Academic Cover Letter Samples

When applying for a academic position as a researcher, lecturer or for a fellowship, a cover letter is usually required to accompany your CV. Stating your particular interest in the role, and showing how your experience enables you to excel at the job, is the aim of a successful cover letter. They can be one of the most important parts of your application, giving the recipient an idea of who you are and what your relevant expertise is. Essentially, it's the first impression an institution will have of you, so it's important to get it right.

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Academic cover letter samples

There are many things you can include in a cover letter. For more information on this, check out our Sample Motivation Letter for Your PhD Application Insight. Included are some tips on what to include in - you guessed it - your PhD application, but these are often applicable across a range of motivation letters. These include things like:

  • Showing your personality
  • Giving specific examples of work and achievements
  • Focusing on your skills
  • Including your future plans

This list obviously isn't exhaustible and will vary depending on what you're applying for; however, they're a good benchmark for what should be included in a letter of motivation. Below are sample academic cover letters for three purposes: applying for a research role, for a teaching role, and for a fellowship.

Sample cover letter for a research position

I am writing to apply for the postdoctoral position in marine biology in the Department of Life Sciences. Having recently completed my PhD in biology, I am excited for the opportunity to join the world-renounced research team at the University of Leipzig.

My primary research interests are migration behaviours in marine creatures, and in my current research I use methods including statistical modelling and field observations. My aim is for my research to form a bridge between modelling and field work approaches. I am therefore particularly attracted to the University of Leipzig as a department which values a research using a wide range of methodologies, and which offers the chance for collaboration with colleagues in other life sciences fields.

Working in research in both Germany and abroad has given me a network of potential collaborators and have experience in international projects. I have found bringing together researchers from different fields to be particularly beneficial, and my interdisciplinary background has provided me with effective communication skills across a diverse range of groups. I am keen to continue collaborating with researchers from other disciplines in order to better understand complex issues.

Furthermore, I have experience with the supervision of Bachelor's students, and with teaching undergraduate courses such as An Introduction to Oceanography, for which I received excellent feedback. I find the nurturing of students in order to realise their best potential to be a greatly rewarding aspect of teaching work and I am thus interesting in taking on teaching as well as research.

I have three publications from my doctoral project, covering a broad range of scholarly interests. These papers are currently in the submission process for high-ranked peer-reviewed journals.

I wish to acquire third-party funding to support my research in the future, and to that end I am preparing applications for the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) fellowship and the Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship. As a member of the committees which applied for extensions of funding from the German research foundation for both my graduate school and my university institution, I have experience with large-scale funding applications, both of which were successful in securing further funding.

I am enthusiastic about the possibility of working at the University of Leipzig. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

Sample cover letter for a teaching position

I am applying for the role of lecturer in psychology at the University of Hamburg. I completed a PhD on the topic of how stressful life events effect decision making at University College London. Since then I have been working in a postdoctoral role in the neurology department at the Charité Hospital Berlin. The primary topics I teach are neuropsychology, rehabilitation after brain injury, and the social impact of stress, with additional experience in the teaching of neuroscience.

My teaching philosophy is to promote independent thought and critical reasoning skills in my students by encouraging them to discuss and debate. For example, in my Neural Decision Making course, each student is required to learn a topic and present it briefly to the other students once per lesson. This not only challenges the presenting student to convey the material accurately and concisely, but also aids the understanding of the other students in the class. Similarly, three times per semester I organise debate classes in which the class is split into groups which must defend a contested position in the field. Encouraging students to consider perspectives which are contentious and with which they may not agree challenges them to think beyond their current knowledge and to explore alternative perspectives.

This teaching style has been successful in engaging students and holding their interest. I am happy to have received strong positive feedback from students on my teaching, and one of my classes was selected by the student newspaper as being in its top ten courses at my previous university. I also have experience co-supervising students in Bachelor's and Master’s psychology programs, from which I gained skills in project management and supporting students academically.

My current research is on the relationship between priming and decision making, examining the degree to which value assessments are influenced by non-verbal primes. I have five publications on this topic, each published in high-impact journals. I am keen to continue this research at the University of Hamburg, given its expertise in decision making and its strong neuroscience community.

I enjoy supporting students from diverse backgrounds and those who have followed non-traditional career paths. I believe that the strength of a discipline comes from hearing a wide range of viewpoints. I am excited to pass the experience I have received on to other students who are supporting themselves through work while studying, who may have family commitments, or come from a non-traditional academic background. The possibility of teaching students and continuing my research at the University of Hamburg is something I am enthusiastic about. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sample cover letter for a fellowship

In response to your advertised opportunity for a fellowship in experimental psychology from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, I am writing to you to express my interest in this fellowship.

My PhD research included paradigms from experimental psychology alongside innovative interview techniques for assessing personality disorder traits. I believe combing knowledge from disparate disciplines can be uniquely effective in building new models for understanding complex phenomena such as mental disorders. I am therefore particularly attracted to the Alexander von Humboldt foundation as a organisation which promotes interdisciplinary, unusual and innovative approaches to research.

I have a truly interdisciplinary background, having studied psychiatry and neurology as well as psychology. I currently hold a postdoctoral scholarship at the University of Munich, where I perform research into the assessment and classification of personality disorders. Having worked with a broad range of methods including interviews, reaction time measures, subliminal stimuli detection, and theoretical work., I have bee in frequent contact with both clinicians and empirical scientists, and I have experience in presenting to and learning from specialists from a wide variety of specialities within psychology. For example, I co-organised the Constructs of Personality Disorders conferences in 2018 which included psychologists, philosophers and psychiatrists as part of an interdisciplinary working group.

My recent research has focused on using interview methods to categorise and classify the rates of personal disorder symptoms within the general population. Having found evidence of higher-than-expected rates of symptoms within certain groups, particularly younger people, I was inspired to design further experiments to investigate this intriguing result. My background in both psychology and psychiatry makes me ideally suited for this work. I am confident in my abilities to design and run experimental projects, having worked independently throughout my PhD on a project of my own design. I also demonstrated an ability to run projects to strict deadlines by completing my PhD within 36 months, and completing three manuscripts for papers during this time.

Thank you for considering me. I am excited for this opportunity to undertake a fellowship with the Alexander von Humboldt foundation and I look forward to hearing from you.

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