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How to approach a professor about two positions

  1. Oct 27, 2015 #1
    I'm going to (very likely) be doing an honours thesis next fall. There is one professor at my university I've taken a course under before who is awesome and their work is really intriguing. I would love to have them as my supervisor and intend to approach them with regards to it (i.e. asking them if they are planning to accept students next year) soon. I am also looking at summer opportunities now, and would also be very interested in working under the same professor for the summer, too. With that being said, I do intend on applying to a few programs locally and abroad for the summer. I'm still young and trying to get as much exposure to different fields right now before I make further decisions with regards to future studies.

    With that being said, I should also have backup options in place in case I don't get accepted to any of the programs outside of my university. But if I do get accepted, I feel like it would be out of taste to tell my thesis supervisor I have decided to do something different for the summer rather than work with them if I've already asked them to apply for a summer grant for me. I'm sure the potential supervisor would understand that I prefer to have a different experience in the summer just so I can better gauge where my interests lie, but regardless, I'm the one asking for a position. Beggars can't be choosers, and I'm just a little uncertain on how to approach my potential thesis supervisor on this topic. Should I even ask them about summer opportunities? Or should I only ask them about doing a thesis under their supervision and not mention summer plans? I would love to work with them for my thesis, but for the summer, I would like to at least know what possibilities I have...

    I feel like an ass for even writing this, so any words of advice you have are welcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 27, 2015 #2
    Ask your professor if they would be willing to supervise your honors thesis, and then tell them that you want to apply to summer research programs as well, and ask them if there's any course of action they would suggest you take to be able to do both. I'm sure they'd be willing to work with you to ensure you get the best possible experience doing research.
  4. Oct 28, 2015 #3
    Thank you for the response!

    I'll definitely use this advice. Just to add: I don't want to sound overly naïve since I have been looking at different summer programs quite a bit. Is there any way you would recommend bringing up asking about the best course of action? Since I'm sure they'll have advice, but I also want to ensure that they know I'd be ecstatic to work with them...although when I don't quite commit immediately and say I'm still looking into other summer programs, I'm just a little uncertain on how that will come across.
  5. Oct 28, 2015 #4


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    In a different context - applying to grad schools - one of my classmates asked whether it'd be ok to let a grad school know you which other programmes one is interested in. The reply a senior professor gave was that it's ok, as long as all the other grad schools were good ones too, since that showed your physics judgement.

    But you should also consider that a longer period of time on one project may allow you to accomplish something more substantial. It's definitely ok to ask upfront at the start. Similarly you would hope the professor would be frank about what he thinks of the various options.
  6. Oct 28, 2015 #5
    Thank you.
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