Sample Personal Statement for Cell and Molecular Biology
What is life? How genes and proteins function and regulate in an organism? What are the underlying workings of cells? It was these initial curiosities that led me into this magnetic world of biology. It is my unchanging aspiration to explore and to discover the mysteries of the inner workings of life in the micro-cosmos represented by cell and molecules as a physician, as a biologist and as a medical professional. I am delighted to find that I am getting closer and closer to the point of realizing this aspiration of mine.
I come from Ningxa Province, the most impoverished area in China’s West. The pathetically backward medical conditions there spurred me to become an accomplished physician who could make contributions in alleviating the pains of the local residents. With exceptional scholastic efforts, I distinguished myself in my region which was equally backward in education level and entered the Department of Clinical Medicine, Peking University of Medical Science, one of the most prestigious universities in China. Here I started my formal academic pursuit. During my undergraduate studies, with perseverance and efficacious learning strategies, I managed to reach No. 2 ranking in my class in terms of scholastic aptitudes, with especially outstanding performance in the courses in my specialty.
However, during my clinical internships, I discovered that the theoretical knowledge I learned from textbooks was often incongruent with, and sometimes even diametrically opposite to what I actually discovered. This made me develop a skeptical mind in academic research. In the project Helicobacter pylori induces the synthesis of cyclooxygenase-2 in human gastric epithelial carcinoma cell line BGC-823, I found in the majorities of my experiments that, in screening positive recombinants, the rate of detecting positive clones was not as high as was imagined. Sometimes, bacterial colonies produced through self-correlation outnumber those of correlation products, which meant that the workload in screening clones would be significant increased. I think that I will always carry with me this spirit of skepticism in my academic research because it gives me courage to cast doubt on established viewpoints and to probe into the real truth of the matter.
Another important learning habit of mine is the problem-oriented mentality. Having participated in some simple research work, I discovered that the process of recombinant DNA screening was overcomplicated and inefficient. To solve the problem, I consulted relevant technical literature and conducted repeated experiments, the result of which was the development of the Rapid Screening Recombinations by Clone Groups, a much simpler and more efficient method to screen recombinant DNA. This initial research success, however insignificant in retrospection, gave me a strong sense of pride. Under the instruction of Prof. Wang XX, I completed my thesis The Effect of Angiotension II on the Heme Oxygenase Gene Expression in Spontaneous Hypertensive Rats.
As I delved deeper into my studies, I realized that clinical medicine at its present technical level faces some problems that are difficult to solve, such as the etiology and the mechanism of diabetes, tumor, and cardiovascular diseases. As far as I am concerned, the ultimate solution to those problems lies in Basic Medicine, which allows us to observe the changes in the cellular and molecular level of those diseases. In my spare time, I further consulted a large quantity of technical literature and textbooks on the techniques of cell and molecular biology and decided that I would attempt at research projects in Basic Medicine, those projects that were virtually impossible for clinical doctors. Therefore, immediately after my undergraduate program and exempted from an entrance examination, I embarked on a Master’s program in the Cell and Molecular Biology specialty at the School of Basic Medicine, Peking Union Medical College.
I am very proud of my academic performance during my Master’s Program, which has been more impressive than my undergraduate performance. In all the specialty courses I have become the top student in my class. My solid foundation in theoretical knowledge has provided me with a sound basis to expand my research horizons and to search for innovative research methodologies. My labwork focuses on the interplay between proteins and I have participated in three major research projects: a) study on the proteasome subunits (which are closely related to protein degradation in the Ubiquitin/Proteasome) and catalytic zymoprotein sponsored by State Natural Sciences Foundation; b) study on the common characteristics of proteins that interact with Ubc9 in the proteasome-conjugating system by means of information science; and c) the establishment of SH2 Protein Library (which has applied for patent from the State Patent Office). I will write a couple of research papers based on the findings of those projects and hopefully publish them in some leading academic journals in those fields.
Difficulties also abound in my studies. I have found that although the bi-hybridization system of the yeast is an effective and efficient way to analyze the interaction between proteins, it has its limitations. For instance, the system is located within the nucleus, in which reactions like 糖基化 and the formation of disulfide bond are impossible. For another instance, there is the problem of “pseudo positive” expression. Therefore, how to transfer, with more perfect techniques, the bi-hybridization system of the yeasts to organisms with eucaryon (which are higher than saccharomycettes) so as to make the processing of proteins, their refinement, and interaction closer to real processes and to reduce pseudo positive results constitutes one of our urgent tasks. On the other hand, to construct the chart of yeast protein interactions and to undertake molecular biological studies related to pathology by exploiting the properties of the genes within the yeast that bear close resemblance to human genes will also be a fascinating field of study. The United States plays a leading role in the development of life science. It is a universal dream of all biological researchers to carry out thorough research there, including myself.
Looking back on my research experience, I realize that I have gone through important changes in my understanding of scientific research. As an undergraduate, I regarded research simply as a way of finding the best scientific and technological means. I assumed that all problems could automatically be solved with the discovery of updated and sophisticated approaches. During my Master’s program, my understanding deepened and it was Prof. Guo XX, my supervisor, who helped me develop this deepened understanding. A Ph.D. and a visiting scholar at Harvard and with many achievements, Prof. Guo returned to China and launched (this word means “created and started”. It does not mean “was employed”) Peking Union Medical College’s Protein Research Center. He not only brought back from the United States many advanced research facilities but also exposed me to brand-new ways of thinking and problem-solving methodologies. His knowledge and concepts have made me realize how insufficient I am in my knowledge and technical competence. His constant encouragement has reinforced my determination to seek an advanced degree program in the United States to develop myself into an accomplished medical professional like him. My hope is to learn much more professional knowledge in the field of Cell and Molecular Biology and related experimental techniques, to renovate my existing concepts and the conventional mode of thinking.
With this Personal Statement, I want to indicate unequivocally my purpose of pursuing a Ph.D. program in Cell and Molecular Biology at Harvard University (John Hopkins University, Stanford University). Your university comes on top of my priorities because it enjoys an unparalleled position in this field both within the United States and in the world. It is my conviction that the superior research facilities, the nurturing academic environment, strong faculty and a quality education will fulfill my aspiration to become a scientist with important achievements in the future in my chosen field. I plan to further my studies in the fundamental theoretical knowledge of the relevant subjects, keep myself abreast with the latest developments, and venture into new realms based on the knowledge and the skills that I have accumulated. I would like to devote myself especially to those important projects which are just in their incipient development and enjoy tremendous potentials. I will avail myself of the ample academic activities to exchange and to learn from leading specialists, and to develop new perspectives. In this way I hope to achieve some innovative research results and produce several high-quality research papers. I expect that the research-intensive Ph.D. training there will help me become well prepared for careers in biomedical research, biotechnological and pharmaceutical industries.
Biological sciences encompass a broad area of specialist subjects linked to the study of living organisms and the science behind ‘life’.
176,760 students were studying this subject in 2014/15.
- 92% UK
- 8% international
- 84% full-time
- 16% part-time
68.5% of graduates went directly into employment.
Top five graduate destinations:
- Health and social work
- Wholesale and retail trade
- Arts, entertainment and recreation
- Accommodation and food service
What courses are available?
Universities and colleges in the UK are offering courses in the following subject areas:
There are a wide range of degree courses on offer, with numerous options to take one or more different subjects together. While many will offer core topics with a choice of modules, it is important to remember that there is no national curriculum at degree level and course content can vary significantly.
'Choosing a degree subject isn't the same as choosing a degree course; the subject is an umbrella term, but the content delivered can vary greatly from university to university. Many bioscience and biology degrees will offer a broad choice of modules in the first year, with the chance to specialise and focus on one area in the second and third years, this can be a good option if you haven't decided on a specialist area, or would like to keep some flexibility in your studies.’
Royal Society of Biology
Subject combinations and available course options include:
- single, joint, and multiple subject combinations
- full-time, part-time, and flexible study options, as well as courses with a placement (sandwich courses)
- qualifications ranging from BSc (Hons) degrees, through to HND, HNC, and Foundation Certificates
‘Joint or combined honours degrees will give you the flexibility to study more than one area of interest, such as combining your studies with a foreign language. This is great for maintaining a breadth of knowledge and experience, but it does mean that you won't have time to cover the same content as a single honours degree.’
Royal Society of Biology
Apprenticeships are available in the following areas:
- Life sciences and chemical science professionals – e.g. materials scientist, plant research technician
- Laboratory science
Find out more about apprenticeships
A levels – To get on to a biology-related degree, you will usually require at least two A levels, including biology and preferably chemistry. You will also need five GCSEs (A – C) including science, English, and maths.
‘Many universities require two science subjects at A level (or Higher level in Scotland) to study for a biology degree, although some universities accept maths instead of a second science subject. Biology courses which cover a lot of molecular and cellular biology often ask for chemistry A level or Higher.’
Royal Society of Biology
For sports science degrees, you generally require a science subject (biology or human biology preferred), while for psychology degrees, some universities may prefer/require one science subject. Other than chemistry, physics, and maths, universities may consider the following as science subjects: psychology, environmental studies, geography and geology, computer science, PE, and sports science. Always check with admissions departments.
You may be invited to attend an open day, part of which can include a small group exercise led by academic staff, at which you will be asked to talk about a relevant biological or biomedical topic and discuss it with other members of the group.
Universities will be looking for evidence that you are well informed about the subject and have a strong interest/motivation, which could be demonstrated by:
- relevant work experience/shadowing or voluntary work
- additional reading and research of particular topics
- membership of related societies/clubs
How to write your personal statement
Key areas of employment
There is a wide number of science-related careers you can enter with a biological science degree. Additionally, some careers require a relevant postgraduate qualification. The key areas of employment include:
- healthcare – public and private
- clinical research
- pharmaceutics and biotechnology
- environment and agriculture
- scientific sales and marketing
- technical media and journalism
Examples of related careers include the following job titles:
Where can I find out more?
Visit the websites of the following professional bodies to find out more about courses and careers in biological sciences.
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