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I am currently a postdoc and plan to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship as the funding to be a visiting researcher in other institutes. However, to be eligible for applying the fellowship, I would need an invitation letter from the department or institute. I have written about 30 emails from 2 months ago but haven't received any reply. I know that generally postdoc researchers are not so prominent or influential in the academic world so that many professors would not easily accept such requests. And I also understand that it would be more difficult if I do not know the professors personally through conferences or other social networks. But there should be at least a reply of refuse due to any kinds of reasons.

I wonder if there is any serious problem with my email. I would be very appreciated if anyone could kindly find any problems in it.

Dear Prof. XYZ,

I am writing to inquire about the opportunity of serving as a visiting researcher in your lab next year (Jan, 2020−Dec, 2020). The funding will be totally covered by the XYZ.

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow focusing on research associated with human health risk assessment of environmental contaminants at XYZ. My major is nanotoxicology and environmental risk assessment; my minor is physiologically-based pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modeling. I have enormous interests in your research after reading your articles regarding toxicities of TiO2 NPs.

I have written a research proposal regarding pharmacokinetic and human health risk assessment of food-grade TiO2 NPs as attached in this email. It would be my great honor and appreciation if you could find time to read this proposal at your convenience and I hope my background in mathematical modeling and experimentation could help me to have a valuable contribution I have attached my CV and representative research to this email to provide more information about myself and my academic records. I have also provided the document of the fellowship for visiting researchers as the reference. There will be no expenses required during my visiting except for an invitation letter after your valuable permission to allow me to be a visiting researcher in your research team.

If you require additional information, I would be pleased to provide it at any time. I am eagerly waiting for your kind reply and greatly appreciate your attention and valuable time to read this email.

Yours respectfully,

XYZ, Ph.

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I think your email is fine! I'll speak from my experience doing several research internships (I haven't completed my PhD, therefore no postdoc). It obviously depends a lot on your field (ie, your field might be different than mine), but even though I had previous experience and publications, I sent about 100 emails before I got my first phone interview.

If you have the time to change your email, I might soften the tone a little. You do come off as very eager. For example, I might change the following to:

"It would be my great honor and appreciation if you could find time to read this proposal at your convenience and I hope my background in mathematical modeling and experimentation could help me to have a valuable contribution."

To something more like:

"My background in mathematical modeling and experimentation makes me a strong candidate to successfully [work in your lab/collaborate/publish papers/etc].

I suggest this because:

  1. saying it would be a "great honor and appreciation" could be interpreted as brown-nosing/sucking up. In America, people are not usually this humble, nor do we usually speak this honorifically about others (but this could depend on your field/where you are applying).

  2. In America, it is very acceptable to state why you are a strong candidate. Saying things like "I hope I will be successful at..." or "I believe I can..." can make potential bosses feel like you're not sure if you will be successful. Instead, I'd recommend saying "I can..." or "I will..." or "I am..."

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Overall, “cold emails” are very rarely successful. It’s a gamble to invest resources in a stranger, especially on someone who will stay for just one year.

Still, I suggest you start by cutting this “valuable”, “appreciation” and “honourable” non-sense; this kind of bait never works.

I do not know your field of work, but in mine it is usually the PI who “imposes” - or at least has some say in - the project on the student/postdoc. Unless your scholarship comes with a bench fee, i.e. unless there is part of your scholarship to pay for consumables, I can easily imagine that a PI is not so keen to invest time, space and running costs on a postdoc working on an independent project.

Again, I do not know your field but I would suggest you write an email first to make contact and indicate your interest in the work and that you could apply for a scholarship to work in this lab if a project suitable to both of you could be found. I would use your current project only after initial contact has been made and would present this project only if the PI asks for some sort of draft of a project idea.

I personally get a lot of emails from students who are “self-funded” in one form or another. This is of course good but compatibility with my research program comes first. I rarely have time to reply to more than 10% of these emails, usually the ones who do not write obviously pro forma letters, and never to people who feel honoured should I read their proposal: frankly I have no interest in making you feel honoured. If you have sent this letter 30 times with no feedback, it is probable that very few find it sufficiently specific to their research program to warrant attention.

There is also the question of timing of your emails. In many fields there are “hiring cycles”, meaning that postdocs start and end more or less when grants start and end. In some fields this coincides with the start of a term or an academic year, and starting asynchronously with these cycles is suboptimal, although in your specific case this doesn’t seem so bad.

Finally, your scholarship is for quite a short period. By the time you are comfortable with the lab and its procedures, you will be 1/3 to 1/2 done so what realistically can you achieve in the remaining time that will be beneficial to the PI? Moreover, you will quickly take the expertise away elsewhere. Of course this situation would be different of you were known already by the PI.

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