I am interested in applying to PhD in Mathematics in University of Luxembourg. In the webpage it is written that "We recommend that you contact potential thesis supervisors by email to discuss your areas of general research interest and specific ideas for a thesis topic. You may consider sending a description of the research project and your CV. Once you have identified a supervisor, he/she will initiate the application process and complete the application for admission."

Therefore, I need to contact potential thesis supervisors by emails to discuss areas of general research interest and specific ideas for a thesis topic. That is, first I need to convince a professor to supervise me or I am well prepared to work under the professor.

Therefore, I am thinking that I will send an email to a professor. But I am facing some troubles.

I want to apply to PhD in Mathematics on Algebraic Topology. One thing that I have understood is to be selected I need to show interest on that particular subject. I want to convince the professor that I am well prepared to work under him and eager to join his research group. But, the problem this how to show the interest?

I have planned something and I want to execute my plans. I am sharing with you. One of the ideas is to read some papers of the professor and do comment on that. But I think it's not so the good idea because it may be cause of a bad impression. But I may be wrong. Now I am writing here, what I am thinking.

I am thinking the followings.

  1. Since, I am particularly interested in Algebraic Topology, I will attach in the email a detailed learning roadmaps (mentioning the references) of Algebraic Topology in which way I learned the subject.
  2. I am thinking that I will attach (or give a google drive link) solutions of the exercises of some books, the exercises of those books are not easy to solve (even for researchers). I am preparing the hand written solutions on the IPad.
  3. Also, I will attached a write-up for the ideas for future research on the particular topic, in which I would like to help from some papers of the professor and mention those in my write-up. That's mean I will read some papers of the professor and made a write-up where I will include my ideas as well as some parts (or results or may be some ideas) of the Professor's paper.

Please advise me. Am I thinking in a right way? Please help me. It will also be helpful for me if you add your opinions and advise in details.

Thanking in advanced.

  • 1
    I think that what you propose would be enough.
    – user135405
    Apr 2, 2021 at 16:27
  • 2
    I don't think sending an email with books you've read and a few solved exercises would get you any responses. I think Adam at Avidnote's answer is good -- you should try to look for postings about PhD positions and apply to those. One good place to look for algebraic topology PhD openings is on the ALGTOP mailing list archives. Apr 2, 2021 at 17:16

2 Answers 2


It all depends on the university and so I don't thinkt here's one piece of advice that suits all cases. At some universities, PhD positions are advertised on their website and through other channels, and potential applicants will need to submit their proposal through those official means. In other situations, a Professor can manually pick a grad student to supervise as their PhD student if they have the funding to do so.

My advice is to look at the credible websites that advertise PhD positions, and search for a position that relates to your field. From my experience, very few professors would respond positively to receiving a cold email like this from out of the blue. They will usually just be deleted. The best case is to contact someone you've worked with before, or through someone who knows the Professor who can put in a good word for you.

  • 3
    One place to find European PhD openings in algebraic topology is on the ALGTOP mailing list archives. For example, there were 5 such openings announced between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2021: lists.lehigh.edu/pipermail/algtop-l/2021q1/thread.html. Apr 2, 2021 at 17:14
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    Nice tip! I suppose one could also check twitter/linked and set Google alerts for when a new position is published. Apr 2, 2021 at 17:16

I don't think you need to send a "learning roadmap" or solved exercises. A learning roadmap doesn't really convey whether you have learned the subject. The University of Luxembourg requires that you have a masters degree before you start your PhD. If you have a masters in math, then you've probably solved a few exercises in the process.

Having ideas for future research projects is a very good thing, especially if they are ideas relating to the work of a potential advisor. My advice is to keep the initial email short and to the point -- you can add more details once you get a response. Something like:

"Dear Prof. [So and So],

I am interested in applying for a PhD position at the University of Luxembourg. I obtained my Masters from [the Institute of Such and Such]. I would be interested in working on a project relating to your work on [informal group laws]. I have a few ideas for potential projects in this direction. Please let me know if you would be willing to discuss these.

Thank you in advance for your time,


Of course, don't just copy this and insert the relevant details. You want to write the email in your own voice. This is just to give you an idea of how to keep it short and to the point. And good luck!

  • Thanks for your answer. My university does not offer a course in Algebraic Topology. But I have learned the basics of the subject on my own. Since I have no proof that I have learned the subject, I am thinking that I will send my hand written exercises (on IPad) through a google link. I will send the exercises of the books like, Hatcher; Knots and Links. I think solving those are not easy (even for early researchers) task. I am talking just a way about convincing the professor that I am well prepared to do work in his research group. Am I going in a right direction?
    – user138005
    Apr 3, 2021 at 5:21
  • I am thinking that I will make this material available on a website and let professors know about it. Is that a good idea?
    – user138005
    Apr 3, 2021 at 7:23
  • I still don’t think this is a good idea. I wouldn’t say the exercises in Hatcher are hard for researchers. If you have good ideas for research directions and can discuss them, that’s a much better indication that you have a solid background in the subject Apr 3, 2021 at 12:23

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