Hey all, currently I am trying to apply for MSc Neuroscience, I really need your help with that. That's my first attempt. Just tell me how could I improve my motivational letter :) Thank you in advance! :)

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to you to express my interest in applying for the MRes Neuroscience with specialization in sensory-motor systems at Newcastle University, scheduled to start in September 2014. I appreciate this opportunity and I would like to provide further information in support of my application.

Why Neuroscience
I am a graduate of the University of Leeds with a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science. One of the reasons for this choice was the fact that I was born with a severe disability (infant cerebral paralysis) that I miraculously overcame. The treatment has shown me the potential that sport and medicine has. After school I wanted to relate my future with rehabilitation, so that I too could have an opportunity to create “miracles” for others. Sport Science appeared to be a perfect fit.

However, the course was not what I imagined it to be. I was struggling to find motivation for my studies and I felt that studying Sport Science was not getting me closer to my goals. Fortunately, my degree contained a few modules in neuroscience that were enough to pique my interest in the subject. I still remember a particular lecture by Dr. Ronaldo Ichiyama. He was presenting his research on complete spinal cord transection in rats. I was absolutely fascinated with the ways in which the spinal cord can reorganize itself thereby adapting to various injuries. That sounded a lot more like what I had in mind when coming to university and in turn made my future plans, like the choice of the final year project, much clearer.

My final project was focused on incomplete spinal cord injury at the thoracic level, followed with epidural stimulation or locomotor training. That was the first study that looked at how rehabilitation influences perineuronal nets. The findings were absolutely fascinating - it showed that rehabilitation helps to reduce the thickness of perineuronal nets around alpha motoneurones, thereby mediating neuronal plasticity. I absolutely loved the project and I want to continue research on spinal cord injury.

Research Interests
I would like to further explore the underlying mechanisms of SC reorganisation, e.g. the role that sensory information and certain brain structures (motor cortex, cerebellum, and brain stem) have on spinal motor circuits. A project in this area would make a great PhD for me but I feel that my background is not strong enough yet. A Master’s degree would be an ideal stepping stone in my academic career and would provide me with necessary skills to pursue further research. Afterwards, my aim is to work on the restoration of spinal motor function following an injury.

I would like to introduce one of my ideas that could become a project. I want to look into the corticospinal tract (CST), one of the main descending motor pathways that is responsible for voluntary movements. This area intrigues me because the project would be challenging - currently little is known about how the proprioceptive afferents’ responses are affected by the loss of CST connections due to SCI and how it affects the sensorimotor circuits in the spinal cord. Chakrabarty et al.(2012) have shown that selective CST injury promotes proprioceptive afferents’ sprouting into grey matter regions from the spared side of SC, causing hyperreflexia. I would like to further explore this phenomena, looking at physiological and biochemical changes in the lumbar SC circuitry as well as the effects that locomotor training might induce (since the cord is able to activate and reorganize its circuitry through interaction with physical environment).

Why Newcastle
Newcastle university is a great candidate for the continuation of my studies. Its Institute of Neuroscience is interested in both fundamental research on nervous systems and clinical research across a wide range of disorders. This means that the institute employs specialists in various areas of neuroscience, which is vital for a quality study programme.

Also, MRes Neuroscience contains both taught elements and a research project. Such an arrangement is ideal for me since the taught modules would help to expand my knowledge whereas the project would add to my research experience.

In addition to that, some papers on neural plasticity and regeneration of the nervous system by Gawin Clowry have caught my attention. I like the fact that he is looking at things that I am interested in (i.e. sensorimotor system, the plasticity of the corticospinal system in response to lesions). Having the possibility to work in a faculty with such like-minded people would be extremely valuable to me, since qualified guidance is very important for aspiring students.

With all that in mind, I am confident in my choice. I think that your university would provide me with exactly the kind of education that I am looking for. In addition to that, my Master’s project would be in an area that your team is active in and would hopefully contribute to your work in some way.

Skills Profile
I am very organised in all areas of life. This helps me to split work into parts and set preliminary deadlines for myself. Such techniques were especially handy when I encountered several setbacks in my final year project: an order of certain antibodies was late, one of the microscopes broke down and took weeks to get repaired, some other equipment was in high demand and had to be booked weeks in advance. While these problems did slow me down, none of them stopped me from finishing my work on time and scoring the highest Upper 2nd class honours mark for my dissertation.

In addition to that, I have chosen a rather sparsely researched topic for my project, both as a form of challenge and in order to make a bigger contribution. I feel that challenging work engages me more and, as mentioned previously , I intend to work in less explored areas of neuroscience in my further studies as well.

My perseverance and grit was formed during the long years of daily swimming practice and good results made me ambitious. I am the Lithuanian champion in the 4×200m freestyle relay and received numerous awards in other events: e.g. podium finishes in 7-8km regional cross-country races. In relay races athletes compete in teams of 4 and this has taught me how to work in a team and feel responsibility not only for myself but for others too.

In addition to competing as a swimmer, I was a judge as well. The organizers trusted me to watch the most important lane, since it is essential to measure potential champion’s time correctly, and I am known to take my responsibilities seriously.

I am honoured to have my application reviewed by your university. I know that the programme is very competitive and only a select few students get the opportunity to study neuroscience in Newcastle. I believe that I am one of them and I hope that my application has reflected my mentality, achievements and aspirations well.

Once again, I am grateful for considering my application and I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely yours,