Etiquette for correspondence with a professor under whom I may work?
August 26, 2013 7:21 PM   Subscribe

I have emailed a professor about volunteering in her lab and, propitiously for me, she said that she'd be happy to give me this opportunity and will be in contact with me in September. Where do I go from here?

To provide more detail, she says she is short-staffed and will have a better idea of the number of volunteers she needs by mid-September, though as I mentioned above, she said she'd be happy to have me. Perhaps I am over-thinking this, but should I respond to her email now? Also, in the event that she forgets about me, how could I politely remind her?

Thank you!
posted by metacognition to Education (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Speaking as a professor... you are overthinking this. But I would:

- Quickly send a one-line reply back saying: "Thanks! I'll be in touch around September 20th if I don't hear from you before!"
- Don't email her till September 20th.
- If you still haven't heard from her, send a SHORT email then saying "We spoke about a month ago about volunteering in your lab, and you mentioned you'd have a better idea in mid-September how many you'd be needing this semester. I'm still interested, and just wanted to touch base to see if you have a better sense of things now. Thanks!"

Always give her at least a few days to reply. Professors are busy and not great about answering email right away sometimes, and it virtually always means absolutely nothing about you so don't freak out thinking that it does.
posted by forza at 7:29 PM on August 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

Definitely email her back. Respond enthusiastically for the opportunity and, if you'd like, say that you'll follow up with her at the end of September if you haven't heard from her. That's exactly the sort of email I'd like to receive (I'm a professor).

On preview: what forza said :)
posted by eisenkr at 7:31 PM on August 26, 2013

I agree with the above two responses.

Also it would be good to read papers relevant to her lab, especially all those listed on her faculty/lab website. No one expects you to be an expert or even to understand it all, but the more familiar you are with the literature, especially anything that she's done, the faster you'll get up the learning curve and the more you'll get out if it. (Sorry for misunderstanding if you're only asking abt logistics - I am unsure)
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:55 PM on August 26, 2013

Yes, yes, to the above. But do be persistent about checking back if you haven't heard one way or the other - persistence pays off, and it says you're motivated, and there's a good chance you'll actually get stuff done.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:20 PM on August 27, 2013

Response by poster: I appreciate all of your responses! I felt a little nervous because frankly, I didn't expect a response from this professor at all, let alone a positive one. Thanks again!
posted by metacognition at 4:56 PM on August 27, 2013

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