I am an incoming PhD student (for the fall). I recently received a message from a faculty member saying she was impressed with my application and asking if I wanted to talk about rotations. Ordinarily this would be awesome, but the rest of the message listed every grant and award won by this faculty member since 2009 (there were a lot of them), and it really seemed like overkill. Should this be considered a red flag, or is it just a practical way to demonstrate that the lab group is thriving? This is in the US.

  • 2
    May it be that it was a standard template that she used? Sent to you by mistake? Or she may be a new faculty member and has not yet found the right balance to talk to students? None of these is a red flag on its own, but it might be good to start with a rotation rather than a full PhD, just to test the waters. Apr 8, 2020 at 2:21
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    I wouldn't draw conclusions from such limited data. Ask around about people's reputations. Apr 8, 2020 at 3:00
  • Many academics (and non-academics) are just bad in writing coherent emails.
    – user111388
    Apr 8, 2020 at 11:01
  • RE: Captain Emacs It certainly reads like a template. RE: Anonymous Physicist Fair point. RE: user111388 I agree in general, but this particular email was perfectly coherent. Apr 8, 2020 at 12:30

1 Answer 1


I think you may be overthinking this slightly. It’s neither a red flag nor necessarily a practical way to demonstrate anything (although it might actually demonstrate something useful, I have no idea).

People are quirky and sometimes do things that don’t make complete sense to other people, or even to themselves the next day. This is true of everyone - including, I’d bet, you. I’m sure you wouldn’t want other people characterizing every slightly unusual or eccentric thing you do as a red flag.

Since “ordinarily this would be awesome”, I suggest that you be happy a faculty member (who has won many grants and awards since 2009!) is taking an interest in you, and talk to her to evaluate the rotation option as you would talk to anyone else in a similar situation.

  • A bit odd perhaps, but many of us are a bit odd. In a good way, of course.
    – Buffy
    Apr 8, 2020 at 14:46
  • I'd add that although this might seem extreme, it also could be a combination of lazy and effective which are not uncommon traits of busy people. It's probably copy-pasted from a CV that the professor has to keep up to date for grants and such; they could also keep an up-to-date copy on a website and point student prospects there, or they could just copy it quick to an email instead of spending time detailing all the projects they're working on.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 8, 2020 at 17:01

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