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Looking for advices on my SOP in ocenaography

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Hi guys, I'm applying for a Ph.D. program in oceanography / Earth sciences. And I need some suggestions on the content and reading fluency of my SOP.

I'd appreciate your generous help!!

The essay is posted as below:


To maximize my academic potential in physical oceanography, I made up my mind to pursue a doctoral degree at ESS. This is a natural outcome after my deep reflections on life experience.


Exercising diligence to give full play of my intelligence, I finished my secondary education under a special State Financial-aid. And yet the admission letter from Xiamen University has brought me to a new evaluation of life. Here is the college, then what's the future I want indeed? I spent 2 years seeking the answer until I took Dr. Pettigrew's class on physical oceanography (graduate level). This was probably the trigger of something which was simmering deeper down. I’d often be enchanted by fluid phenomena like river flows or swirls. Nothing conscious, it would just happen. Only when I combined them with dynamic equations did I realize that those ubiquitous phenomena are actually something governed by rigorous physics. But the fluid mechanics class I took at the University of Maine was geared towards engineering applications, and somehow that did not resonate with my initial thoughts. Until I started reading books on ocean dynamics like The Turbulent Ocean (Thorpe, 2005), Atmosphere-Ocean Dynamics (Gill, 1982), did I realize there are more appealing complexities lying behind. The Earth’s rotation, sphericity and the variable density distribution throughout the ocean would introduce physics unlike anything I had ever heard of and the diversity of geophysical fluid dynamics phenomena was just like a bottomless well where I could find inspiration. Later on, especially after participating in the IPCC report conference in 2015, I gradually got to understand the role ocean plays in the climate system, which also resonated with my general concerns as an ordinary citizen. Now I feel like it’s the right time for me to explore the even more amazing side of physical oceanography in graduate school and to prepare myself for careers in teaching and research in academia. And all the effort I made to come to this point has built a solid background for my professional growth.


During the last 3 years of my study involved with oceanography, I have set an extensive knowledge basis in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and geology. Out of the desire to share ideas, I organized a seminar group among my peers to discuss some novel topics like ocean acidification, climate change, carbon circulation, etc. Sometimes we even mentored each other to disabuse ourselves of the confusion in different fields. To get exposed to a research environment, I joined a wave observation project for Taiwan Strait as a freshman. I focused on the statistical and characteristic analysis of significant wave height, period and wind speed to reveal their spatiotemporal variabilities and interrelation, thus built a database for future wave forecast, especially during hurricanes and storm surges. This project gave me a basic idea of the research processes, from  proposal, implementation to conclusion, discussion, and my interest in oceanography got developed further. In a later course project on performing harmonic analysis for one-month water level data, I wrote a MATLAB function to calculate harmonic constants for considered tidal constituents using a least square method. Incorporating with my partner’s work, we designed a script to dissect the tidal characteristics of a gridded area, and the reverse forecast also showed good congruency with original data. This programming experience was proved to be beneficial in my subsequent dissertation project, which focuses on a reverse method regarding isoneutral and dianeutral mixing proposed by Dr. McDougall. He developed the conservation equations under a neutral surface framework to show that the very small dianeutral velocities can contribute significantly to the lateral advection of scalers. Based on these, I implemented a combination of conservation equations in divergence form, thus formed a method to obtain parameterization for the isoneutral and dianeutral mixing via applying the hydrographic data to a least squares solution. Still, encouraged by Dr. Zhiyu, I'm trying to estimate the general currents pattern and distribution of tracers across the ocean by applying some canonical diffusivities. This may generate an inspiration for rectification of numerical models in future.


At present, my general research interests center on fluid dynamics of the ocean and climate, especially on ocean circulation and multiscale mixing processes. Moving toward graduate school, I prefer to extend my study to the statistical and dynamic analysis of mixing processes (e.g. eddies, turbulence). They play a vital role in the ocean by affecting material transport, vertical stratification, large scale currents, and air-sea interaction. From my former research, I learned that parameterization was not enough to fully explain their functions coupled with energy transfer and dispersion. I'm looking forward to exploring the mechanisms governing their genesis, propagation, interaction and dissipation through theory, models and observations. This could be challenging and I think Dr. Thomas, whose research focuses on dynamics of fronts and eddies, would be an ideal advisor for me. I’m especially interested in his project on mode water formation and he is the main reason why I decided to apply for this program. Besides, I’m excited with the excellent computational resources from the High Performance Computing Center at Stanford, which would to some extent, facilitate my work in operating mathematical tools and data assimilation. Furthermore, regarding the direction after the Ph.D. program, my synoptic view at this stage is to go deeper and wider in these areas, like involving simulations of several types of these processes to develop stochastic and deterministic models for practical application in large-scale circulation, biogeochemical process or environmental problems like oil spilling. Moreover, I’d also like to dedicate myself to the outreach education of Earth science with a desire to promote environmental learning among the public, particularly under the growing concerns on climate change.


With an integrated multidisciplinary research context in ESS, and the cultural diversity around Bay area, the education from Stanford will provide invaluable experiences and unusual perspectives that help me to achieve my research goal. Therefore, I assume it would be a suitable place for me to start the academic career.


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