How to approach supervisors for research opportunities can be a challenging task for applicants, particularly for those pursuing a master’s or PhD degree. However, postdoc applicants usually have prior experience in effectively contacting research supervisors or principle investigators (PIs) during their academic journey. Contacting supervisors before submitting an official application is common when applying to universities in the USA, Canada, and Australia. On the other hand, applicants to European universities usually approach supervisors after receiving an official admission letter from a university or a scholarship program. The Marie Curie PhD Scholarship article features the real story of a PhD scholarship winner and when they contacted their supervisor.
This article provides guidance on emailing potential PhD supervisors for PhD-seeking students or postdoc-seeking candidates. Additionally, examples of successful email samples sent to academic supervisors are included. A helpful guide on securing fully-funded PhD positions in countries where applicants should approach PIs before submitting a formal application is also available.
How to Approach Supervisors: E-mail Structure
The structure of an email sent to PIs should be attractive and informative. Attach your CV to the email and ensure that it:
- Has a comprehensive and informative subject line.
- Is concise.
- Is formal. It should start with “Dear Dr.” or “Prof.” followed by the supervisor’s name, and end with “Sincerely Yours” or any equivalent, followed by your name.
- Does not use “Mrs.” or “Ms.” as the title.
- Does not contain slang, abbreviations, acronyms, or emoticons.
- Focuses on your significant academic accomplishments such as a high GPA, a competitive English test score, or the number of publications.
- Highlights your research background and interests.
- Specifically states your interest in the research group by reading the professor’s profile and a few of their scientific papers.
- Explains how doing research in their group can help you achieve your goals (optional).
- Requests to schedule a meeting or indicates that you will attend office hours (optional).
How to Approach Supervisors: E-mail Samples
E-mail Sample 1
A PhD applicant sent this email to a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering of the University of Melbourne in the year 2019.
Dear Professor XXXXXXX,
I am XXXX XXXXXXX, an MSc alumnus of Chemical Engineering from XXXXXX University of Technology, Iran. Drug delivery is one of my research interests. I am currently working at the Drug Delivery Laboratory of XXXXXX University of Technology – one of the best universities in Iran – on the application of gold (Au) nanoparticles in cancer therapy. I would like to continue my studies overseas for the PhD. Having read your profile, I found out that you are working on drug delivery. I am so interested in applying for PhD from a faculty with your excellent background.
I would be grateful if you could inform me of any vacant position in the area of drug delivery systems for fall 2020. My undergraduate and master GPAs are 3.69 and 3.93 out of 4, respectively. My TOEFL iBT and GRE General scores are 104 and 323, respectively. Please find detailed information about me on my CV in the attached file. I am looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your invaluable time.
E-mail Sample 2
A postdoc applicant sent this email to an associate professor in the Chemistry Department of the University of California, Santa Barbara in the year 2021.
Dear Dr. XXXXXXX,
I am writing you to find out if you have an available postdoc position in your lab. My name is XXXXX XXXXX, and I hold a PhD in organic chemistry from XXXXX University of Technology, Netherlands. Over the last three years, I have been working on my PhD project on [thesis title or topic]. I find a strong bond between my experiences and expertise and your field of research. My hands-on training and experience in [research area 1] and [research area 2] make me confident that I can learn efficiently in your lab and contribute to establishing new techniques.
I am highly interested in your work on responsive materials for treating diabetes mellitus [two of their recent papers are mentioned here]. My attached CV further highlights my experiences and accomplishments. I would be grateful if we could meet online, so I can further explain my plans to you.
E-mail Sample 3
A postdoc applicant sent this email to a professor in the School of Chemistry of the University of New South Wales in the year 2022. They had met at an international conference before, and the professor knows the applicant’s PhD supervisor.
Dear Professor XXXXXXX,
I am a postdoc researcher in India. My name is XXXX XXXXXXX. I did my Ph.D. and first-year postdoc in [professor name]‘s group at the University of Melbourne. I have excellent experience in [technique 1] and [technique 2] in polymer chemistry. Currently, I am working on a biochemistry project, i.e., [project title], trying to synthesize polymer inside living cells using XXXX polymerization. Moreover, I have published 20+ papers since my master’s studies, and my h-index is XX. I would like to join your high-quality group as a leading research group worldwide. I am looking for a postdoc position in [country name]. Thus, I wonder if you have any available positions in your top research group. Thank you for your time in advance.
My research profiles are if you would like to have a look:
Google Scholar: Profile link
LinkedIn: Profile link
Applyindex: Profile link
If you would like Applyindex to write your e-mail message to supervisors, please contact us via WhatsApp. In addition, we offer a wide range of services, including CV writing or revision, SoP writing or revision, cover letter writing or revision, and more.
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