Volunteer research with professors - what am I doing wrong?

In summary, the potential graduate contacted several professors to inquire about research opportunities, but did not include a transcript or resume in his emails. He has not received a response from any of the professors he contacted. However, one professor did say that the potential graduate was among the top 5% of their class, and she does not know them personally. The potential graduate tried emailing the professors in person, but it was not fruitful. He recommends trying to attend the professor's office hours.
  • #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!
 
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  • #2
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
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
Ngineer said:
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
Vanadium 50 said:
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
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.

Choppy said:
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
Ngineer said:
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
Ngineer said:
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
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
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!
 

1. What are the benefits of volunteering for research with professors?

Volunteering for research with professors allows you to gain hands-on experience in your field of interest, develop important skills, build relationships with professionals, and potentially earn a letter of recommendation for future opportunities.

2. How can I find opportunities for volunteering with professors?

You can search for volunteer opportunities through your university's research department or career center, attend career fairs and networking events, reach out to professors directly, and utilize online job and internship search engines.

3. What skills and qualifications do I need for volunteering with professors?

The specific skills and qualifications required for volunteer research positions will vary depending on the project and professor. However, some common requirements may include a strong academic background, relevant coursework, research experience, and specific technical skills related to the project.

4. How can I make the most of my volunteer research experience with a professor?

To make the most of your volunteer research experience, it is important to communicate effectively with your professor and team, be proactive and organized, take on responsibilities and tasks, ask questions and seek feedback, and make connections with other researchers and professionals in the field.

5. How do I know if I am doing something wrong in my volunteer research position?

If you are unsure about your responsibilities or tasks, or if you are struggling to complete them, it is important to communicate with your professor and team. They can provide guidance and support to help you improve and succeed in your volunteer research position.

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