I am a master student. In the next year I need to start my work on master thesis. I have sent letters to two professors in the same group, stating my interest, and have asked if they have a suitable project for me. One said that he is retired and cannot take long term responsibility, but he invited me to join a seminar (closely related to my interest), funded by their group. The other professor also invited me to the seminar, but said nothing about the project.

I mostly believe that the latter professor has rejected me, but I am not sure, is my intuition correct?

  • 1
    I don't know the answer as it is likely culture specific. However, AFAIK it is quite common that a professor asks prospective thesis students to first take their course(s) before deciding to accept them for thesis work, so that could be the case here. Have you checked if they have put any requirements on their academic or lab web page?
    – GoodDeeds
    Aug 13, 2020 at 10:17
  • I don't see any. The question is the seminar start from October and end at June, but I need to start at November. I believe I will join the seminar but the question does not resolve. BTW I am in Germany
    – Ken.Wong
    Aug 13, 2020 at 10:30

3 Answers 3


The first one has clearly rejected you for the reasons he gave.

Their seminar group is a place where their existing students might present and discuss their work, including PhDs and post-docs. This invitation essentially is for an initiation ceremony. If you like their work and are interested in making a project out of their research directions and they think you have the requisite background they might accept you in their group and the professor will work with you for your thesis. That is what I make out of this.

Be positive and enjoy a nice seminar. One should worry about things in their control. Best of luck!


It’s too difficult to tell as to whether or not the professors do or do not want you - perhaps they’d like to meet you first because your initial email was not enough for them to offer you funding. You should just go to the seminar to follow up on their invitation. In the mean time, you should expand your horizon to more than those two professors especially as the first one clearly is not interested in advising students any longer.


Joining the seminar is a chance to demonstrate your abilities to the professor, particularly if you are given a chance to present. At one point, a new student was introduced to our group by a PI who said "this is X, we are, um, reading papers together". Despite the apparent low level of initial commitment, X is now a PhD candidate in our group. Taking on a new student is a big commitment for a PI, so they may need further time to be convinced.

Joining the seminar also gives you a chance to get to know other students in the group, and they might have an idea of whether the PI is intending to take new students (or at least they'll know if he had just taken 5 new students in the previous year).

So I don't think you need to be so discouraged. As mentioned already, however, this doesn't stop you from reaching out to other professors as back up.

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