Sample Statement of Purpose for Physics
Statement by MIPT Alumnus (01/2003)
The Physics Student admitted to MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, Stanford
Applicant's name: Ivan Ivanov
Department and Degree: Physics, PhD
When I was a tenth-grade high school student, I used to always ask
my teachers: "Why do different branches of physics seem so
unrelated? They must be similar to each other!", but they didn't
appear to be interested in the question. I believed that I was the
only person trying to find the answer until I got acquainted with a
professor of theoretical physics at XX University. He told me that
analogies between different areas of physics do exist and that many
scientists are exploring them. I cannot forget my excitement when I
talked to him and found that I wasn't alone in my attempts to solve
the puzzle. Since then every step in my life brings me closer to the
In 1998 I entered Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT).
As a winner of XXIX International Physics Olympiad in Reykjavik,
where I received Gold medal and a special prize for the best
solution of a theoretical problem, I was admitted without entrance
exams. There, in addition to a thorough standard course of study, I
have taken a number of elective advanced physics and math courses.
One of my hobbies was to solve complicated non-standard problems in
physics, calculus and group theory. I also attended advanced
lectures on topology and differential geometry at Independent
University of Moscow. My hard work paid off: in 2000 I earned the
highest score in MIPT's Physics and Mathematics Olympiads among all
2100 undergraduates of MIPT.
At the same time I gained my first research experience: I proved a
theorem of high importance in calculus regarding Whitney's extension
problem and my results were published in Mathematical Notes, one of
the top Russian mathematical journals.
I spent my 3rd year at the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental
Physics specializing in particle physics. I actively participated in
weekly seminars on gravity and quantum field theory (QFT). I
especially enjoyed making presentations on topics such as instantons
in modern QFT, entropy of black holes, and conformal field theory.
I was fascinated by beautiful mathematical constructions of QFT and
string theory, but I also became interested in deep interconnections
between QFT and Condensed Matter physics. In order to get to the
bottom of these interconnections, I decided to deepen my knowledge
of Condensed Matter theory. Therefore in September 2001 I joined the
theory group at the Landau Institute and spent my 4th year there. It
was the most interesting year of my studies at MIPT as the
requirements at the Landau Institute are extremely high. For
instance, in order to pass the exam on Diagrammatic Techniques, I
solved about fifty complex problems such as finding quantum
correction to the conductivity of two-dimensional system with the
help of diagrammatic methods.
Problems involving a combination of both High Energy and Condensed
Matter Physics are of special interest to me, for example, quantum
Hall effect, superconductivity, and modeling of cosmological
phenomena in condensed matter systems. My Bachelor's thesis called
"Even denominator Hall states" was in the field of fractional Hall
effect. There I described the analogies between Moore-Read Pfaffian
state and liquid helium. Currently I am working on a research
project under the guidance of Prof. X. We are exploring properties
of fermion zero-modes living on vortices in unusual superconductors.
During my years at MIPT I have acquired research experience not only
in Condensed Matter, but also in QFT. About a year ago I met a
graduate student who was working on asymptotically free theories.
Soon we became collaborators. We have developed some aspects of
principal chiral field model and are currently preparing a paper
for submission to JETP Letters.
I am convinced that I should continue my education at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. First, I would like to get more experience
with superconductivity and quantum Hall efect. Research in these
areas is very active at Condensed Matter group of MIT. Study of
strongly correlated systems by Prof. Lee, Prof. Wen and Prof.
Levitov is of particular interest to me. Second, MIT High Energy
group is also extremely strong. I believe that communication with
such experts would be priceless for my education.
I am confident that graduate study at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology would be a great step towards my goal and the experience
gained at MIT will allow me someday to get to the core of
connections between different branches of Physics.