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I understand that a somewhat similar question has been asked before, but my parameters here are slightly different. Essentially, I have been emailing a professor since early April about joining their lab. They have responded and inquired what sort of projects I would be interested in. They also remarked that they would be interested in meeting after the semester is over. Well, after final grades were input I sent an email and... no dice after two-ish weeks. This is no surprise, given that I know a student who got a response from them months after sending an email. The thing is, I am trying to join their project over the summer and well, precious summer days are about to start passing pretty fast.

In summary, I am moving close to campus next week, and I am wondering if it would be rude or brutish to go to their office location physically to follow up. Is this a bad idea? The difference between this situation and the last person who asked is that this is during summer and COVID times. I also just finished my freshman year if that matters.

EDIT: as a corollary, I could also try calling the office. Though that almost seems more incessant than showing up in my opinion. Thoughts?

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It's not rude. It quite probably is futile.

  • Many faculty are not in their offices very often normally.
  • Many faculty are in their offices less in the summer - in particular, they are unlikely to have scheduled office hours.
  • During a pandemic, you might not be able to go into the building anyway.

If the professor does not feel safe meeting in person during a pandemic, they'll just tell you to contact them some other way when you show up.

Do not go to a professor's office if you are sick. Also, do not go anywhere, except for medical care.

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  • Of course! I would never even consider this if I wasn’t vaccinated. But I suppose I just needed an extra perspective. I appreciate it, this was basically what I was thinking. May 28 at 17:34
  • Yes the pandemic complicates this. Otherwise is a possibility. But you could perhaps call, saying that being near you would like to visit the lab/institution. In all the groups I know, something would have been arranged for, at least, touring you through facilities and people.
    – Alchimista
    May 29 at 9:33
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Given that there was a tacit agreement to have a meeting sometime in the summer, an unannounced drop-in wouldn't be unusual. But the real issue is that you don't even know if they will be in their office during the summer. COVID is still forcing several campuses to stay remote and have less than full attendance. Several professors are still conducting all business from home. So are you just going to drop by their office everyday at random hours hoping that you will catch them one of these days?

Your best bet is to email one of the professor's graduate students and ask them about their status. Depending on how big the lab is, you might be working with these people mainly anyway. I would do this before visiting the professor's office for an impromptu meeting.

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  • This is a great idea, I think this will be my next route. May 28 at 17:35
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In addition to the other answers, I would suggest sending a polite follow-up email along the lines of "Professor X, I hope you are well. Would you still have time to meet to discuss summer project work, as we discussed during the semester?" It could very well be that they got distracted and just need a gentle reminder to respond.

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Rude? probably, especially in these times of "the less people I meet, the better". Futile? almost certain, for the reasons given by @AnonymousPhysicist .

Professors have secretary/secretaries. Call them, set up an appointment, they know the professor agenda and can tell you exactly when you should appear to talk with him, after having agreed a time.

Professor are not super-humans, but they have a huge load of work and the same 24 hours/day as the others. Your request is not so important in professor's eyes, so it did not get the proper attention (i.e. time). You are on the right path to understand that talking in person will be very effective, so it is time saved for both you and the professor, but you are pursuing that meeting the wrong way.

It is a good lesson to learn to show what you care for in the proper&smart manner: it is important to you, you need 15 minutes to express the importance to the professor, the professor needs 15 minutes to evaluate you and will likely allocate 15 minutes only for that, so you should prefer to have him in a good mood. Set up a proper appointment through the secretary.

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  • 6
    Secretaries? My entire department shares 2 staff members. May 28 at 16:02
  • @AlexanderWoo there you go. If the professor is not there, there are 2 staff members to pester with.
    – EarlGrey
    May 28 at 19:05
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    As far as I know, the only professor in my department whose agenda is known to a staff member is the department chair. May 29 at 3:26
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    It's incorrect to say that professors have secretaries. May 29 at 16:32

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