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Is it okay to cold email professors who I'd like to do graduate research with?

It's time to think about applying for graduate school! I want to email some professors to learn more about their research group and fields of study. Is that acceptable or might it count against me in the application process?

PhD graduate-school research grad-school applications physics optics laser-physics particle-physics academia

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Cynthia’s Answer

First take the time to visit the professor's lab website. There you will find the main goal of the lab and what they study, descriptions of the research projects going on in their lab, a page of the students currently in their lab, and their CV. Skim through the papers they have published if you are really interested in their lab. Be prepared before emailing them about your interest in their lab. In my field (Biology) it is a must. It will not look good if you email them with questions their website already addresses and that may not be a good way of showing that you are particularly interested in the lab. Good luck!
Good advice. I would also add that applying without coordinating with a potential grad advisor may not turn out well. If you convince them you're worth it, they will probably go to bat for you! Skyler Sorsby
Definitely. Especially if, for instance, you have low GRE scores or your GPA is a bit lower than what the department wants, your potential advisor may talk to the graduate admissions committee and really push to have you in the program if they really want you in their lab. Cynthia Marroquin, M.S.
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Brayden’s Answer

Hello! I totally think that its acceptable to email a professor regarding their research. I agree with what Cynthia has posted above about also visiting the professors lab website so you have a little background about the exact research they do in their lab. I think creating a relationship with a professor is a huge advantage because then they know going in where your strengths and weaknesses are. I know when I was an undergrad and did a little ungraduate research, I simply started about emailing the professor about the opportunities that were present. That way you yourself can begin to familiarize yourself with the types of work that they are doing in a particular lab. In many cases you might of already taken a class with the professor that you are wanting to do research in so using that as a conversation piece will also help create a connection so it wont feel so abrupt. Hopefully this helps. Good luck!
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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Abby! I agree with other answers as well. I received a research invitation through my email address so it is acceptable to ask. The important thing is to be formal/professional, know the professor and their research and give them time to when you'd like to complete research. Get them to know you and make sure it isn't last minute. Also with COVID sending an email is acceptable nowadays more than anything as we are social distancing!
I hope this helps!
Best of luck!
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Sunil’s Answer

Hi! It is acceptable to cold email Professor's who you would like to do graduate research with. It would be more beneficial if you can research the Professor's research subjects and interests from his website and if they align, send specific queries to know more. If you will be spending time under the professor doing research for significant time then knowing more ahead of time and building a relationship would only help you in making an informed decision.

Hope this helps!
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Cameron’s Answer

I think it perfectly acceptable to cold email professors! In fact, that's how I got some of my own research experiences in college. But make sure that you thoroughly read and understand the research that the professor conducts--this will help you get an idea about whether you really want to work with him/her and make your email stand out.
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