Author: Aaron O. Amankwaa*
*Editor and Contributor, Scientect, Ghana; Ph.D. Researcher, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
A statement of purpose (SOP) or personal statement is one of the critical aspects of your application for a postgraduate program as a science student. It is a statement about who you are, your career and academic goals, your motivation or rationale to pursue your chosen program and career, your research interests, and how prepared you are for postgraduate studies. This short article provides a simple guideline that students can adapt to prepare their statement of purpose and sample SOPs.
Outline for writing a statement of purpose
(NB: there is no strict rule to follow exactly what is provided in this guideline but a good SOP should include the points identified in this guide; always refer to available guidelines provided by the institution you are applying to)
- Paragraph 1: Introduction to the subject/program, your academic interest or study plan, the aspects you are interested in and why (link to your long-term career goals).
- Paragraph 2: What is your motivation for applying for the program? For example, something practical and quantitative you have done related to the subject that has influenced you to pursue a career in the subject. OR At least 3 needs/challenges in the society, academia, industry etc… That has influenced you. (NB: Give a factual and known example to buttress your point)
- Paragraph 3 & 4: How will the design of the program at the chosen university help you in your career choice? What skills will you gain and how will you apply them in solving key national issues.
- Paragraph 5: Provide a statement of proof of your preparedness to undertake this program. For example, your academic background in chemistry, biochemistry, biology etc, internship and job experience. Don’t give too many details. Mention only measurable skills you have acquired if not captured in CV. (NB: Must be concise)
- Paragraph 6: Provide a memorable conclusion expressing your hope to be admitted.
Sample 1: Biochemistry student applying for MSc Medical Molecular Biology
“We used to think that our fate was in our stars, but now we know that, in large measure, our fate is in our genes,” states a quote by James Watson, which emphasizes the relevance of genetics in personalized medicine, forensics, and drug design. One particular area of success is the application of gene therapy in the treatment of patients with diseases such as multiple myeloma and Parkinson’s disease. Another is the application of DNA profiling in analyzing medical evidence in criminal cases such as murder and rape. The assessment of genetic polymorphism of drug metabolizing enzymes has also contributed immensely to drug design and clinical trials.
Although the developed world has recorded great advancement in medical genetics, most African countries still lag behind in terms of human resource and technology to deal with endemic genetic disorders (such as sickle cell disease) and diseases such as malaria, HIV, and cancer. Currently, biomedical researchers in Ghana, my home country, are focused on the effects of genetics on malaria resistance. This is to help scientists develop a potent vaccine to solve the ongoing malaria pandemic. The task of finding a lasting solution to infectious and chronic diseases through molecular biology resonates deeply with me, and it is for this reason that I am applying for admission into the MSc Medical Molecular Biology at the University of …..
Through this programme, I look forward to obtaining the requisite skills and knowledge to work as a Clinical Scientist in the Ghana Health Service, focusing on developing potent vaccines for diseases such as malaria and HIV. In the long term, my career plan is to obtain a position as a Policy Development Officer, with the purpose of developing policies related to clinical governance, education, ethics and legislation in molecular therapeutics.
I have always loved to pursue a career in molecular biology and this passion led to my decision to undertake undergraduate studies in biochemistry at …. Through this programme, I have acquired a firm background in subjects such as immunology and molecular genetics including practical skills in molecular techniques such as DNA extraction, PCR, and electrophoresis. Along with my studies, I volunteered as an assistant health screener and health educator on hepatitis B and sickle cell disease during the annual Trade and Technology Fair at …. Currently, I am working as a Teaching and Laboratory Assistant at …. This exposure has given me practical experience and led to my growing interest in medical molecular biology.
After a careful assessment of the website of the Faculty of Science and Technology, I find that the design of the MSc Medical Molecular Biology programme at the University of …. is uniquely suited to my academic and career goals. Through this study, I will develop skills in molecular therapeutics, biomedical research, immunotherapy and clinical governance. I thus look forward with much enthusiasm to join your esteemed Faculty.”
Sample 2: Biochemistry student applying for MSc Forensic Science
“As a hardworking, results-driven and highly motivated first-class biochemistry graduate with theoretical and hands-on experience in analytical biochemistry, my academic interests are to gain professional expertise in forensic science, particularly in forensic biology. My long-term goals are to obtain a position as a forensic laboratory manager, an expert witness in court and an evidence collection technician in the Ghana Police Service.
The need for physical evidence in solving crime has not been overemphasized with the increasing rate of sophisticated crime in Ghana. In view of this, the Ghana government, with the support of the European Union, opened a £3million ultra-modern Police Forensic Science Laboratory in 2011, which is the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, Ghana lacks a National DNA and fingerprint database and adequately trained forensic experts to facilitate the efficient evaluation of forensic evidence. Secondly, a major challenge faced by the Ghana Police Service is inadequate professionalism in physical evidence identification, collection, and preservation. A third challenge is the poor educational support to train forensic scientists locally. These problems were evident when the government called on forensic experts from the United States during the recent widespread of market fire outbreaks. My strong interest to gain admission into the postgraduate programme in Forensic Science at the University of … is therefore influenced by the aforementioned three reasons.
Through the application of DNA fingerprinting technique in the analysis of semen by forensic scientists, a horrific serial rape and murder case like that of Timothy Wilson Spencer, an American criminal, was completely resolved in 1988. The introduction of DNA evidence in this case also led to the exoneration of David Vasquez, who was wrongfully convicted based on eyewitness account. Evidently, physical evidence is highly reliable in solving crime. I thus believe the Justice System in Ghana will greatly improve if professionally trained forensic experts from the most experienced Forensic Institution in the … are integrated into the Police Service. I have carefully considered the excellent record of providing a blend of unique “case-based learning” and professional training by expert faculty members of the Centre … and I am convinced that this postgraduate programme will provide me with the credibility, professionalism, creativity and network capabilities to contribute positively to the fight against crime and influence policymakers to create National DNA and fingerprint database in Ghana.
I consider myself adequately prepared, technically and academically, to meet the high standards of the Center … My current work experience as a Teaching and Laboratory Assistant (National Service Person) and excellent undergraduate preparation in the multidisciplinary curriculum at the Department of … serve as proof of my competence.
I look forward to joining the Centre …”
Sample 3: Biochemistry student applying for a scholarship to study MSc Forensic Science
““Every contact leaves a trace,” states the Locard’s exchange principle which emphasizes the relevance of physical evidence in investigating public corruption, cybercrime, drug trafficking, kidnapping, bank robbery, terrorism, homicide and defilement, which are among the major crimes that have contributed to low productivity, poverty, insecurity and political instability in Africa. The recent terrorist attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria, gang-raping and killings by the Janjaweed Militia in western Sudan and corruption cases, bloody chieftaincy disputes and arson-linked market fire outbreaks in Ghana, my home country, are proofs of the widespread of crimes on the African continent that need immediate forensic investigations.
With respect to the surge in crime over the past years in Ghana, the government has considered building capacity for forensic investigations. This national goal led to the establishment of a £3million ultra-modern Police Forensic Science Laboratory sponsored by the European Union in 2011. Unfortunately, Ghana lacks a National DNA and Fingerprint Database and adequately trained experts to facilitate the efficient evaluation of forensic evidence. Coupled with this challenge is the derisory professionalism in physical evidence sampling, collection, preservation, and identification by the Ghana Police Department. A third challenge is the lack of institution to train forensic scientists locally. My passion to pursue a career in forensic science is therefore influenced by the aforementioned reasons.
Through the application of DNA fingerprinting technique by forensic scientists, a horrific serial rape and murder case like that of Timothy Spencer, an American criminal, was completely resolved in 1988. The introduction of DNA evidence in this case also led to the exoneration of David Vasquez, who was wrongfully convicted based on eyewitness account. Evidently, physical evidence is highly reliable in solving crime. I strongly believe the fight against crime in Ghana will greatly improve if forensic experts are integrated into the Criminal and Justice System. I am confident my MSc. Forensic Science at the University … would equip me in a range of modern analytical techniques and courtroom skills, and provide me with the credibility, professionalism and network capabilities to contribute positively to crime investigations, justice delivery, and influence policymakers to create a National DNA and Fingerprint Database.
With my long-term goals in mind, I would be committed to measuring the impact of the potential benefits of my work in order to maximize my efficiency in forensic practice. Three key methods to achieve this will include collection and evaluation of data on the rate of crime detection, research analysis of public and judicial confidence in forensic practice, and yearly assessment of the ratio of resolved to unresolved cases.
Overall, the Criminal and Justice System of Ghana urgently need forensic experts to help curb the increasing rate of sophisticated and high-tech crimes. This … Scholarship will give me the opportunity to be trained professionally at the reputed Centre … to enable me to contribute professionally and resourcefully to the fight against crime in Ghana.”