Volunteer research with professors - what am I doing wrong?

  • Other
  • Thread starter Ngineer
  • Start date
  • #1
Ngineer
64
1
Hello everyone,

I am a potential graduate in Electrical Engineering. Being highly interested in doing research, I contacted several professors who lead research groups for possible research opportunities. I included my resume, but did not a transcript (my GPA is not spectacular) in my e-mails. I don't personally know most of the professors I contacted.

Even though, for some of the professors, my experience is highly relevant to their work, I haven't received a single response so far. The only response I got from a professor was that he's currently out of town and will be able to read e-mail in two days -- then nothing.

I contacted the research coordinator for a research center who said she forwarded my e-mail to all professors -- again, no response.

My e-mails were personalized to each professor and written in a professional matter, is there something that I have missed? What can I do to improve my chances of receiving a response from a professor?

Advice needed!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
berkeman
Mentor
63,583
14,701
Do you have any professors who could write a brief letter of recommendation for you? That could make your applications stand out from the others. Maybe some professor whose class you did really well in, or one that knows you, or your adviser?
 
  • #3
Choppy
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
4,794
2,061
Something else that can help is talking to professors in person during office hours. This allows you to ask things like - whether they are aware of anyone else who might be looking for an undergraduate research assistant. And it can help you to get an idea of what working for them might really be like.
 
  • #4
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2021 Award
29,154
14,386
my experience is highly relevant to their work

Can you elaborate? This is highly unusual. Usually one needs to spend a lot of time teaching them.
 
  • #5
Ngineer
64
1
Can you elaborate? This is highly unusual. Usually one needs to spend a lot of time teaching them.
For example, one of the professors I contacted works primarily on medical image acquisition and analysis. My SYP was in a related field; to mathematically model an Ultrasound transducer calibration device, including maximizing device bandwidth based on acquisition equipment noise margin / minimally acceptable SNR as well as other design parameters. I included a description of the project as well as a link to the report from the university Web site.

One of the extra-curricular projects I have worked on was to design a C-like signal processing / waveform construction language, to simplify data synthesis and acquisition, complemented by an fpga/microcontroller combination board for real time processing. I included a brief description of this project as well as a links to the github repository of the software portion, and a link showing some screenshots of the system in action (code and resulting output).

Interestingly, his Web site states that he welcomes undergraduate research assistants.
 
  • #6
Ngineer
64
1
Do you have any professors who could write a brief letter of recommendation for you? That could make your applications stand out from the others. Maybe some professor whose class you did really well in, or one that knows you, or your adviser?
The only professor I asked thus far stated that she can say that I was among the top 5% in her class, but will also state that she does not know me personally.

Something else that can help is talking to professors in person during office hours. This allows you to ask things like - whether they are aware of anyone else who might be looking for an undergraduate research assistant. And it can help you to get an idea of what working for them might really be like.
I have tried doing that in the past and it wasn't fruitful. Emailing them is easier in that it involves no personal embarrassment in case they are not interested.
 
  • #7
micromass
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Insights Author
22,178
3,314
I have tried doing that in the past and it wasn't fruitful. Emailing them is easier in that it involves no personal embarrassment in case they are not interested.

Well, if you decide to go the easy route, then you should expect this outcome.
 
  • #8
Asteropaeus
143
36
The only professor I asked thus far stated that she can say that I was among the top 5% in her class, but will also state that she does not know me personally.


I have tried doing that in the past and it wasn't fruitful. Emailing them is easier in that it involves no personal embarrassment in case they are not interested.

It is just as easy for them to ignore your email as it is for you to write it.

I don't understand how it is embarrassing if they are not interested.
 
  • #9
Dishsoap
1,017
309
Definitely go to their office hours. E-mails get lost in inboxes, people think to themselves "I should respond" then don't, etc. It's pretty hard to ignore a person standing in the doorway of your office.
 
  • #10
Ngineer
64
1
I received a positive response from a professor, and in a field I am highly interested in. He is someone who I did talk to in person before, so I guess e-mails by themselves really don't mean much.

Thanks everyone for your advice!
 

Suggested for: Volunteer research with professors - what am I doing wrong?

  • Last Post
Replies
16
Views
322
Replies
4
Views
462
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
443
Replies
10
Views
221
Replies
2
Views
364
Replies
5
Views
446
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
323
Replies
14
Views
529
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
406
Top