I'm halfway through my PhD and will be visiting another country for a conference. While I am there I would like to talk with some of the local researchers and hopefully visit their labs and discuss their research. I intend to email some of the researchers in my field in advance and ask if they would be happy to have a chat about their research and possibly visit their lab (briefly on the visit, more like a lab tour than anything else).

What is the best way to ask these PI's (via email) if I could meet with them while I am in town to visit their labs and discuss their research?

  • 3
    This is a legitimate question. There is no need to close it.
    – user21264
    Mar 19, 2018 at 8:47

2 Answers 2


Essentially, the best way to ask is to phrase things exactly as you have.

“Dear Professor $Name,

My name is Anon, and I’m an Nth year PhD student studying at University of Science. I’ll be in Wakanda for a conference from Date1 to Date2, and I was hoping to use the opportunity to meet with some local researchers whose work I have been following.

I was wondering if you might have time during that period to sit down for a chat about research, or perhaps have me visit your lab? I understand schedules can often be quite busy, so I’m happy to be as flexible as possible given the conference schedule.

Regards, Anon”

  • 9
    I think you could add a little something from the other answer: They receive a lot of emails each day. Which does not mean you need to call them, but maybe offer that you are happy to be referred to one of their PhD students or Postdocs instead. This means for them they don't feel like you are asking too much of their time and you can probably meet them shortly and then have a nice chat with the rest of the lab.
    – skymningen
    Mar 19, 2018 at 9:41
  • This, but always CC your PhD supervisor, as not to sound that you are trying to get info from somewhere else and then claim as your own to your PhD supervisor. Mar 19, 2018 at 10:43
  • Author here - thanks for the example email. I've also added in a bit about my research interests and how it relates to their field. I will add in another part about possibly speaking to their students/postdocs as I understand PIs are very busy (and to be honest, quite intimidating).
    – Anon
    Mar 19, 2018 at 18:01

This is a typical sales situation. Please bear in mind, the PI receives plenty of emails each day. Emotionally, it'll be very easy to rebuff the proposal by email.

Your chances of "selling yourself" are much better by talking to the PI over the phone, ideally after the PI's lunch break (research shows people are more likely to view a proposition positively after they've eaten). If you get along on a personal level, the chances of a rebuff are greatly diminished. Also, the PI would have to overcome the emotional barrier of rejecting your proposal verbally rather than in an email.

I know, phone calls are awkward. But you do want to talk to the PI, isn't it? So you may as well start today.

  • 23
    I'm not sure if most academics will be favorable to people bothering them over the phone. While you should indeed sell yourself, spam-like behaviour is a quick way to get blacklisted. Mar 19, 2018 at 9:00
  • 7
    This is really terrible advice. Have you actually tried this?
    – MJeffryes
    Mar 19, 2018 at 10:52
  • 1
    I cannot be reached reliably via phone
    – Fomite
    Mar 19, 2018 at 16:09
  • 1
    Thanks for your suggestion, although the PI's I would like to get in contact with are not actually available over the phone. Our university has strict channels for contacting overseas PI's and since this is informal, email will probably be the most appropriate.
    – Anon
    Mar 19, 2018 at 18:03

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