Communicating with a potential faculty research mentor

Remember that many faculty enjoy doing research with undergraduates so don’t be reluctant about approaching them. However, they are very busy and it may take some time to arrange a meeting. While you may not have an immediate and/or positive response in your early efforts, be persistent.

  1. Make the purpose of your meeting request clear at the time you arrange an appointment. Write a brief but informative email. If you are meeting during a drop-in/office hours appointment, have an introduction and specific inquiry ready before you arrive.
  2. Make arrangements with faculty according to their schedule preference, not your own. Be prepared to arrange the date/time via a support staff person or by email. Alternatively, be prepared to stop in during the professor’s office hours.
  3. Arrive on time (or early). Be prepared for the conversation by having read previous research by the faculty member. Show enthusiasm and interest in what they do. Be familiar with their CV, papers, student projects they have supervised, and have a sense of what you might want/be able to do to contribute to their research or as a mentor to your own (thesis, independent study, etc).
  4. Courtesy and polite persistence are the keys to success. Remember that it may take you a few attempts – and from a variety of angles – before you are successful in meeting with a faculty. Don’t give up but also be respectful of the ‘no’.