I think I made a dire mistake a few days ago. I asked a potential PI for their CV (I wanted to get a full record of their credentials along with the information I could find about him on Google Scholar and his website), but I was met with a curt response telling me I should look at his website and papers. I felt really, really bad after that. I sent him an apology e-mail, saying I meant no disrespect, and will look at the materials he suggested.

For context, I am trying to decide between two reputable graduate schools for an EE PhD, and I am interested in a particular person at both. One guy had his CV publicly available, while the other did not (the one I may have offended). I naively thought I could ask for a CV since I've seen professors post theirs. I thought this could help me decide.

I'm going to wait a few more days to make a decision because I don't want it to seem like I intentionally provoked him to make it easier for me to pick an option.

Does the guy despise me now? I'll be seeing him in the next few years (these particular people know each other and work together, and go to the same conferences). Is there any way to undo any damage I might have caused to his impression of me?

Edit: Thank you everyone for your input. I will try not to make this mistake in the future.

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    It's an unusual request for sure but I don't think you'd want to work with someone who'd despise you for it (I don't think he does). You certainly shouldn't keep reminding him of it. Focus on other questions and pretend you never asked this one. – Roland Apr 8 '19 at 14:11
  • Did you know this person at all before emailing them? – Azor Ahai -him- Apr 8 '19 at 16:48
  • Yes, I did. I've maintained intermittent correspondence with him for a few months, and even met with him in person when I visited his grad school. Still, the fault is really on me for not digging into his publicly available information. – martychoke2445 Apr 8 '19 at 19:35

It would be a strange person who starts “despising” someone for making an innocuous social faux pas. In novels one reads about such people, but real life people are, by and large, more reasonable.

I can only speculate, but I suspect the professor was mildly annoyed and/or amused by your request, told about it as a funny anecdote to his spouse later that day, and has by now forgotten all about it. The fact that he bothered to answer your email, and that the reply was polite, even if curt, suggests that he wasn’t terribly offended.

  • I had a similar problem about two years back when I made some e-mail etiquette mistakes and a professor said "learn to write better e-mails" or something like that. I guess this incident brought back those bad memories (let's just say that professor and I don't have the best relationship, around the same time I was still undergoing that transition from high school to undergraduate life). – martychoke2445 Apr 8 '19 at 14:32
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    @martychoke yes, I understand the mortification, but it’s probably not as big of a deal as you imagine. By the way, I disagree with lordy’s answer about whether it’s ok to ask a professor for a cv. It’s not an appropriate request, regardless of how it’s phrased. It comes across as spammy and presumptuous (even the same request coming from another professor, unless they included a good reason why they need it). I also think this is true in a more general workplace context outside of academia. You don’t usually ask someone to send you their cv unless you are thinking of offering them a job. – Dan Romik Apr 8 '19 at 14:43
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    Not just a "strange person", but probably one you really really don't want to choose as an advisor... – Bryan Krause Apr 8 '19 at 14:52
  • @DanRomik Okay, I will keep that in mind in the future. Thank you for your advice. – martychoke2445 Apr 8 '19 at 15:03
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    I'm confused about why asking for a CV is a faux pas, since presumably it isn't private information and it contains much more than just a pub list. And I'm sure the student would be expected to provide a CV if the professor wanted it. Is the issue here the power/status differential between professor and student? It's not true that the only use for a CV is job applications. – Elizabeth Henning Apr 8 '19 at 16:49

It is in principle ok to ask but the tone is very important. Something along the lines of:

I am very interested in your research and would like to know more about ... but on your webpage I could not find detailed information about ... would you be willing to send me your CV? This would really help me to get a better idea/picture of ... etc

If your email was friendly but the response was not then it might not be the right supervisor anyway. But if your email was something like "Hey, send me your CV" then I would not send you mine eigther and give an answer as above. And I have to say that many students write emails in quite rude tones and/or like in a facebook chat directly from their mobile phone and such emails are usually not very much appreciated by the receiving professors.

  • Yeah I didn't communicate it properly. That's what I wanted to say but for some reason I omitted the "I could not find these information from your website/papers" in a moment of poor judgement. Would you think of me poorly for a while after making such a request, even after an apology? – martychoke2445 Apr 8 '19 at 14:24
  • No, I would not - I do however think poorly of the 2 downvoters that do not even give a reason. – lordy Apr 8 '19 at 20:09

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