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I am now in a thesis-track Master's program and will be applying to PhD next year. Now I want to do some research projects with some of the professors who have areas of interest that I am also interested in. There are only 2 (or 3 if you count in another one who only publish 2 papers in this area in the past 10 years) of them listed under my program right now as other people retired or moved. I already sent 3 emails (including follow-up emails) to these two professors respectively, and they don't seem to be replying at all. I don't know if I should continue to send more follow-up emails - I want to but I am worried that this might be annoying. I am sure that they are not on sabbatical nor stopped doing researches at the moment, so is there anything that I can do at this moment if not finding advisors in another area? Would attending the same conference with them, pretending that I bumped into them help, and then starting a dialogue be a good idea at all?

Also, how does co-advising really work? Is this some request that students actively make with two professors, or is this some request that professors make for students?

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  • Please clarify whether these are professors involved in the programme you are enrolled in, or others.
    – Arno
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 10:36
  • Thank you for your comment. The professors I am trying to reach is under the program I am enrolled in. All these professors are affiliated to multiple programs and my program is one of them.
    – sazhyahun
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 10:42

2 Answers 2

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I would recommend contacting your program's graduate director and asking his/her advice on how to find a thesis adviser.

Graduate programs differ by country, by subject area, and by individual department. That said, it's common that you'd get to know these professors before "popping the question". For example, you might take a class with them, or attend a weekly research seminar that they participate in. If you have any such opportunities, I recommend taking advantage of them.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made a complete mess out of everything. It has reduced opportunities for students to meet professors and each other, with many programs moving mostly or entirely online. It has caused a huge amount of stress, for example to parents of small children, or others who have difficulties working from home. And many people have either gotten ill, or have close friends or family who have gotten ill. As such, many people are not keen to take on additional responsibilities at the moment.

So, when evaluating the non-response, keep in mind that this semester is extremely unusual, and try not to read too much into it.

Finally, I recommend starting small. Don't ask for a big commitment from a professor who doesn't know who you are. Instead, first ask if you could talk with them about their research, if there are any books or papers they recommend reading, if there are any seminars or other opportunities they recommend taking advantage of.

Would attending the same conference with them, pretending that I bumped into them help, and then starting a dialogue be a good idea at all?

I don't recommend being dishonest in any way. But if you are interested in their research, then attending whatever conferences they're attending seems likely to be a good idea.

All this said, I'd recommend talking with your program's graduate director first -- h/she will know your program and be able to offer more detailed advice. Good luck to you.

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EDIT: I did not see "3 emails" when I originally answered the question. I thought we were talking about 1.

In light of that, it seems probable that they are not interested or don't have an opening. There is a chance they are just busy, but seems unlikely. You could wait a month or so and e-mail again, but unlikely to get a different result.

You should either look for different professors, or start looking around for other schools that have good programs and email them.

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  • Morgan thank you for your reply. Does this mean that professors are not interested already? :( If so does this mean that I have no chance of getting them on hook does it? :(
    – sazhyahun
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 22:04
  • Ah. @MorganRodgers I read the question too quickly. I did not see "3 e-mails". I thought we were talking about one e-mail. You are right. I will edit my answer.
    – Daniel K
    Commented Nov 1, 2020 at 2:21

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