Communicating with Faculty

How should I contact a faculty member whose research I'm interested in?

Select several faculty and contact them via an email or phone call. Set up an appointment during their office hours to meet with them face to face to discuss their research. Prior to the appointment, do your homework. Read their website and a couple of their recent papers, specifically their abstracts. Talk with other undergraduates working with them. This will give you information so that you can ask intelligent questions during your appointment. Show them you are motivated and interested in what they are working on. 


When writing an email to a faculty member expressing my interest, what should I include or mention?

Your inquiry should be polite and respectful. Give a few details describing pertinent coursework and prior experience. Explain why you are interested in the research. Show enthusiasm and motivation but don't turn the email into an essay. Make sure to address them by their proper title (such as Professor or Dr.).


What NOT to write...

Hi Joe

I am very interested in a research position in your lab 4 $$. Let me know if you have an opening.

My resume is attached.




What's better?

Dear Dr. XX,

My name is XX, and I am a sophomore majoring in (insert your major here) I am very interested in your research in (describe the research topic) and would like to learn more about it.  Would it be possible to set up a time to meet briefly to discuss your work and how I can get involved in this area of research? I have also attached my resume in case you would like to see it. 

Thank you for your time,


I contacted a faculty member (via email) but did not get a response. What should I do now?

Do NOT be discouraged! There could be any number of reasons you did not receive a response. Sometimes your email may not be noticed or they are out of town. Be sure to include the purpose of your inquiry in the attention line. Then follow-up with a phone call to set up an appointment to speak with them. They may tell you at that time that they are not accepting additional students or do not have funds to support a student. Do not take the lack of response personally. They might be able to help you with suggestions of others or tell you what pre-requisites are needed to work with them. Consider approaching another faculty person with similar interests. 


See the following resources created by Purdue University regarding how to communicate with faculty, staff and peers.

Communicating with professors and peers:

Communication methods: