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Biology (evolution) SOP Feedback please?

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Hello everyone!!

I have asked advisors, family, and friends to take a look at my first SOP draft to no avail. Now I am resorting to strangers. If anyone could take a look at my SOP and let me know what I should work on, that would be awesome. My field is evolutionary ichthyology.

Thank you :)


My appreciation of biology flourished as my understanding of evolution grew. I have always observed nature with wonder, but did not have the opportunity to learn about the complicated web of relationships between all living things until college. Once introduced to the theory of evolution, I was able to see how the vast diversity of animals and plants that I was partial to were connected. Learning about the complexity of relationships within nature provoked a curiosity which drove me to learn all I could about evolution.

In Ecology and Evolution, the undergraduate class that sparked my interest in evolution, I had the opportunity to read and comprehensively discuss books like Neil Shubin’s ‘Your inner fish’. We were encouraged to ask questions and critically think about what we were reading. Upon completion of the class, I was still eager for those hour long discussions of evolutionary hypotheses, so I found the uni’s Evolution Club in my senior. Meetings varied from reading an article and discussing the methods and how biases could have been prevented, to having a speaker in the field tell us about their research. I was able feed my desire to learn about evolution while honing in on the topics I found of utmost interest.

Evolutionary theories of fishes captured my attention most. From a young age, I was captivated by aquatic life, eventually obtaining my advanced scuba diving license. My infatuation with fishes only grew as I learned of their incredible diversity and innumerable evolutionary stories to be told. As I learn about the remarkable life histories of fishes, like the American eels and their epic journey from the Sargasso Sea to freshwater and back again, I cannot help but to be amazed and curious to learn more.

To continue my studies, I had to jump a sizable hurtle. During my first few years at the uni I lacked motivation to study which was reflected in my less than stellar grades. Once passionate about evolution, I refocused my energy and was able to complete my undergraduate degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0. By becoming a better student in my final year and expressing my infatuation with evolution, specifically fish evolution, I was accepted into a master’s program at the uni working under Dr. P.

During my master’s program, I was able to focus on areas of science I found particularly interesting, such as statistics, development, advanced molecular biology, and advanced systematics and evolutionary biology. Concurrently, I developed my thesis project which explores the skeletal diversification of Pleuronectiformes using geometric morphometric analyses of radiographs. This project proved challenging, as finding homologous landmarks across a diverse group of fishes on images that limit visible bone articulations is difficult. However, I was able to identify several landmarks and semi-landmarks that allowed me to capture overall body shape. Once the landmarks were identified and digitized for each specimen, I performed principal component analyses on the data set.

To collect radiographs for my thesis, I had the opportunity travel to the Smithsonian and the uni fish collections. There I was able to radiograph over 450 flatfishes, and gain an appreciation for fish collections. The importance of fish collections cannot be understated. Because scientists before me were able to preserve fishes from all over the world, I was able to collect copious amounts of data to contribute to flatfish knowledge in a short amount of time.

Dr. P and I are currently reanalyzing my thesis data to explore body shape evolution of flatfishes in a phylogenetic context. Using new methods, we plan to incorporate recently published molecular phylogenies on flatfishes. I am excited about the potential of these data and intend to have a manuscript submitted soon.

During my graduate studies, I continuously improved as a student, completing my degree in May of 2014 with a 3.87 GPA. Ready to enter the work force, I accepted a job at PRA Health Sciences, a pharmaceutical research organization. There I was responsible for maintaining electronic files pertaining to experimental drug studies. Although the work was important, I missed research and working in academics.

After a year at PRA, I was welcomed as a new biology faculty member at HCC in the Middle of Nowhere. I had the opportunity to develop and teach classes in Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Exercise Physiology, and Nutrition. Immersed in biology again, I had hoped to teach for several years, however the state of Idiots made several budgetary cuts to higher education and I found myself laid off. After being unemployed for six months and relocating to my hometown I was able to find work as the biology lab manager at Small Private University in Middleton. As the biology lab manager, I prepare, stock, and maintain chemicals and laboratory equipment used for classes and research. I have also had the opportunity to train and supervise student workers and implement a microscope slide inventory and storage system.

My experience working professionally and my involvement in research has lead me to seek a career in academia, specifically on the evolution of fishes. My career goals have been shaped by my experience with both research and teaching. I aim to join the faculty at a medium-sized comprehensive university where I would have the opportunity to have an active research program and be able to teach the next generation of scientists.

This summer I had the opportunity to meet Dr. L at the joint meeting of ichthyologists and herpetologists. After hearing him speak about his research on the evolution of venom in fishes, I became interested in joining his lab. My interests in studying character trait evolution to examine large scale evolutionary questions in fishes is in line with the research carried out in Dr. L’s lab. I am also very interested in natural history collections, and the opportunity to work in one of the most important fish collections in North America would be an invaluable experience. Furthermore, I believe the atmosphere and diverse faculty of the ecology and evolutionary biology department at the uni will make for an excellent learning environment while I continue my studies.

I hope to meet all the requirements for admission into the uni’s Doctoral program and that my application is favorably received by the admissions committee.
Thank you for your time,

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