by Meghan Ward
This article is Part 2 of a two-part series about finding and contacting a potential graduate supervisor. If you are interested in reading Part 1, you can find it here.
Alright, so you have compiled a list of potential supervisors and you are now ready to reach out and contact them. Email is the most common form of communication between a prospective student and a future supervisor. It allows you to spend the time you need to form a professional and thoughtful introduction and gives the potential supervisor room to respond on their own schedule.
Here are three key things you should always include when reaching out to a potential supervisor:
In addition to including a strong introduction within the email, I always think it is wise to attach an updated resume and a copy of your most recent transcripts. Including a written cover letter is an option, however it will be dependent upon how detailed your email is. In my own experiences, I wrote an email detailing my experiences, qualifications, and interest and did not include a written cover letter. However, in the conclusion of my email I always offered to send along a written cover letter if the professor would prefer one (in my experience, no professor required this with the first introductory email).
The email you write will be dependent upon the type of position you are applying to. If you have found an advertised graduate project (the professor has planned out a project and is looking for a student to fill that specific project) and believe you are suited to the position, you should include specific details in your email highlighting how your experiences fit the project. For example, I applied to this advertised position: Assessing the Potential of Northern Leopard Frog Recovery in Western Canada. When applying for this M.Sc. position, I detailed my academic and professional experience working with herptiles in Canada. I specified the species I worked with, the goals of the research, and how it related to the project I was applying for.
When reaching out to a professor who does not have an advertised graduate position available, you should detail the experiences you have as it relates to the overall goals and aims of the research lab. For example, if you are applying to work with a professor whose research aims centre around conservation biology, you can speak to your academic and professional experience in that field. While this field is broad, many of the skills you have learned can be transferred across species and projects.
Now that you know how to write, and what to include in an introductory email, it is time to start contacting your potential graduate supervisors - best wishes!
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