Emailing a Professor

Getting Started

  • Professors are extremely busy. Some get hundreds of emails a week, meaning they may not be able to get back to you immediately.
  • Expect to have to reach out to multiple professors before securing a meeting with one. This is not uncommon!
  • Do your background research and understand the professor's specific research interests before composing an email. Let them know specifically why you are interested in working with them.
  • Convey your qualifications for the research by speaking to how your specific experiences will help you be a successful researcher. Don't worry if you don't have previous research experience - you can talk about classes you've taken, lab experiments you've done, volunteer work, etc. 
  • If appropriate, feel free to send along a resume as well. 

Example Email Template

Dear Professor Smith –

        Quick introduction… name, major, what are your goals?

        I am interested in your work because

        Specifically, I was wondering these questions…

        If you are willing to meet, these are the times I’m free...

Thanks,

Your name

 

Sample Email

Dear Professor Smith –

My name is John Doe and I am a Fish and Wildlife major here at OSU. Last summer, I had an internship with NOAA and got some great experience looking at rates of decline of certain whale species. I’m extremely interested in your research because you are using state-of-the art techniques to explore questions of population abundance. I would love an opportunity to join your research team and explore how molecular ecology can be used to answer these, and other, important ecological questions.

If you are willing to meet, I am available Mondays from 2-5, Tuesdays from 10-12 and Thursday from 8-11. 

Thanks,

John

The Waiting Game

  • Don’t be afraid to follow up in a week or so if you haven’t received a response from the professor.
    • Tip: Instead of sending a new email, simply reply to your initial email so the professor knows what you’re referring to.
  • Consider going to office hours if you’re not getting a response. This way, the professor is guaranteed to be there. Sometimes this can be a better way of getting connecting with the professor.

Setting Up the Meeting

  • If possible, set up the meeting during the professor's office hours.
  • If you're scheduling a meeting over email, send your availability for at least a week to avoid having to send multiple emails back and forth, delaying the process.
    • Sending a picture of your schedule can also be an effective way of doing this.

Meeting with a Professor

Preparing for The Meeting

  • Do your research! Be familiar with the professor’s previous work and the work they may be doing now. Explore Google Scholar and their faculty webpage on their departmental website. Many professors have their publications listed on their faculty page.
  • While most meetings are not structured like formal interviews, it would still be best to have a couple of responses ready for questions that are often asked in this setting [What makes you qualified for this position? Why should I select you over the other qualified applicants?].
    This may be more common if applying for structured programs or student jobs.
  • Be prepared to provide a brief oral resume stating your previous experiences. Try your best to connect those experiences to the work you would do as a researcher.
  • Make a good first impression by dressing business casual for your meeting.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell yourself!

At the Meeting

  • Upon arriving to the professor’s office, greet them by shaking their hand and introducing yourself. Feel free to ask them how their day is going. This is an opportunity to get a sense of the professor’s mood and how well they communicate with students.
  • Slightly lean forward in your chair and nod while the professor is speaking. This shows that you’re engaged and interested in what the professor is saying.
  • Write down important information the professor is saying on a notepad. Make sure to bring a notepad and pen. Do not ask the professor for these items.
  • Ask the professor any questions you may have. Ask specific questions about their research that help show you’re interested in being part of their research pursuits. Be sure to also ask about logistical aspects of the position (i.e. hours of commitment).
  • Kindly thank the professor for their time at the end of the meeting. Shake their hand upon leaving.

After the Meeting

  • Send a follow up email thanking the professor for their time and reiterate important parts of the meeting.
  • Offer to send the professor anything else that may be helpful.
  • Be patient! Professors may not be able to reply to your follow up email right away. If 1-2 weeks go by, send them a follow up email restating your interest in joining their research group and the details of your meeting. Avoid being pushy.