This question is unrelated to the previous one I asked earlier this week.

There's a post-doc in a lab at my school who exactly fits my research interests-- as in, he is working in the exact subfield of the subfield I like, and he is using the exact techniques I would like to gain experience in.

Is it appropriate to just contact him instead of the professor who manages his group? (I guess, instead of contacting his mentor)

I know there's a question of funding, but frankly for several reasons I'm willing to not be paid, at least for the first few months (and I'll mention this in my email to him).

edit: I know there's some instability with postdocs in someone else's lab (they might just yeet to another lab), but if I get a year with him, I would still love the opportunity. edit: I'm second-year

  • Will you need a letter of reference? Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 4:51
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    Yes, it's an issue. A postdoc's reference will always be weaker than a profs, not because of content, but because of establishment. The postdoc is not well known, the prof is. On the other hand, if you don't care, and are happy to work there for a year, go for it. You are a person interested in research rather than career-grabbing; in the end it's the quality and quantity of your publications that count. Be aware that the power dynamic may not permit the postdoc to make such a decision, though. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 5:45
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    "they might just yeet to another lab" As a friendly heads up, it's probably best to use more professional language than this when actually contacting the postdoc or professor. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 9:47
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    Even if you're working with a postdoc you would still be joining their mentor's research group. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 14:15
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    You should specify your current role and what your future position would be in the group, e.g. UG research volunteer, PhD student, postdoc. Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


For this short answer, I'm using information from an earlier question that you asked here; namely, that you are a 2nd year undergraduate student. I'm not familiar with how Asian universities operate, but the below would by and large apply to both Europe and the U.S.

If there is any researcher at your university you are interested in working with (probably as an undergraduate researcher), then just talk to them. If you hit it off both personally and academically, then the postdoc (in the case at hand) will discuss with their PI (professor and research supervisor) if they can take you in. The PI will then decide if yes; sometimes after first talking to you as well.

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