one time I caught an especially large and disgusting cockroach in a library’s restroom. But, for all I know, that one could’ve been the weakest of my essays).

**Therein lies the issue of how to write a succinct, informative resume

Stu Cantrill

Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry, Springer Nature