Writing a Letter to a Professor - Tips & Guidelines

  • Thread starter carbon9
  • Start date
  • Tags
    Professor
In summary: Dr. MeI prefer just going with "I have included a copy of my resume for your reference" in networking emails. It saves the step of them having to email you back just to say "resume please."I also prefer not to straight out ask for a job but to ask for an "informational interview," without calling it that, to learn more about opportunities in the field. If there's an opening and you're qualified, they'll usually just recommend you apply formally after you hit it off while talking. Even if they don't ask you to apply, you sound less desperate and more informed if you ask about a job after hearing more about the opportunity and getting to know the person a
  • #1
carbon9
46
0
Letter to a professor!

Hello,

I'm doing my PhD work and I'm planning to go to a university that has experimental opportunities on my thesis. I'm thinking to send a letter to the professors who are the heads of those experimental laboratories. I found some places and profs.

But I have a "small" problem! How can I organize my letter? I mean how must I start? E.g. "Dear Prof..." or "Dear Sir...". And how can I end my letter "Best regards", or what? How? I am really needing help ın this small but important letter.

Thanks in advance,
carbon9
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2


I just write "Dear Professor" in e-mails, although I'm young enough that I've never actually written a letter to anybody so the protocol may be different there. I would imagine just ending it with "Thanks in advance", "Thanks for your time", or just ending it with your name would be appropriate.
 
  • #3


carbon9 said:
But I have a "small" problem! How can I organize my letter? I mean how must I start? E.g. "Dear Prof..." or "Dear Sir...". And how can I end my letter "Best regards", or what? How?

You can use anything that would be appropriate for a business letter, so "Dear Professor X" and "sincerely"/"best wishes"/"best regards" is fine. Just keep to a business letter level of formality to be safe.
 
  • #4


carbon9 said:
Hello,
I'm doing my PhD work and I'm planning to go to a university that has experimental opportunities on my thesis.

You mean for your postdoc?
carbon9 said:
I'm thinking to send a letter to the professors who are the heads of those experimental laboratories. I found some places and profs.

Great idea! See if you can find their phone numbers and give them a call. No need to be shy. If the lab is within a few hours, I'd seriously think about showing up at a colloquia or something.

carbon9 said:
But I have a "small" problem! How can I organize my letter? I mean how must I start? E.g. "Dear Prof..." or "Dear Sir...". And how can I end my letter "Best regards", or what? How? I am really needing help ın this small but important letter.

Thanks in advance,
carbon9

Dr. So and So,

I currently attend the physics graduate school at kick-*** U and will be finishing my PhD this summer. My disertation title is such and such. I came across a few papers that your group has published, specifically, this-one and that-one, and they were extremely interesting.

Are there any openings for postdocs in your laboratory? If so, could I send you my CV? I'm actually going to be in your area, on the 5th of next month. Do you have any time available to meet?



Dr. Me
 
  • #5


seycyrus said:
You mean for your postdoc?


Great idea! See if you can find their phone numbers and give them a call. No need to be shy. If the lab is within a few hours, I'd seriously think about showing up at a colloquia or something.



Dr. So and So,

I currently attend the physics graduate school at kick-*** U and will be finishing my PhD this summer. My disertation title is such and such. I came across a few papers that your group has published, specifically, this-one and that-one, and they were extremely interesting.

Are there any openings for postdocs in your laboratory? If so, could I send you my CV? I'm actually going to be in your area, on the 5th of next month. Do you have any time available to meet?



Dr. Me

I prefer just going with "I have included a copy of my resume for your reference" in networking emails. It saves the step of them having to email you back just to say "resume please."

I also prefer not to straight out ask for a job but to ask for an "informational interview," without calling it that, to learn more about opportunities in the field. If there's an opening and you're qualified, they'll usually just recommend you apply formally after you hit it off while talking. Even if they don't ask you to apply, you sound less desperate and more informed if you ask about a job after hearing more about the opportunity and getting to know the person a bit first. If at all possible, I wouldn't even bring up that I am looking for a job until I could casually work it in during an actual conversation. Meeting in person is also always preferable. And be prepared with questions and follow-ups.

I like to start if off with a "Dear ...," or "Dear ...:" depending on the status difference, although being a little more personal is sometimes required. The level of formality may also need to change considerably after the initial email.

For more competitive jobs you'll want to start this early and keep up with people - maybe attending conferences or asking about your or their research or just keeping them updated on your progress every once in a while. Not everyone will be open to this of course, but the friendlier you can get the better as long as you are not overwhelming. It's very easy to be overbearing and people will be easily put off if they see through what you are doing. It has to be genuine.

You are marketing and selling yourself, and there's a lot more to effective marketing and sales than simple unsolicited email :wink:.

Of course, sometimes none of this is necessary and you can get in through an online application. Networking is also much less effective if there is a formal committee reviewing the applicants. Then again, I still haven't heard back about the online application I submitted for the job I have now. Getting to the committee turned out to be the hard part.

To get back to your original question, I'd go with formal and very brief emails asking whomever if they would be willing to speak with you about their research. Include a line about your research and something about your interest in theirs. Attach your CV "for reference." Include your contact information.

Also, don't expect everyone to respond. The most well written letter may only get you a 10% response rate. If you plan for that you can roll with it and be effective. Just don't be surprised if getting a job is tough work :smile:.

If someone with more experience in academia wants to correct me, please do. The above advice is more business world oriented. In this case, I can't see how the two would be any different though. (N.B. opinions also vary in the business world.)

Your career services office should be able to help you too. They advise on this stuff for a living. You can also probably arrange a mock interview or have them look over your letter before you send it. Just take their opinion as one of many, and make your own ultimate decisions.
 
Last edited:
  • #6


Dear Prof. X
Me.

Best wishes and best regards are far too informal.
 
  • #7


Thank you very much. Really helped lots.
 
  • #8


Also if you do put, Dear Sir make sure that the person you are writing to is actually a "Sir" rather than a "Ma'am".
 

Related to Writing a Letter to a Professor - Tips & Guidelines

What is the purpose of writing a letter to a professor?

The purpose of writing a letter to a professor is to communicate with them in a formal and respectful manner. This could be for various reasons such as requesting a meeting, asking for a letter of recommendation, seeking advice or clarification on a topic, and expressing gratitude or concerns.

How should I address a professor in a letter?

It is important to address a professor with the appropriate title and name. This could be "Dr./Professor [Last Name]" or "Professor [Last Name]." If you are unsure of their title, it is best to address them as "Dear Professor [Last Name]." Avoid using their first name unless they have specifically asked you to do so.

What should be included in the letter?

The letter should include a clear and concise introduction stating the purpose of the letter. It should also provide specific details and context for the reason you are writing. Additionally, you should express your appreciation for their time and consideration, and provide your contact information for further communication.

How should I format the letter?

The letter should be formatted in a professional and organized manner. This includes using a standard font and font size, proper spacing and margins, and a clear and readable structure with paragraphs and headings. It is also important to proofread the letter for any errors before sending it.

What is the appropriate tone to use in the letter?

The tone of the letter should be polite, respectful, and professional. Avoid using informal language or slang, and be mindful of your tone to ensure it conveys your message in a professional manner. It is also important to avoid using a demanding or entitled tone, as this could negatively impact your relationship with the professor.

Similar threads

  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
25
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
1
Views
727
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
14
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
836
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
115
Views
7K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
2
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
4
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
4
Views
2K
Replies
5
Views
2K
Back
Top