I am currently looking at an advertised postdoctoral fellowship (in the US if that matters), where it is stated that the topic of the research proposal should be discussed with faculty members before submission. My proposal is interdisciplinary and would ideally be a collaboration between multiple faculty members, which is one of the reasons why I chose the institution in question.

Since I don't know any of the faculty members at this institution personally, I will have to cold email them in one form or another. I would know what to write if I wanted to only work with one of them. How do I approach multiple of them to propose such a collaboration?

I see three options:

  • "All in one": Email them all at the same time in one email. I feel this could be the most efficient option. However, I am concerned that this might seem overly forward since then they might have to coordinate a response among themselves.
  • "Separate": Email them all at the same time, but in separate emails with a note that I emailed the other people as well. This would be less forward, but also less efficient. In addition, it could lead to awkward situations if only a subset of them respond or are interested. On the other hand, it may also increase the chance of actually getting a response.
  • "Separate and sequential": Email them one at a time and wait for a response before emailing the next one. This option seems hugely inefficient, but may be the most polite.

Is there any accepted etiquette for such emails?

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    It sounds like you're suggesting a single joint project among all of you. For this situation, I think email them all together makes the most sense. (I wouldn't expect them to try to coordinate a response, they can just send individual responses saying that they'd be interested or not.)
    – Kimball
    Sep 19, 2020 at 14:01
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    Side remark: you say that you don't know any of them. Are there people who could mutually introduce you to get you a "lukewarm" start? Sep 20, 2020 at 12:19
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    @cbeleitesunhappywithSX unfortunately not, my introduction conference fell flat due to Covid. The fellowship seems to encourage external and interdisciplinary applications though, so I am hoping that this is not a problem as such. I also know that students from previous generations at my university have been successful with similar application approaches for similar fellowships. Sep 20, 2020 at 12:30
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    I recommend contacting them separately. Professors get a lot of spam e-mails that often do not address them by name and do not illustrate how the request is related to that professor's research. Even if you want include multiple faculty members in your project, I would send individual e-mails customized to the particular researchers.
    – user
    Nov 15, 2020 at 12:19
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1 Answer 1


There is no one correct answer since it will depend a lot on the personalities of the professors and whether they already work together.

A hybrid strategy that can be efficient in some cases, is to first contact the person who is closest to your theme, and finish by asking whether they advise you to contact the other names on your list. That shows that you have thought about the project but will defer to their local knowledge.

If you don't get an immediate response, feel free to contact the others separately in parallel, but this time saying that you are also sending out feelers to the others.

The goal is that nobody thinks feels like they are being manipulated, everybody understands that you would like to build a collaborative project, and they all have something to talk about during the next coffee break.

Be brief, and don't forget to put links to your CV and Git repo in your signature

  • I do not see any sign in the question that OP is in a field where coding and github accounts matter. Jul 24, 2021 at 11:26
  • I couldn't think of a better shorthand for “any place where they can see the kind of work you do”. Lots of young scientists keep their Jupyter notebooks in a git repo. A public repo is the first thing I look for when I get an e-mail from a potential student. But you are right that my answer is biased towards scientists. Suggestions welcome!
    – djs
    Jul 25, 2021 at 11:01

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