Contacting potential mentors for directed research projects or volunteer laboratory work is a good way to develop your professional communication skills.
Things to Keep in Mind When Contacting
- Address faculty members using a professional title such as "Dr." or "Professor;" maintain a courteous demeanor, both in conversation and tone of voice.
- If seeking an instructor for directed research, be clear that you are asking this faculty member to serve as a mentor for research experience with credit, and that you are not looking for paid employment.
- Explain why you chose to contact that particular laboratory.
- State your year, major, grade point average, and research interests and career goals. It is not necessary to have prior laboratory experience, but it maybe helpful to mention any relevant skills.
- Contact faculty members in series rather than in parallel. Realize that faculty receive numerous e-mail requests like yours; they are likely to delete your e-mail without responding if it appears to be a mass mailing.
- Ask whether there may be an opening for you in the laboratory during a particular semester. If the response is positive, your next move will be to set up an appointment. Thank the faculty member for his/her time, and if necessary, accept "no" graciously.