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Advice needed, NOW! - helen-louise
baratron
baratron
Advice needed, NOW!
So, how exactly do you go about approaching an academic that you admire and say "Can I be your PhD student? Please?".

Apparently there exists some sort of college academic scholarship which you have to apply for by 29th June, and apparently the person I want to work with isn't going to be around for most of this week, so I need to talk to him asap. Argh. I'd been hoping to have stalkedresearched his entire paper output on the Web of Science and read all of them before going to see him.

Well, I've arranged a meeting for 4pm tomorrow and I'll spend as much of the morning as exists in the British Library.

Tags: ,
Current Mood: curious curious

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Comments
emperor From: emperor Date: 22nd June 2009 11:58 (UTC) (Link)
"I'm going to apply for the [scholarship/whatever], and I'd like to do my PhD in your lab" is a perfectly reasonable thing to say to an academic, IME.

ETA: we get a fair few "I'm a final year student, do you have any funded PhD places for next year" emails to the group here, too.

Edited at 2009-06-22 11:59 (UTC)
eponymousarchon From: eponymousarchon Date: 22nd June 2009 12:09 (UTC) (Link)
I'd recommend lots more 'ee's (as in 'pleeeeeeeese'...

...but that's probably why I'm not doing a doctorate. :)
sashajwolf From: sashajwolf Date: 22nd June 2009 14:10 (UTC) (Link)
Back when I was planning on doing a PhD in sociology of the Christian scriptures, I think I said something like "I'd really like to do a PhD on [topic], and I was wondering if you would be willing to supervise me?" This was to someone I knew quite well, both from having him as an undergrad supervisor and from sitting on the Faculty Board with him, so there wasn't much need for formality - I think I spoke to him while we were clearing chairs away after some event or other!

When I was briefly considering doing a law PhD, I was looking to work with someone I didn't know, so I got my Master's supervisor to look at a draft proposal with a view to (a) getting him to put me in touch with the proposed PhD supervisor, then (b) sending the proposal ahead of our first meeting, to show that I had some idea of what I was yakking on about.
nmg From: nmg Date: 22nd June 2009 15:52 (UTC) (Link)
I'd like to second what emperor and sashajwolf say - both good sense.

Also very sensible to have some notes on a draft proposal (if not a draft proposal) to show that a) you really are interested in working in their area, b) you've thought it through and c) you have some familiarity with the area in which you'd like to study.

Worked for me, anyway.
jinian From: jinian Date: 22nd June 2009 16:12 (UTC) (Link)
If you've scheduled a meeting already, I'd say you've done the hardest part! My problem is always striking up the conversation in the first place.

While reading papers, you might concentrate on the most recent ones and try to think of where the lab might be going next. Reading abstracts on old stuff is probably enough if you already understand the new papers. Almost every researcher is just thrilled to talk about their newest stuff, so I think having your own ideas about that stuff is what impresses people most.

Joining a lab seems to be pretty different here -- my department advocates several quarter-long rotations to let everyone figure out whether they work well together before any final decisions are made. To set those up, I just sent email asking to meet about possible rotations, so they were able to consider projects and space before we talked in person. Everyone was really nice about it; they're used to being asked these things, and you're doing them a favor too.

In your case, I guess I'd start with "I love your work, what are you doing since paper X?" and move on to "interesting project" and "so there's this scholarship" after the initial enthusiasm. He'll probably want to know something about what you've done before, but at least for us if you're in the grad program they pretty much trust that you will be smart and a decent worker. Good luck! I'm sure it'll go fine.
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