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Other Problem about Contacting the Professor

  1. May 2, 2016 #1
    Dear Physics Forum personnel,

    Since this January, I have a problem contacting the professor who is doing exciting research that is also my interest; I would like to pursue an undergraduate research under him, and I had sent him an email on late January. He replied back, saying that the available project he has is on the software development (I am interested in both software and theoretical aspects of his work, which I clearly expressed on my first email). Since then, I have not been getting any reply from him, despite my effort of sending several emails after his reply (totaling five or so). I am not sure what step I should take to approach him; Should I just visit him during his office hour? I started to think that he does not like me since he did not reply to my five different emails, sent each after some time intervals (2 to 3 weeks per email). ..He is incredibly famous on his field, so perhaps he is too busy, but I did not get that impression...

    I also mentioned in the email to let me know if he does not think I am a good fit for his research so I can start to look for other faculty members, but he did not even mention that...He has not giving me any reply since one in January....I am quite depressed about it.

    Please provide me some advice or strategies....
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2016 #2

    micromass

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    You should probably ask yourself whether you really want to work under him. If you can't get him to reply now, then chances are pretty big that this will be quite the same thing when you're doing your research. So you should probably expect to be on your own when doing research and not get much help from him. If that's ok for you, then fine, go visit him during office hours. But you should probably think twice about this...
     
  4. May 2, 2016 #3
    Thank you very much for your advice. I have some great undergraduate research, where I worked almost independently (designing my own projects and learning the materials on my own), so I do not need much supervision from the faculty members. His research is strikingly similar to my interest, down to the core and specifics. I also expressed my skill for independency in research, but he has not giving me any reply. I also mentioned that let me know if he does not think I am a good fit for his research so I can look for other opportunities, but he has not been replying to me at all. Perhaps he does not want me at all?
     
  5. May 2, 2016 #4

    micromass

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    Stop making up scenarios in your head. Just go and visit him during office hours and ask.
     
  6. May 2, 2016 #5
    Thank you. Should I talk to him after the final exams? Next week is a final exams week, so I reckon that professors might be busy during this week.
    What should I say to him? Should I mention all previous emails I had sent to him?
     
  7. May 2, 2016 #6

    micromass

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    It doesn't matter when you go. Just go whenever he has office hours and thus is available to talk. Don't mention all the emails you sent to him. Just ask him whether he had some chance to think about the undergrad research project he had for you. Let the conversation flow from there.
     
  8. May 2, 2016 #7

    Choppy

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    Five?

    After one email the professor may have missed it. After two, he or she may have been busy and just didn't get back. But after three or more either your emails aren't getting through or it's just not a priority for this person to get back to you. If you go to visit this professor in person be prepared for the latter.
     
  9. May 2, 2016 #8
    What do you mean by "aren't getting through or not a priority"? Does that mean he does not think it is important for him to invest his time for a discussion? I am just afraid that he does not like me, and will not like me to visit him, since I did not get any reply for five emails.
     
  10. May 2, 2016 #9

    micromass

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    That is extremely likely.
     
  11. May 2, 2016 #10

    ProfuselyQuarky

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    I know people who've complained about this before (I'm guessing around the same age as you, too) . . . but they always say if the professor doesn't want you, you probably won't enjoy working with him, anyway. But maybe they were just trying to console themselves.
    Meh. I once had to email multiple times without getting a single response for something. The teacher finally phoned me asking why I kept emailing him ("I don't find this funny, girl!", says he). After telling him that he kept ignoring me, he said that he did, in fact, reply each time. Guess what? Instead of hitting "send", he kept hitting "draft".
     
  12. May 2, 2016 #11

    Andy Resnick

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    I experience this several times every semester. There's two sides here- remember that your professor (likely) already has students and (likely) sees undergrad research participation as an altruistic activity, so you are given the proportional amount of attention.

    Have you sent the professor your resume? Have you read any of the professor's papers that are relevant to the project you are interested in? Did you send repetitive emails expressing the same "I want to do research with you, please respond" comment over and over? Are you asking to be paid for summer work, having waited until the end of the semester?

    If you can show up in the professor's office, resume in hand and ready to discuss a recent paper, then I would not wait another day. If you have nothing to bring and nothing to say, then I would stay away until you can demonstrate your interest.
     
  13. May 2, 2016 #12

    Choppy

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    "Not getting through" means just that. There can be a lot of reasons. Some professors don't check their email all that often. Some get so many emails that answering every one would be a full time job. So it's possible that he just doesn't recognize your name when he scans through the latest 200 messages in his inbox. Or it could be possible that your messages are getting stopped by a spam filter - particularly if you're not using a university email account. Whatever the reason after five unanswered emails, you have to consider the possibility that the recipient is not getting the message.

    "Not a priority" means that the messages were received, but the professor hasn't given any response because he has a lot of other things on his plate and setting up a possible project for an undergraduate is not near the top of his task list. It's unlikely this has anything to do with you personally, rather, it's just he may have grants to write, papers to finish, committee meetings, post-docs, graduate students, lectures to prepare, and possibly get in some of his own research in there. Or maybe he has had 20 other undergrads email him the exact same questions and he's lost track of which ones he's applied to.

    If he hasn't met you, chances are the lack of response has nothing to do with you personally. And in both cases the answer is to try another avenue - approach him during his office hours and talk with him directly.
     
  14. May 2, 2016 #13

    Choppy

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    Fair enough. No need to be rude though.
     
  15. May 3, 2016 #14

    ProfuselyQuarky

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    Who was being rude?
     
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