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17. Sample Cover Letter Drafts and comments

Module by: Dr. Sujata Krishna. E-mail the author

Below are 3 sample draft cover letters with suggested improvements in red:

Chair, Faculty Search Committee

Systems Biology Theme

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

University of Wisconsin-Madison


Dear Chair of the Faculty Search Committee,

I am writing in regards to the posting on your department webpage for tenure-track positions (change to "I would like to apply for the position of Assistant Professor of Systems Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:. I am currently finishing my Ph.D. in ___ at ___ under the supervision of Professor ___ in the Department of ___ and Professor ___ in the ___ Department. My research is in the area of computational phylogenetics and my thesis presents a new class of methods for simultaneous estimation of phylogenies and alignments on large datasets. Both alignments and phylogenies are used by researchers to address many different problems, including the origin of life, epidemiology, proteomics, and biomedical research. The new methods created by my research can analyze datasets with thousands of sequences in just a few days on a standard desktop computer while producing much more accurate alignments and trees than any other method to date, especially on the most difficult-to-align and fastest-evolving datasets. The exponential growth in available sequence data from next-generation sequencing and greater taxonomic sampling in today's phylogenetic studies demand such accurate, large-scale methods. In the near future, I plan to build on this research by creating methods capable of accurate and scalable analysis of even larger datasets with up to a million sequences. This represents a new direction from my current lab and will allow me to apply for independent research support from …. (list agencies).

I have taught both as a teaching assistant and a research supervisor. As a teaching assistant for Professor ___'s graduate special topics course, I assisted several students with their semester projects in computational phylogenetics. As a research supervisor, I have guided the research of three sets of students: I supervised a chemistry undergraduate student from a Historically Black College/University on a semester project related to simultaneous estimation of alignments and phylogenies, two computer science undergraduate students at the University of ___ on a research project investigating a recently published multiple sequence alignment method, and a biomedical engineering undergraduate student at the University of ___ on a research project investigating maximum likelihood estimation of phylogenies. I plan on continuing this interplay between teaching and research in the future.

Add a paragraph discussing: (1) which of the departments listed in the ad you would best fit and why. Which of their faculty you would interact with. What contributions would you like to make to the courses they offer or what new courses would you like to develop.

I have enclosed my curriculum vitae, research statement, teaching statement, and list of references. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, ------------------------------------End of First Letter ------------------


1 Baylor College of Medicine

Houston, Texas 77030


March 16, 2012

Virginia Bioinformatics Institute

Virginia Tech

Washington Street, MC 0477

Blacksburg, VA 24061

Dear Members of the Committee:

I am writing to apply for the position o Assistant Professor in the Virginia Bioinformatices Institute.. I completed my PhD in Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics from Baylor College of Medicine in May 2012. My research training was in a setting that employed highly translational aspects working closely with physicians and at times directly impacting clinical care. I strongly believe I would bring a set of highly desirable skills (list and define these skills) to this position at Virginia Tech.

My thesis project focused on analyzing epigenetic variations and integration with other platforms of genetic information. The disease of interest was osteosarcoma, the most common malignant bone cancer in adolescents. One of the important aspects of the project involved correlating genetic with clinical information, and a large factor on the success of this project depended on the accuracy of the clinical data acquired. The goal of my project was to improve upon the current method of diagnosing osteosarcoma patients through deciphering the relationship between genetic abnormalities and prognosis of patients. The hope was that earlier more informative diagnosis by physicians based on genomic and proteomics profiling will improve prognosis for high-risk patients. Reword this paragraph to emphasize what you accomplished rather than what you tried to accomplish. How has the field advanced because of your work. Then state how you plan to develop this work in the future in novel directions so that you do not end up competing with your current lab.

My training has made me familiar with the multitude of technological challenges including development of tools for large scale data analysis and translation of medical information into informed decisions by physicians while still considering the rapidly expanding field of genomic medicine.

Address each and every one of the "Required Qualifications" listed in the ad to demonstrate that you possess ALL these qualifications and thus should be considered a strong contender for the position.

Discuss which faculty you would interact with if you joined their Institute (note that they want someone collaborative).

I would be delighted to discuss this position with you in the coming weeks. I am enclosing my Curriculum Vitae, and letters of recommendation will arrive under separate cover. If you require any additional information, I would be happy to supply it. Thank you for your consideration.


XXXXX -------------------End of Second Letter -----------------------------

< My name>< My address >

March 16, 2012

Alexa McCray, Ph.D.

10 Shattuck StreetCenter for Biomedical InformaticsBoston, MA 02115

Dear Dr. McCray, Search Committee:

I wish to apply for the position of Assistant Professor in the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School. I find the focus of this position – biomedical informatics, specifically bioinformatics, entailing independent and collaborative research – to be compelling and very compatible with my training. The theme of my research has been the development and application of computational methods to analyze cancer sequence data in order to identify novel disease gene variants, with the paradigm (underlying the methods) of integrating germline and somatic variation. This work was performed under the supervision of Dr. Itsik Pe’er during my doctoral years at Columbia University, from which I graduated in 2011 with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Informatics. I continued and expanded this work during my postdoctoral time as a Keck Fellow in the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine, under the joint supervision of Dr. David Wheeler and Dr. Richard Gibbs.

The computational methods I have developed are statistical in nature while remaining anchored in biological principles. To explore whether there are nucleotide alleles at particular sites selected for somatic amplification across tumors, we developed the Amplification Distortion Test (ADT) and reported its description and evaluation in Bioinformatics. With our collaborators, we applied ADT towards single nucleotide polymorphism array data from 178 glioblastoma samples obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and reported interesting hits, along with implicated genes EGFR and DOCK4, in our PLoS Genetics paper. In order to enable the application of ADT towards next-generation tumor sequence data, we developed our HMM-based method Haplotype Amplification in Tumor Sequences (HATS), which calls the amplified haplotype within regions of somatic copy number gain that are called a priori, for example, by array comparative genomic hybridization. Such local phasing may help identify gene variants within or near tumor amplicons, upon which further downstream analysis (e.g. ADT) can be conducted. Our manuscript that formally describes and evaluates HATS is published in Genome Research. I have currently been working to extend HATS to handle a larger variety of tumor variant scenarios, including better accuracy in the case of bi-allelic changes as well as handling deletions.

This work provides me the strong foundation I need to be productive in the role of Assistant Professor. At Harvard, I wish to continue independent research as I grow my lab as well as continue fostering collaborative relationships with other researchers in the area, as I had done with my earlier work. Please describe the INDEPENDENT research that you propose to do and how this will differ from that being conducted by your previous mentors so that you do not end up competing with them. (the deleted sentence is so vague that it is not helpful.. For example, the resulting discoveries of causal variants can be used to aid physicians in the screening of patients for such genetic risk factors, potentially aiding the diagnosis procedure. Furthermore, the screens themselves could be adapted to reflect variants identified by my (and others’) research. Lastly, genetic variants identified in patients could indicate effectiveness or adverse effects of drug treatments, thus guiding prognosis or therapeutic strategies by the physician. While these benefits have already existed in medical practice, they have done so in a targeted fashion. The wave of recent cancer genetics research, of which my work is a part, will offer such information on a genome-wide scale, potentially boosting the extent of personalized medicine in the future. My research work can thus interface with the other aspects of Biomedical Informatics, such as clinical or public health informatics. Rephrase the above paragraph to emphasize what you actually plan to work on.

Add a paragraph discussing why you would fit in well in their department and specifically what faculty do you see yourself collaborating with.

I am excited by the prospect of being a faculty member at the Center for Biomedical Informatics and feel that I would be a good fit. Furthermore, I enjoy teaching and possess experience via Teaching Assistantship positions over the years (expand this sentence to describe your teaching experience - what have you taught and in what format).. I have enclosed a CV with references, as well as descriptions of current and future research programs, as requested. Please let me know what would be the next steps. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.


< My signature>

< Phone and email contact info >


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