EMAILING A PROFESSOR

If you want to engage in research with a specific faculty member, you can start the conversation by sending them an email. Many students email faculty members they've never met before. Others introduce themselves to a faculty member in a class or during advising hours and then follow up with an email. Emailing a faculty member can be intimidating, especially if you've never done it before. We're here to help! See below for some tips on how to write an effective email. You can also visit our drop-in advising hours if you'd like to get your email proof read before hitting send!

Getting Started

  • Do some background research on the faculty member you plan to email. What is their general research focus? What projects are they working on? What have they published lately? What methods and techniques do they use?

  • Plan for your email to be 4-6 sentences. You want to have enough detail for them to be interested in working with you but you also want to keep it short so it's quick and easy to read.

  • You may have to reach out to multiple faculty members before securing a meeting with one. This is normal! We recommend reaching out to one faculty member at a time.

  • Don't worry if you don't have previous research experience - you can still land a research position by highlighting your career goals, the classes you've taken, or relevant experiences you'd had (e.g. volunteer or community work, a high school project, an international trip, taking care of a family member, etc.).

  • If you think it helps your case, you can attach a resume to your email. However, many students decide not to include attachments.

Constructing an Introductory Email

Dear Professor Smith,

Introduction section: This section should include your name, major. You should also include a sentence about your career goals and/or relevant experience. It's okay if you don't have relevant experience! If that's the case, focus on your career goals instead.

Specific interest section: This section should highlight exactly why you are interested in joining this particular faculty member's team. What is it about their work that intrigues you? The more specific you can be, the better. This is also a great place to include any research questions you might be wanting to address.

Scheduling section: If you're scheduling a meeting over email, make sure to indicate which days and times you're available so that they don't have to ask. Some students send a screenshot of their schedule as a way to indicate availability. Also, indicate whether you'll be meeting in person or over Zoom.

Thank you in advance,

Jane Doe

Sample Email

Dear Professor Smith –

My name is Jane Doe. I am majoring in Fisheries and Wildlife at OSU and hope to establish a career in marine mammal genetics. Last summer, I completed an internship with NOAA and got some great experience using photo-identification data to determine rates of decline of several different whale populations. I am extremely interested in your research because you are using state-of-the-art techniques to explore questions of population abundance and ecology. I would love an opportunity to join your research team and explore how molecular techniques can be used to answer questions related to population dynamics.

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

Thank you in advance for your time,

Jane Doe

The Waiting Game

  • Sometimes it can take a while for a faculty member to respond to your email. This is normal!

  • If you don't hear back from a faculty mentor, it is likely because your email got lost in their inbox (we've met professors who receive over one hundred emails a day!) or they saw the email and forgot to respond (we've all been there). You shouldn't view this lack of response as a rejection. There's still hope!

  • If you haven't heard back for over a week, you should send a second email indicating that you are still interested. We've talked to faculty members who really appreciate getting this second reminder email because they meant to respond but got distracted by something else.
    • Tip: Instead of opening up a new email to send. Find the previous email you sent and forward it to the faculty member with a new message at the top. This way, the faculty member can see the history of the first email you sent and when you sent it (they will also be able to see that they didn't reply to your original message).
  • Consider going to the faculty member's office hours if you’re not getting a response. This way, the faculty member is guaranteed to be there. Sometimes this can be a better way of getting connected.
  • If you don't hear back from a faculty member after multiple attempts to connect, ask yourself if it's worth continuing to pursue. Maybe you don't want to engage in research with someone who doesn't have time to respond to your emails!