How to Write a Scientific Cover Letter

You can exhibit pride in your achievements without being boastful.

You can exhibit pride in your achievements without being boastful.

You might be a medical or agricultural scientist or a forensic or atmospheric scientist. Or you might have chosen another specialty in which you have devoted your life’s work to scientific exploration and discovery. Whatever your specific calling, you no doubt value precision and accuracy, and these are important skills to bring to the task of writing a cover letter. If working with words is not your forte, think of it this way: Writing is akin to working in science insofar as you develop a smart strategy and follow it by demonstrating attention to detail. To write a successful cover letter, tout your achievements because doing so will help you stand out among other scientists in your field.

Place the job description under a proverbial microscope and highlight key words and phrases, especially under headings such as “job responsibilities” and “personal attributes.” Without copying the words verbatim, let them guide you in tailoring your cover letter.

Choose a professional font for your letter, such as Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman. Type your name in a larger font – such as 16- or 18- point – and your contact information below in smaller font, such as 14-point. Use either an 11- or 12-point font for the text of your letter. You may choose a different font for the text of your letter, but limit the number of fonts on the page to two. Set your margins flush-left.

Address the hiring manager or personnel director by her full name and use a formal salutation, such as “Dear Ms. Stevens.” If the intended recipient is not listed in the job description, call the company to get this information.

Open your letter on a confident note and one that refers to your scientific experience. For example, you might say, “As a medical scientist with 12 years of experience at (summarize the organizations), I believe I could make many contributions and help advance the research efforts of the scientific team at Fermi Lab.”

Summarize your professional experience by highlighting your achievements. Explain the types of projects you have worked on and their greater meaning, being specific. If you have written white papers or research reports that summarize your work, include the titles and explain where the hiring manager may access them.

Describe your attributes, using the job description as a prompt but using your own words to convey honesty and sincerity. You might say that you're thorough and tenacious or that you communicate easily with members of a research team. Then give an example by citing a short anecdote so that the hiring manager paints a mental picture of you and how you approach your work.

List your educational credentials, including your college degrees and any other professional designations. Include workshops or training sessions that you believe have enhanced your skills.

Express your confidence that your references would attest to your professional and personal attributes. Refer also to your enclosed resume. Express your hope that the hiring manager will review your materials within a few days, before you call to follow up with her. Thank the hiring manager for her time and consideration and use a formal closing -- “Sincerely” – before typing and signing your full name.

Proofread and edit your letter so that it is flawless before you send it.

Tips

  • Including a recommendation letter with your resume and references could bolster your chances of securing an interview.
  • Some organizations may ask for a “letter of intent” or a “letter of interest.” These terms are used interchangeably with “cover letter.”
 

About the Author

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

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