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I'm joining a grad school for a research-oriented Masters in CS in Germany, early next year. There's a professor whose research interests me, but I certainly don't know enough currently to contribute to his group. His group regularly offers HiWi (tutor/research assistantship) positions and I'd love for a chance to work with him and get to know his research better.

Would it be okay to directly ask him what is expected from a student, to obtain a research assistant position in his group, so that I could prepare myself better? Given that I haven't even taken his classes yet (or even started school!), would this be frowned upon?

By asking him this, my intent is two-fold: (a) directly get to know the prerequisites of commencing research in his field, (b) make myself visible to him, even if it's in a cursory way - I'm assuming a lot of students would want to work with him, so I just figured networking a little early could improve my chances. Would this be okay, or am I being too eager about this? If anyone could tell me experiences specific to Germany, that'd be an added bonus (since university culture varies from country to country) - any advice would be great though!

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You should definitely ask him. But at the same time let him know that you have gone through his course details online. In your conversation with him ensure that you are not asking anything which is readily available on the university website. In other words, you should reflect in your actions that you are sincere about your queries and not wasting his time.

You should definitely ask the previous students. You can glean from their experiences to find out if this position is suitable for you.

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  • It does not seem likely that useful expectations for a research assistantship would be available online, as each position will be different. – Anonymous Physicist Aug 2 '20 at 6:10
  • Yes. But one can get an idea about it from older but similar advertisements . – kosmos Aug 2 '20 at 6:49
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Yes, you should ask that. Also ask his former students for advice.

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