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Wellcome Fellowship Application Personal Statement

4-Year PhD programme application

If you would like to apply to the 4-year PhD Programme at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, please complete the on-line application form below. Sections which are required are marked with a "Req". If a required question does not apply to you, please enter 'n/a' in the response box. Please note this is not an application for admission to the University of Cambridge.

The closing date for applications to the Wellcome Sanger Institute's 4-year PhD Programme for the 2018 intake is Sunday 3rd December (23:59 GMT).

You will need to upload your University transcript(s) as PDF files as part of the application process, see the 'How to apply/FAQ' sections for more information. You will also need to complete sections on your research interests (max 200 words), relevant work experience (max 200 words) and a personal statement (max 400 words).

Note: At any stage in the process you can bookmark the URL/unique identifier (created after completing the first page) and use this to return to your application.

Once you have submitted your completed application form you will receive a confirmation email and your chosen referees will receive an email asking them to submit an on-line reference for you. Please ensure that you have provided their correct institutional email address and they have agreed to provide a reference for you. It is your responsibility to ensure your referees have submitted their reference by Sunday 10th December (23:59 GMT). When a referee has submitted their reference, both you and the referee will receive an email confirmation. Please note that without references your application will not be processed.

One of the parts of many grant and fellowship applications that can cause trouble is the personal statement. Often, a funder will explain what they want to see in the personal statement, which can give you some guidelines, but it’s still a difficult kind of writing. Here are some tips for thinking about how to approach it.

1. Of course, read all of the funder’s instructions. If they tell you, for example, that they want the personal statement to contain a summary of your research experience, a brief outline of your career goals, and a discussion of how the proposed project will help you achieve those goals, then obviously you need to include those. Make sure, as you think about these things, that you are also keeping in mind the aims of the funder or the funding program itself. You can use some of their keywords to connect your goals to theirs. Do they talk about mentorship? pedagogy? furthering research in a particular area? Hopefully you’ve already thought about how your project connects with their goals (and will include this information in your project proposal), but you can also connect your own career and experience with them in the personal statement.

2. If your application asks for an open-ended personal statement, you’ll want to think about similar questions. What are your career goals? How does this project fit in with those goals? What experiences have you had that made you interested in this field? What experiences have you had that have prepared you for this project? Again, try to connect some of this with the funder’s own interests. You don’t have to overdo it, just remind them gently that your interests are compatible with theirs.

3. Tell a story. It’s not a complete autobiography–unless it’s relevant you’re not going to start with your birth, childhood, early education, etc. It is, however, something of a professional autobiography. How and why you are who you are professionally, related to this research or writing project. Where you want to go next, and how. You get to write not only about your past, but about how you see your future, and how this grant will help you get there. You don’t have to (or want to) repeat what’s on your CV in a narrative form. The readers will have that information. So find aspects of your work, research, experience, that don’t show up on the CV but influence who you are as a scholar, researcher, or instructor. This story should complement the information from your CV.

4. Find an angle. This is partly related to telling a story. You want there to be some focus, some hook that gets people interested in the story and keeps them interested while you go along.

5. Be specific. Give examples. Show, don’t tell. All those things we learn about good writing. Again, this is where you can go into more depth about your experiences and goals than in the CV, so take advantage of that, and get deeper into your topic.

6. Be positive. This isn’t about your current lack of funding–it’s about what you are going to do in the future, your research, your writing, your teaching. Along with this goes a stylistic note: use declarative sentences and active verbs that show that you are *doing* things. Instead of “my research focuses on” try “I research.” Instead of “I am currently not able to… because I have no funding,” look forward “With this grant I will be able to…”

7. Be relevant. Make sure that if you have an anecdote, it relates to your goal. If you talk about your identity (whatever aspects) it should be something that relates to the research, the motivation, the grant opportunity. You probably have a really limited amount of space. Don’t waste it! Make sure everything contributes to the story you are telling about yourself and your research.

8. Proofread! If you’re not a native speaker of the language you’re applying in, get help from a native speaker with excellent writing skills. Get your friends to look over it. Trade with another student doing grant applications. Ask your advisor.

9. It might seem impossible after all the other advice, but be yourself. As a graduate student you’re developing a professional persona for yourself. It’s the essential you, or at least the version that is appropriate for professional situations. You should feel comfortable with what you’ve written, and agree with the picture that your writing paints of you as a person.


For more advice, check out some of the following resources:

Make sure you also read through the funder’s website. In addition to specific guidelines, many funders include samples of successful applications- check out the personal statements and see what they’re like!


This entry was posted in Applying, Fellowships, Grants, International Students, Internships, Master's, Postdoctoral, Pre-Dissertation, Scholarships, Uncategorized on by astrowe.

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