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Ethics on approaching professors for masters

  1. Apr 13, 2007 #1


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    Hi folks,

    It seems like time has come for me to hunt a master's director and I wish to understand what the correct social dynamics is for approaching a professor before I go in a screw it up.

    Tell me if this makes sense.

    I look at the professors' profiles and eliminate those who are working on things I am sure I don't want to be a part of. To those that remain, I send an email asking for an appointment. I go to the appointment and I don't arrive late. This is when I'm unsure about the attitude to take. Is it appropriate to simply ask them to talk to me about what they are working on and ask them what is it I'd be doing if they were my research directors? Or is this a completely wrong attitude and I'm supposed to go there with my head down and ask them to mercifully accept the donation of my soul for whatever might amuse them (minus the metaphors).

    Anyway, I'd appreciate ANY advice any of you could give me regarding all this procedure, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2007 #2
    I would go in knowing what you want to come out with. I took a fluid course with one of my professors. He asked me if I wanted to work with him and a group of 10 other students he thought were really good on a semester long project that would be entered into a competition. I told him I appreciate the offer, but I am not interested in that area of study. When I applied for graduate school, I asked him for a letter of recomendation and he was more than happy to.

    That being said, I dont dance around what I want. I just ask for it.

    Another example, I walked into the director of graduate studies office and asked him a few questions about applying for a Masters. I told him what I am currently doing at work and asked what the school is doing in that area. The next day he sent me an email asking me to work with him in the summer...so I went back to his office and asked him what he was going to offer me for pay. Turns out he can only pay me half of what I get someplace else. So I told him, your not offering much pay, can you give me more? He told me what the limit is on the pay. When summer comes around, I am going to ask that he pay me the maximum amount of money possible.

    I didnt walk in there with my head down, I just walked in and asked questions that shows I know what Im talking about. If you just go in there and say, I really like x,y and z but have no experience with it, prepare to be wait listed.

    So, Id say make sure you have something you can say you've actually done and you will be gold.

    Although, I usually dont do anything by the book...heh. I didnt even make an appointment with him. BUT by and large people dont give a rats if you make an appointment, come in with a tie, and put on a smile if you have nothing to show. My favorite thing to do is go to career fairs in my regular clothes and just talk to the people there and show them I know what Im talking about. Then they ask for a resume, dispite the fact Im there like a bum and everyone else is in a suit, and I tell them I dont have one on me. :rofl: Then they give me their cards and crap. I just take them and walk away and throw them in trash. I just do it every time I'm there with my friend to show him that having a suit and all that other crap is meaningless.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2007
  4. Apr 13, 2007 #3
    I don't know what stage exactly you're at, but I've just been through this sort of process as an undergrad looking at schools for next year. I must admit that I didn't do much research on proper etiquette before my meetings with professors, so my experiences might be a little skewed! However, I did ask everyone I met with what they were working on. Everyone seemed very happy to go into some detail (well, as much as a 30-60min. meeting permits) as to their research and current projects. In retrospect, some of them seemed a little taken-aback at the question but certainly noone voiced any objections. All of my meetings were very informal and it was more of a "let's see if we get along" sort of thing (though in a meeting with one department chair, I was offered the chance to teach a course next year on the spot). No grovelling involved so far (though I'm sure it's to come)! :smile:
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2007
  5. Apr 13, 2007 #4
    Your professors are regular people, no need to feel so intimidated by them. Give them a certain amount of respect, yes, but no need to kiss arse.

    Once you've picked out professors working on things that interest you, send them an email. Something simple like this will probably do:

    Tweak to your needs ;)

    Good luck!
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