Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Writing to ask for a job

Yeah, I know, even the neurotypical folk don't like doing this. I'm fairly sure that hours spent staring at a blank word document because I don't even know how to start, followed by staring at the scaffold someone gave me having no clue how to build on it, then finally getting somewhere when a friend who gets my cognitive issues asked me questions one by one to help me build on it and then walking me through editing is more than most people need.

Qualitative differences, they are a thing. Also, "I have a cognitive issue that means I can't actually do this independently" is different from "I really don't like doing this."

But with help, I got it done-ish (yay!) and my friend was cool with my putting the results of the help here, so here it is.

First off, here's the scaffold that's pretty much what he gave me.

my name is flap
you do research
it's actually a lot like the research I wrote my final paper on.
I want do research.
I have done research before in US.
Hire me.

Then he asked me a pile of questions that he knew could get me to elaborate. It's still not really a letter, but there's content now!

my name is Alyssa.

you do research and development of dye-sensitized solar cells.
it's actually a lot like the research I wrote my final paper on: quantum-dot sensitized solar cells. It uses similar properties, just using a different tiny particle.I talked about improving the efficiency of quantum dot sensitized solar cells.A lot of the research in the quantum dot ones uses the research on dye ones as a starting point!but not everything is the same. dye likes high temp, not so much quantum dots. 
I want do research. SCIENCE! I want to do nanotechnology research long-term, and this is pretty much doing nanotechnology research now.
I've been interested in nanotechnology since I was ten or so, reading Science News. Took longer to figure out that I can  do nanotechnology research myself, but yay cool thing!
Making solar cells better is specifically important because saving the environment is important.
Combining "important research" and "this is just REALLY COOL" makes a good combination as far as things I want to do go. 
I have done research before in US. I worked on making gold-coated liposomes. I worked under [professor] in mechanical engineering @ [school] and [another professor] in chemical engineering @ [school]. 
I applied for and got a small grant from the universities undergraduate research initiative.Another undergrad is currently working on the project while I'm away.
We took pictures using an electron microscope and we do seem to have shells.
Um... the shells are applicable to a bunch of things potentially, including targetted cancer treatment. 
I've done research before and was good at it, see above.
I can read a lot and there's a lot of reading involved in doing science. I am good at numbers and computers and following written directions, and I have experience in writing the directions for experiments as well 
Science is a thing I'm generally good at.
Complementary language abilities is a thing, but [current program] might get pissy at me for pointing it out. (Both of us can read the relevant stuff in English or in Chinese, but English is my native language and Chinese is his, so that's potentially useful? Hire me.

Finally, he helped me connect and edit stuff. This is the step where I came closest to doing it myself, but I did need some help.

Dear Professor Wang,
I am writing to ask about doing research in your lab this semester regarding your work in dye-sensitized solar cells. It's in a similar area to my final paper topic from your class, improved efficiency for quantum-dot sensitized solar cells, and much of the reasearch I looked at mentioned relationships between the two. I'm interested in research within nanotechnology, and have done research before at [school] under [professor] (Mechanical Engineering) and [other professor] (Chemical Engineering.) There, I worked on growing a gold nanolayer onto liposomes and successfully applied for the undergraduate research initiative grant. The early results have been promising and I have been asked to return to their lab upon my return to [location of school]. As an experienced research assistant, I think I could be helpful in your work on nanocrystals and their applications. The fact that I am bilingual in English and Chinese may prove useful in that I can read research in either language. I hope to hear back from you soon about this research opportunity and am happy to provide references upon request.
Alyssa [last name]
The last step was to translate it into Chinese... that never actually happened... but my program made the contacts and found me another person to do research under, who I'm meeting with tomorrow compared to my writing this and about a week ago compared to when this posts.

Language proficiency is not the reason this didn't get translated, by the way. I'm not 100% sure what the reason set was, but language proficiency is not the issue. I've translated tougher stuff before, and I've written tougher stuff directly in Chinese as well.


  1. This post was super helpful for me to be honest. I also struggle with writing things like this. I have a really difficult time with positively describing myself, my abilities, and my accomplishments. Thank you for posting the process for writing a letter like this.

  2. That AccountKiller post was me. I should be signed in now with a valid profile.

  3. Layers and layers of processing...thank you. I can pen poetry but practical applicable employment needs get me all confused. I just did a resume and I can write a letter but a cover letter asking for a job and highlighting ME? You did GREAT. Thank you.

  4. This is so very useful! Cover letter writing is one of my least favorite things ever....