I got a Bachelor degree few years ago and I have worked (non-research job) for few years since then. Recently, I would like to pursue a master degree in a foreign university but I cannot obtain sufficient academic references because no professor from my previous university seems remember me.

I am planning to seek for an short term(< 1 year) research opportunity (internship would be fine) of a foreign professor whose research area is really attracting me so I can hopefully ask for his reference after that.

Is it weird or appropriate for me to contact him directly for such research opportunity since I am not a student (Assume I have already been granted a 1-year working visa from that country)?

3 Answers 3


It's not weird, but do be prepared to have your email ignored or politely declined. Professors regularly get such emails, especially if they're famous.

In particular, what you should do is to show the professor what you can do to help them in their research. Which works of theirs are you going to focus on? What does your experience mean for the professor?

Good luck!


sure you can. but be ready for "no positive" answers. its life. you can try 100 times or 1000 times, sooner or later you will get


No, not weird at all. People have all reasons to be out of the university for some time (due to work, child care, army service or whatever). Sometimes though people don't understand how the system works in general. Once in a while I receive messages asking for "opportunity to do research in my lab", but I have no idea what is their specific request, i.e., what they want me to do in practical terms.

I cannot bring outsiders to the lab, they should have some official status at our university (such as a degree student or a research student). However in this case they should contact admission section, not me.

  • I upvoted this because it flags the important point about bureaucracy - in most labs, random people can't do research, they need to have some official status. Researchers may need safety training, insurance may be involved, money may need to move around if only for reagents and equipment, and all of this may need documentation and official approval.
    – iayork
    Jan 14, 2019 at 14:24

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