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I did my Ph.D. 2 years ago. After that, I moved into the industry where I am now working in a similar field. I like to think that they would be happy to get a mail every now and then on what I have been up to or if I bump into some interesting research questions. I have been sending them a mail once every 8 months or so if I had something to share (e.g. a job opportunity, relevant research paper) or just for giving them an update on my professional life. It does not seem to annoy them.

But is it generally appreciated that I reach out/stay in contact? Or is it strange that I still contact them now and then?

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  • 14
    Flippant but still accurate comment: professors never mind getting polite, interesting emails that don't require a response from them :D Sep 11, 2020 at 7:40
  • 8 months seems rather too often. Even family newsletters are more traditionally annual
    – Valorum
    Sep 12, 2020 at 17:22

4 Answers 4

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I always appreciate such messages from old students. I often wonder what they are getting up to. I don't think I'm unique in that, but some would, perhaps, not be as happy with "interruptions." But you will get a sense of whether you should continue it if you do this from the response.

Going back in person is also a nice thing to do if you get the opportunity. Not only for advisors, but also for old mentors that you think had a positive impact on your life and career.

If it annoys them, you will hear about it, or they will just ignore you. But I think it is a professional courtesy to keep people updated. Many of them have invested something in you and like to hear how the investment has turned out.

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    100% this – anyone who is annoyed will either ignore you or be a jerk (and there's your answer). I love hearing from former students (undergrads too!) but I'd say, unless you've become friends since graduating, stick to major things like important papers, fellowships, or a teaching job. Another option would be to find them on social media and connect that way! Sep 12, 2020 at 15:29
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I expect there are some supervisors that would be annoyed by this, but I suspect they would be in the minority. A supervisor invests a lot into a student, and unless you left on bad terms, its most likely they'd love to hear how you are doing, I know I would.

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About 10 years after getting my Masters in CS I came across an obscure feature on a software project I was doing on the side. It involved discrete math, which is mostly theoretical. Dr Itoga had taught this at the University of Hawaii, my alma mater.

I decided to send him an email telling him that I finally had a chance to use what he had taught me, and that he should his students that you never know what CS skills you are going to use in industry.

The next day I get an email reply that he always hearing from his former students, and asks if he can post what I said for his students.

Of course I replied yes. I told this story to a friend, who then tracked down Dr Itoga's post to his students with my words quoted.

Although it will depend on your relationship with your advisor or professor, in general, yes, they appreciate you reaching out.

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As you stay close to their field, it might be interesting to your professor. You could simply ask, if he wants further updates.

Most PhD students leaving academia also leave their field and work on completely different topics or have other issues as those researchers face. In these case, it would be enough to talk to the advisor at alumni meetings or the professors round birthday parties to keep them updated.

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    This may be cultural specific (in my culture there are not much alumni meetings or birthday parties where this would be possible/appropriate) but as I know those students also on a human level I very much appriaciate their updates even when they are not about academia (or not even about work).
    – user111388
    Sep 10, 2020 at 9:16

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