Before everyone's coming at me, let me explain.
I am a CS student and been working on a fundamental type of research project. In my project, I had to propose a new approach, find a new algorithm to tackle a specific topic issue. The ultimate goal was to find the algorithm itself, not directly to application/implementation. My algorithm is new and has never been used before as an approach to solve this problem. It is tested, has less drawbacks than existing algorithms, and has been published in a paper.

Meanwhile, this professor I'm trying to reach out, is from the same specific field of CS as me, and he's a "rockstar" in device implementation and optimization. I've come across his name from papers and books countless times during my years of research, since he's indeed an expert in my field. It's always been my goal to actually implement my algorithm in devices to begin with. But unfortunately due to time constraints during my master, I was only able to work on the algorithm development.

I believe with his implementation competence, expertise and guidance, not only this research can be improved, but also he could enrich my skills in algorithm development along with implementation as well. I've read his book and some papers, but because my project is addressing a real-life target issue that has never been addressed in his lab before, unfortunately there's no overlapping research topic between us, apart from a broad topic, and that he's been working on device optimization that could be extremely useful for my research.

How do I politely explain this situation to him, that I genuinely want to learn from him under his supervision about implementation and optimization area, without sounding like I'm a random student with a random research idea who would like to do Ph.D. in his lab ?

  • You say "published in a paper". Are you the author? Is it in a good journal or conference proceedings? – Buffy Apr 13 at 14:23
  • @Buffy yes I'm the first author of the paper and it was published in a quite influential conference in my field. But again, it's not related to everything he's ever done. – raisa_ Apr 13 at 17:58

My advice on making contact with rockstars is to have an intermediary introduce you to them. They are, by definition, very busy. (Concert dates, groupies, wild parties,...). It is natural for them to think of you as "a random student with a random research idea" if you contact them directly. They probably get a lot of messages, all of which turn out to be of little value.

If you can, find a professor in your field, such as your advisor, perhaps, and have them write on your behalf with just an introduction and a short recommendation that your research on "topic" is interesting. It is harder for even a rockstar to ignore a colleague than a "a random student with a random research idea".

And having a paper published gives the recommender a hook into explaining why the introduction is being made.

It is even better if your local professor/recommender is known to the rockstar. It is still better to tag along at a conference and get introduced in person (after the current pandemic dies down, of course).

But once you are introduced you have a chance to deepen the conversation over time.

But, in particular, don't flood the person with too much information initially. That makes it even easier to ignore you since it takes time and effort to evaluate what you send even to determine if there is anything of value in it. Many will be too busy to want to bother.

Personal note: It isn't exactly the same situation, but I was once able to get a good student accepted into the doctoral program at Georgia Tech by making a personal appeal to the dean, who was a friend of mine. The student wasn't a very good standard-test taker, so is GRE was a bit mediocre, but I saw his potential and expressed it to the dean. I was later told that my not-at-all-inflated recommendation was important in getting him accepted and he went on to finish and to get hired at a similarly prestigious place.

| improve this answer | |
  • Hi, thanks. My advisor is aware of my Ph.D plan, they both indeed know each other. The fact that this new Professor is a "rockstar", my advisor is a "pioneer" in this field and of course I was planning to mention his name in my email. My advisor told me to send an email to this new Professor, he also mentioned that he's more than happy to write me a recommendation letter. Despite being a Prof. for 30 years, maybe he doesn't think of this approach you mentioned above. Maybe I can mention this approach to him. And meanwhile, I'm open to more advise to my question. – raisa_ Apr 13 at 19:22
  • Even better. Your professor won't be ignored. So ask. He probably gets complementary tickets to all of the "rockstar's" concerts. Probably has an extra one for you. – Buffy Apr 13 at 20:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.