When applying for a postdoc position, it makes sense to write something like this in the cover letter:

Dear Professor NAME. I am writing to apply for POSITION in your lab

What I'm stuck on, is that a cover letter is a formal letter, so should be written in a formal register. However, the word "lab" is an abbreviation and so inherently informal, which makes it seem wrong. On the other hand "laboratory" sounds even more wrong because no-one says "at my laboratory" in speech.

Is the word "lab" appropriate in this context?

  • Abbreviations aren't inherently informal. Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


I agree with you that both lab and laboratory don't sound good. Maybe you could use "group" instead?


You could (should?) use the word the lab uses in their official name, if there is one: eg Centre / Laboratory / Group / Unit. When I was an undergrad, the department where I studied had a Hydrological Research Unit, for example. In that case your letter could say:

I am writing to apply for POSITION in your unit


I am writing to apply for POSITION in the Hydrological Research Unit

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