I have applied to a Canadian university for a math PhD starting this fall. I was very keen on working with Prof. A and he in fact, had encouraged me to apply. Few days earlier, I reached out to him for an update on my application status and he replied saying sorry that his funds for this fall are already committed. However, he finished by saying that I may find another advisor to begin my graduate studies.

Now I know this does not mean that I am admitted. But can I reach out to other potential advisors now? As a matter of fact, I have been independently reading some new topics and been finding them much intriguing. Now there is a Prof. B who has similar interests and I like his profile too. Will it be worthwhile to write to him now? If yes, how should I broach this subject? Should I mention Prof. A? I don't want to look pushy, but at this time now, I really want an opportunity to start my graduate studies and Prof. B's interests are very similar to what I've been reading recently.

I am looking forward to your suggestions. Thanks in advance!

2 Answers 2


Of course you should contact him. There is no harm in that. But I wouldn’t mention professor A. Write a simple and short email stating the you have already applied in the department and you are looking for a supervisor for your PhD. Then also mention that you have been reading papers on topic X and you find them interesting. And since his research interests are similar to what you want to do, would he be interested in serving as your supervisor? And then end your email by asking him to review your application and contact you in case of any question or query.

Good luck!

  • Thank you for your answer and valuable suggestions. I made some careful edits to my draft and have sent the email now. Hope for the best!
    – WhySee
    Apr 16, 2019 at 18:48

In the US it is common to begin doctoral studies without a dissertation advisor. One then has a chance to learn more about the options. I know the Canadian system is similar in some ways to the US, but differs in others. What I say below may be helpful or not.

If the available profs are getting busy it is probably a good idea to make contact as soon as feasible. Look at their specialties as you have done. Especially, try to determine if there is an ongoing faculty/student seminar that is also attended/led by your first choice. You could start with another member of that seminar, perhaps, but I'd advise against an extremely junior member if possible. They may be more devoted to obtaining tenure than helping students.

Again, in the US one normally starts with course work for a while and it is possible here to choose your preferred advisor later if an opening comes up. This might be less possible in a lab science, but in math it could work out.

  • Yes, Profs. A and B are both members of the Analysis, Geometry and Topology group. What does obtaining tenure mean, though? And yes, it is true that the ideology of getting a supervisor prior to admission is a bit unsettling. I hope one can work around that after actually getting in there.
    – WhySee
    Apr 16, 2019 at 18:08
  • New faculty members normally go through a period of probationary employment. In the US it is normally seven years. During that time it is necessary for them to make the case that they are a good candidate for permanent employment, called tenure. In many places getting tenure is an arduous process and something like shooting craps. It can be very stressful for a young academic.
    – Buffy
    Apr 16, 2019 at 18:11
  • That is certainly something that I did not know! Thanks a lot.
    – WhySee
    Apr 16, 2019 at 18:27
  • Thank you for your suggestions. I have sent an email after drafting it rather carefully. Fingers crossed now.
    – WhySee
    Apr 16, 2019 at 18:47
  • I have a problem: this Prof. B has two email addresses mentioned on the website. I sent the email on one of those addresses. Now what if he doesn't use that one often? Should I send it to the other id too? Will it be annoying of me to do so?
    – WhySee
    Apr 17, 2019 at 18:51

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