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Other Inquiring about Undergraduate Research

  • Thread starter Josh0768
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When composing an email to a professor asking him about possibly conducting undergraduate research with him, what are some things I should keep in mind? What are some things I should (or shouldn’t) be asking of him and some things I should (or shouldn’t) be saying about myself?
 

Joshy

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Break the ice and introduce yourself. Look through their website about their research and team members. I don't think it's silly to ask if you can sit in on a meeting or two with their students (the worst that could happen is they say no). It worked for me. The professor I worked for at my university even referred me to another professor at another university while I was studying abroad, and I so I was able to gain more experience while visiting another country.

Simple and brief is good. You don't have to completely unload yourself onto them. They are likely very busy and receive lots of e-mails.
 

Dr. Courtney

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I encourage students I mentor to always include a quality resume.

The email should demonstrate that you've done due diligence by visiting the professor's web page and reading a couple of their papers. It should also highlight what you consider your most appealing features and refer them to your resume for more details. You want to mention how your experience and qualifications intersect with their research. Two or three short paragraphs total should suffice.

I get a lot of solicitations from students hoping to do research. I am always favorably inclined, but what I am looking for are indications of quality and tangible skills. 3.8 GPA is good. Programming skills are good. Great work ethic is good. Platitudes and feigned enthusiasm are not so good. 2.x GPA is not so good. If your best skills are MS Office, it's not so good. Now any lack of skills can be overcome with hard work, but most students are not willing to work hard consistently over time, and the burden of proof is on you.
 

symbolipoint

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Dr. Courtney, post #3,

First sentence about resume seems more aligned with a candidate with experience and training who actually DOES HAVE THESE ITEMS to list onto something like a resume. Many or most undergraduate students less than age 24 do not have these items or have a few but are insignificant for purposes of finding a job (or maybe academic research situation?).

Your second and third paragraphs really are the description of job-searching. The student, probably still undetermined due to being just a struggling undergraduate, is likely not advanced enough to really be an impressive candidate to do some research with some professor. What you suggest is realistic and does happen and usually does need to happen, but I also have an opinion about student seeking research situation in his school program: If research credit is required, and if the student has not "chosen" a research situation by some predetermined amount of time, the student must be ASSIGNED to such a situation, by the department.
 

Dr. Courtney

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Dr. Courtney, post #3,

First sentence about resume seems more aligned with a candidate with experience and training who actually DOES HAVE THESE ITEMS to list onto something like a resume. Many or most undergraduate students less than age 24 do not have these items or have a few but are insignificant for purposes of finding a job (or maybe academic research situation?).
Student resumes can include things like GPA, major courses completed, work history (even if non-STEM), technical skills (electronics, programming, etc.), projects completed (what kind of loser physics major didn't do any high school science projects?).

Let's not communicate to undergrads that it's OK not to have any real accomplishments or skills to list on a resume until they are 24. One student I'm mentoring participated in an undergrad research program where over HALF the students were unable to find professors with whom to do research. These students lacked skills, work ethic, and initiative, and I am not a bit surprised no profs wanted to work with them.
 

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