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Sample Personal Statement for the PHD in Environmental Studies, Iranian Applicant

Your PHD Program in Environmental Studies at the University of XXXX is my first choice for earning my doctoral degree for a variety of reasons; most of all, I see your program as the finest in Canada if not the world. Originally from Iran and earning my first degree in my country of origin, I have been living, working, and doing research in Germany for the past 5 years. My heart, however, is with my family in Canada, where I am a citizen and where I earned my Master’s Degree in Atmospheric Chemistry from XXXX University; serving as both a Research Assistant and a Teaching Assistant for several years (1999 – 2003). The following two years I had the privilege of continuing at XXXX as a Data Analyst in addition to serving as a Consultant at Environment Canada. I also gained five years experience as a Researcher and Teaching Assistant at the University of XXXX (2004 – 2009).

I now have more than 20 years of experience as a researcher, consultant, and lecturer working in universities as well as with private and governmental organizations around the world. My specialization includes a range of issues from atmospheric studies to marine science, air quality being my most central concern. I feel strongly that my extensive background in the area of atmospheric chemistry will enable me to excel and distinguish myself in your program at U of X and make valuable contributions to collegial discussions. I look forward to giving my all to help advance some of the extremely impressive research taking place at University of XXXX; particularly since I am highly proficient in the use of advanced laboratory analysis and computer modeling.

These past five years at the XXXX Institute and XXXX University in Germany have helped me to make great advancement as a scientist, thinking in increasingly complex and creative ways about the ‘burning’ issues of our day with respect to air quality and marine chemistry. I have rapidly been arriving at a high level of expertise in the analysis of many complex chemical and physical interactions of atmospheric and marine compounds with special attention to the sea surface microlayer. Through the carefully coordinated use of both laboratory studies and computer modeling techniques - including microlayer software and CMAQ air quality models – my work has also helped me to make rapid advancement in my communication skills as a scientist, learning how to convey complex chemical and physical concepts as they relate to other academic disciplines; my writing skills have been honed as a result of assiduous attention to constantly improving my own written results, and peer reviews. In addition to acquiring additional research experience here at XXXX University, I now also have vast experience processing large volumes of gridded data, including spatial and temporal subsetting and field extraction.  I became especially skilled at XXXX not only in using statistical methods and using programming tools like Matlab and Python for the interpretation and analysis of large temporal and spatial scientific datasets, as well as the preparation of scientific documents for publication.

My years spent at the University of XXXX (2004 – 2009) and XXXX University (1999 – 2003) were also among the most productive years of my life as a research scientist and I seek to build on this experience as well at the University of XXXX. In these positions, I had the invaluable experience not only of engaging in intensive research for a number of years but also supervising and assessing students in laboratory, data analysis techniques, and the write up of scientific strategies, reports and materials. I was able to demonstrate expertise in the modification, synthesis, purification and characterization of environmental compounds using techniques such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography, Gas Chromatography, and Mass Spectrometry. I became most adept at producing simulations and diagnosis of particulate matter predictions and a wide verity of pollution sources, their fate and transport through professional use of CMAQ-MADRID air quality modeling software, SMOKE, MM5, MCIP, Flexpart, E-AIM, Pave, SigmaPlot, and MOCCA. I look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate my abilities in this regard at the University of Toronto. Finally, I feel strongly that I am a good fit for your program since much of my research in Atmospheric Chemistry and air quality at York University followed by University of XXXX was focused specifically on Southern Ontario and, therefore, is especially relevant across North America. I thank you for considering my application to your distinguished and competitive program in Environmental Sciences.

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Great Accomplishments in Environmental Science

Humanity’s greatest environmental successes somehow seem like a dot in a sea of atrocities, but they are worth celebrating to motivate us to go on.

After Decimation, There’s Hope for Brazil's Forests

Brazil's Atlantic Forest (or Mata Atlantica), is home to twenty-nine critically endangered vertebrates, and holds the world's highest concentration of tree species per acre. Of this precious forest, over 90% of the original 330 million acres was torn down.

However, thanks to conservation and restoration efforts, twenty-six percent of the total area has been reforested since November of 1999, according to the Global Restoration Network.

Now, many species of formerly endangered birds and mammals, including leopards and pumas, are returning to the Atlantic Forest region.

The Cuyahoga River: Fish Run Through It

Ohio's Cuyahoga River, the polluted mess that has caught fire at least 10 times since the late 1800s and is notorious for erupting into flames in 1969, now supports more than 60 species of fish—as well as beavers and birds, in places that were once all but devoid of life. The exact cause of the 1969 fire was unconfirmed, but people believe sparks from a passing train ignited an oil slick in a nearby river.

Few environmental regulations existed in the late nineteenth century: Cleveland was already known as a polluted manufacturing center at that time, mainly due to a booming steel industry.

The 1969 incident is credited with building momentum for the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, both federally and in the state of Ohio, also helped.

The Ohio EPA worked to clean up the river in the following decades. The water quality has improved dramatically--so much so that in the late nineties, Cuyahoga was recognized as one of 14 American Heritage Rivers.

Life is Occasionally Sweet Under the Sea

Despite the tough odds that coral reefs face: pollution, overfishing, and climate change among them, they may not be faring as badly as many biologists had feared.

Some estimates predict that seventy percent of the world's coral reefs will be gone by 2050, and bleaching events—which occur when reefs lose the algae they need for survival—have already killed off large percentages of coral populations around the world.

However, recent studies have shown that coral is recovering both in the Great Barrier Reef and off the coast of Tanzania. This improvement is attributed to better management of fisheries, the use of less harmful equipment, and commercial fishing restrictions by researchers. Scientists were also surprised to find that the reef in Tanzania was able to adapt to warmer water temperatures. Sometimes, nature is more resilient than we think. Nevertheless, we need to stop testing it, don’t we?

Baldy Back from the Brink

The bald eagle was nearly extinct in the continental U.S. by the late 20th century. However, the population has stabilized since then, primarily due to habitat protection and a ban on DDT, an insecticide that weakened the birds' eggs so much that the eagles could not produce viable offspring.

In June of 2007, after researchers measured 10,000 nesting pairs—up from the 417 found in 1963—the eagle was officially delisted as an endangered species.

Strict protective measures are still in place. Any intentional effort to kill or harm a bald eagle is a now federal crime.

London Smog is Falling Down

As recently as 30 years ago, England was still heavily polluted by industrial chemicals. But the air quality has improved dramatically in the last 25 years. This is largely because of well-enforced government regulations, reduced industrial output, closure of coal-fired power stations, and the switch to central heating from coal stoves.

A study last year by Britain's National Physical Laboratory showed a 70 percent reduction in the average levels of all the heavy metals that were tested, including lead, iron, and copper at 17 sites around the country.

A Natural Oil Spill Solution: Mushrooms

On November 7, 2007, the Cosco Busan oil spill dumped more than 50,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay, affecting some 56 miles of shoreline.

But a local organization, Matter of Trust, teamed up with Fungi Perfecti, a company that finds functional uses of mushrooms for people and the planet, to experiment with mycoremediation, a process that uses fungus to remove contaminants from soil.

The researchers discovered that mushroom roots produce enzymes that normally serve the fungus by unlocking wood fibers. They are made of strings of carbon-hydrogen molecules: oil is held together by the same molecular bonds, which the mushroom can break into sugars. Using this process, the mycoremediation team was able to successfully clean up the majority of the spilled oil using just mushrooms!

What advances are environmental scientists going to come up with next to save our planet? Are you hoping to join them? Or be that person who discovers the key to our survival?