There is this lab that I want to work for as a graduate research assistant (I'm a masters and hoping for research experience and funding) and before I email the PI, I thought of emailing the grad student who was already working there to get a better understanding of the lab and what kind of skillset that I should develop to make myself more competitive. With that being said, how can I email the grad student without coming off as annoying or ingenuine?

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    As a PhD student myself I have recieved some similar emails myself. In my personal opinion, the only ones that are annoying are the ones in which the student feels the need to brag about their achievements/grades and talk about why they are fit for the job. If gaining insight into the lab is your biggest interest at this point in time, a short email in which you state your interest about working in the lab and politely ask for a personal talk should do the job.
    – pbaer
    May 3 at 7:53
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    About getting what? Assistance? Enrolled? Money?
    – Alchimista
    May 3 at 8:30
  • When you hit the professional world you'll find this to be a thing successful people tend to do. A concise, polite note stating you'd like to learn more about what it means to work in the lab is what you want, maybe meeting over coffee or tea or online. May 3 at 13:43
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  • Please do not tell me this is not a duplicate because no professor is involved. Jun 2 at 23:38

You can email a grad student but you may not get a reply, depending on lots of things, including how much effort it would take to answer.

You can ask about what the work is like. You can ask for the expectations of the PI. You can ask whether the work complements their dissertation work. You can ask about what skills are most useful in the lab, but this might be a hard question to answer.

Don't make it personal. In particular, I'd suggest avoiding questions about the PI's personality, and such. Don't ask for assistance in getting accepted into the lab or the degree program as it isn't their job to assist anyone else in that.

  • Just wanted to chime in and agree. You most likely will not get a reply. When I was doing my MSc, I emailed a few PhD students about lab environment and research directions. No one replied. When I started my PhD, I got similar emails from prospective students. I ignored all of them. I guess its just people ignoring people.
    – shk92
    May 3 at 20:05

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