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Thread: Meeting potential professors

  1. #1

    Meeting potential professors

    I recently applied to graduate programs and I hope to visit the professors I want to take classes with. I basically want to paste a face on my application and see if they are willing to accept me as a research assistant, but I am uncertain what to say. Should I read their books and articles before going? Any suggestions? I have not had classes in my specialty I am worried they’d expect me to know about the field or grill me on why I want to specialize etc.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Yea, I got the same question here. Any tips for approaching professors?? Thanks a lot!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    Most of the profs I know are pretty easy to approach (there are of course exceptions). Go during their office hours (which you can find out from admin) and then simply drop by. It doesn't hurt to know who you are talking to though. Not because of their egos or anything, but if you are interested in transportation, and the prof does not research or teach in that area, then you may not have much to talk about. You can find this info on most any dept. website. Have some questions prepared for them, so there is a purpose to your visit. These can be general questions, about the dept., a course they teach, their research, or just general planning questions about their area which you intend to maybe pursue.
    "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan." - Winston Churchill

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    "There's an app for that" that might give you insight on the prof too - Rate My Professors, for a mere $0.99!

  5. #5
    Based on my (limited) experience, I have also found professors of programs I am applying to very approachable. I definitely wouldn't worry about reading everything they've ever written or published, but certainly do some basic research to find out what their current interests and projects are. Most of my conversations were informal, friendly exchanges on research they've done (very high level) and on any related work or research I've done.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    email?

    How about e-mailing professors? The schools I applied to would be incredibly difficult for me to go visit...has anyone e-mailed professors? Does talking to the professors make much of a difference?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    email is rather impersonal, and doesnt put a face to the name. I'd consider it a last resort.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I agree with Chet. E-mailing is not a substitute for talking to someone. Maybe to set up a meeting, but in place of it.

    I think the concerns about being knowledgeable about the topic you are interning for are largely unfounded. One of the primary purposes of these kind of assistanceship is to expose students to topics they think they may have an interest in. No experience required. Or usually not. Anyway, its usually the point of that kind of opportunity to provide practical, hands-on experience in an area you want to learn about.

    My point is simply that it is fair to assume that going for an internship in an area you are interested in but have no experience with is what the professor will expect. If they really need someone with a specific skill set, they'll tell you. But they won't be mad or think you a fool. If they do, they're a terrible professor.

    Don't be afraid of your professors! Remember, you PAY to go there and they are in your service - to educate and advise. Use them. The vast majority of them are supportive, encouraging and helpful. Its in their job description and knowing they have helped guide someone along in their professional path is one of the joys teaching brings.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  9. #9
    First, this is something you would have ideally done before applying to those programs, since it would have given the professors a heads-up on potentially good applicants, and potentially secured you a spot on a professor's favored list of applicants.

    Second, email has always worked fine for me. In some ways I think it's ideal for busy professors, since they can reply on their own time. I've always had a positive interchange with professors I've contacted over email. But yes, i can see the benefit of seeing them in person, or chatting over the phone. However, if you're nervous, and need to formulate your thoughts carefully so as to communicate your research interests clearly, email accommodates that fairly well.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    First, this is something you would have ideally done before applying to those programs, since it would have given the professors a heads-up on potentially good applicants, and potentially secured you a spot on a professor's favored list of applicants.

    Second, email has always worked fine for me. In some ways I think it's ideal for busy professors, since they can reply on their own time. I've always had a positive interchange with professors I've contacted over email. But yes, i can see the benefit of seeing them in person, or chatting over the phone. However, if you're nervous, and need to formulate your thoughts carefully so as to communicate your research interests clearly, email accommodates that fairly well.
    In addition, you should know that a pretty big source of contention for faculty is interruptions while they're in their office. Either from walk-ins or phone calls. So while I agree there is nothing better than talking to someone face to face, sometimes email is a good thing to sort of creep into a professor's circle of attention without bumping into any vases.

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