Soon, I'll start my last year of undergraduate studies in physics.

At my university it is possible (but not too common for undergraduates) to be employed as a teaching assistant for a first year's course. In order to get some work experience and do what I really enjoy, namely explaining physics-stuff to other students, I would be ecstatic if I got such a position. However, on the university website, there is no information given about how to apply, or whether they aleady have enough teaching assistants for the next semester.

Therefore, I plan to directly "apply" to the lecturer of the course I would enjoy getting involved in the most, and ask her if she would employ me as a teaching assistant. I'm planning to include the following things in the application e-mail I'm sending her:

  • A cv (created using LaTeX, to show I'm capable of using LaTeX)
  • My grades (that aren't too bad, especially the ones of when I took this course myself)
  • A well-designed guide I created in LaTeX, which describes how she could use the video communication software Zoom's "breakout rooms" as a system to host the otherwise in-person question time each week, in the likely case the university doesn't allow attendance classes

Now, my question is about if the above listed attachments will be effective in making a good impression and persuading her to consider me for the position.

I'm especially unsure whether including this "guide for doing the question time in Zoom" is any good, as I might leave an impression of being overly controlling, or she might feel obliged to use this guide if he employs me, and, thus, won't do it in the first place. On the other hand, including it would show her that I am highly motivated and have a lot of initiative.

I highly appreciate your answers and advice. Getting this position would mean a whole lot to me.

  • To start with, figure out whom to apply to. (Adding specifics about country/subject/... could also help to have more tailored answers.) – user151413 Jul 18 '20 at 15:14
  • @user151413 so you'd suggest directly contacting the lecturer wouldn't be the best idea? I have already taken two courses with this lecturer, and done quite well in them, thus, I think my chances would be best for directly applying to her. (Because there is no information about where to apply on the university website, and I fear getting instantly rejected otherwise) – Flickboy Jul 18 '20 at 15:19
  • Well, it is not clear whether the lecturer is in charge of hiring undergrad TAs. At the places which I know (Germany), there is usually some central hiring of TAs in the department, and then the TAs are distributed to the individual courses (certainly for large undergrad courses where lots of TAs are needed). In such a case, you would have to apply with the person coordinating the TAs. – user151413 Jul 18 '20 at 15:46
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    I would just offer a general caution that "explaining physics stuff to other students", while fun for you, is not necessarily an effective way to teach. – Nate Eldredge Jul 18 '20 at 15:50
  • Ask a faculty advisor, if you have one. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 19 '20 at 11:26

I would omit all the materials in your initial email, and just ask the lecturer a simple concise question:

I would be interested in working as a teaching assistant for your course. Are there any openings, and if so, what is the procedure to apply?

If not, do you know who I would contact about working as a teaching assistant for another course?

There is no point in attaching your materials until you know that they are wanted and that you are sending them to the right person.

  • 2
    You might want to specify that you are an undergrad in the email. Different universities have different cultures, but in general TA jobs often go to grad students, you don't want to get the wrong information. If you intend to go to grad school next year you might also want to say that, as it might make you a more attractive candidate for TA as an undergrad. – sig_seg_v Jul 19 '20 at 1:33
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    @sig_seg_v: It sounded from the comments like OP has taken classes with the lecturer, so I assumed she would recognize OP's name. If not then your advice is certainly good. – Nate Eldredge Jul 19 '20 at 2:05

Nate's letter is good, but I would recommend attaching an unofficial copy of your transcript. Undergraduate TAs are usually selected based on their grades or on the faculty's personal knowledge of the TA.

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