I decided to pursue a PhD degree after a few years in industry, so I contacted a professor from the university where I had received my Diploma 3 years back. We had some conversations in the beginning of 2020, he was rather positive as I had good grades and I used to attend his lectures, so he proposed to work in the lab for a while to assess if this collaboration is going to work. I had started studying and meeting the rest of the team to get involved into the lab’s projects. I could not apply officially yet, since the PhD applications start on July every year. As coronavirus came, we all stopped going to the lab and we maintained a minimal communication online. We even worked on a project with the rest of the team, however I had really minor contributions, as I was still in the studying phase, and the project itself was not entirely in the field of research I am pursuing. This project finished in mid-April. From then on, I had no other communication with the professor. I was working online as a freelancer during April & May to generate some income, so I did not proceed much with studying.

I emailed the professor about 10 days ago about how to proceed and since I got no response, I messaged him on Skype 2 days ago. However, I did not get any answer. Is it possible that he changed his mind about having me work in his team as a PhD candidate, since we had no communication for around 1 month? I am very worried because I really wanted to work in this lab and do a PhD in general, and for now, this was my only option to enter the academic field. What would you do in my position? Is it going to be too much to send an email again or contact another member of the lab? Thank you in advance.

  • Why is this your only option to re-enter academia? – astronat Jun 3 at 14:45
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    My former advisor has retired and I was away from academia for 3 years, so I do not have contacts with other professors. Even if I had to choose another supervisor I would need recommendations from professors that know me and I had good grades at their classes – mar93 Jun 3 at 14:51
  • Are you still planning to study in Greece? – Buffy Jun 3 at 15:00
  • I’m not rejecting other options in Europe, but I would feel more confident to stay here, especially because of the pandemic – mar93 Jun 3 at 15:05

This is an unprecedented time in academia, and your best course of action is probably to just wait awhile for your professor to catch up on his emails.

As a professor myself, I have several emails left over from the just-ended spring term that I need to respond to. My college announced that there will be cuts to staff, which haven't been finalized yet, so it's possible I won't even be employed here next term. My kids' school and daycare are closed, so on top of childcare I might have a couple of hours each day to do work-related things. And I don't run skype anymore since discovering other, better options, so if anyone in my old skype contact list is contacting me, I wouldn't know about it.

In other words, if your professor's work-life situation is anything like mine (and many, many of my colleagues at other institutions, judging by their social media posts), he just hasn't gotten around to your email yet. It doesn't have any bearing whatsoever on his thoughts about your graduate application. You've got until July for applications, so give him another week and then try emailing him again with a polite "just in case you missed this" nudge--that usually does the trick.

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    That can explain the situation, indeed. Thanks a lot for your answer! – mar93 Jun 3 at 20:10

This has to be a guess since I don't know the person, but I suspect that the prof is just busy with things and sees this as low priority since applications don't start until July. It may be that they have decided not to work with you, but I doubt that they would ignore your emails in that case. Much more likely that you would get a response.

Ten days isn't very long, actually, but it is long enough that a follow up would be OK. "I am very interested in continuing to work with you, .... trying to plan my next moves ... any possibility ..."

It is easy to ignore cold applications, but that isn't the case here.

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  • I followed up on Skype 2 days ago (we used to communicate via Skype with him and the team during the lockdown), but he hasn’t read my message. What bothers me is that he was he used to send us emails to go to the lab, attend presentations etc and have meetings, therefore this disappearance is strange. – mar93 Jun 3 at 15:27
  • @mar93: You could try calling his office number (which you should be able to get from the university website). Talking one to one can sometimes be more effective than via text. One advantage of calling his office is that you have a reasonable implicit excuse to call multiple times a week (maybe he was not in the first few times). – user21820 Jun 4 at 4:56
  • I doubt that he is at his office, since teaching was done fully online during the pandemic and professors were working from home. Indeed, talking is way more effective – mar93 Jun 4 at 5:08

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