I am planning to pursue a PhD and I have been in touch with a prospective supervisor in a different country. He is currently employed with a research center affiliated with a university, where many of researchers from this research center are pursuing their PhDs at the affiliated university. Therefore, as you can tell I haven't been in touch with an actual university supervisor. Our research interests are match made in heaven, he is very supportive with a research topic that I proposed and already offered to supervise me for my PhD. With this pandemic, and I guess not being a "university", funding was our problem. He informed me that he is trying to get funding by submitting proposals and will let me know if there is any update.

My last email with him was in early May (4 months ago). As a former master student in graduate school, I know by heart how forgetful even my own supervisor could be, and in this case, especially when I am only a stranger to him from 4 months ago. I am worried that he's already forgotten about me. Should I keep my orbit around him ? And how do I politely do that ?

I have some plans, including sending an email to ask/confirm information regarding funding sources that I have tried to gather myself this past few months. However, being a professional researcher in my target country and the funding sources being from there as well, I believe he'd probably be more aware of this information that I am about to send. Also most funding sources would require a university host as a partner, and him being affiliated with a research center instead of university, I am not sure if my funding information would be useful / applicable in our case. I am afraid I would bother / offend him instead by asking.

In the end, I have 2 questions :

  1. Should I keep my orbit around him ? If yes, how do we politely do that ?
  2. He is been looking for funding to support my proposal, could I send an email inquire an update on this ? Also, is it polite for me to inform any information regarding funding that I have gathered myself ?

I'd appreciate any advice, thank you.

  • 2
    The information that you are probably missing is that even if he managed to submit a funding proposal, it can easily take >6 months until he hears back from them. Unless he wrote you in the past that he submitted a proposal, it's fair to ask if his plan to submit a funding proposal worked out. You can mention that in the meantime, you have been searching for other potential funding options for the case that the proposal is not granted.
    – DCTLib
    Aug 24, 2021 at 10:06
  • @DCTLib Thank you, that's a good point. He did mention he's trying to submit, but there's no further information / update whether he actually has submitted. I'm going to send my email asking for some more information on this as well.
    – raisa_
    Aug 24, 2021 at 10:20

1 Answer 1


As somebody who has been in the situation of your potential supervisor I can say that having an email once in a while with a reasonable request or some useful information can't hurt. Even information that ultimately will not lead to anything or I already know is OK as long as it is clear to me that it could seem potentially useful from your point of view. The suggestion of @DCTLib in the comments surely makes sense. Indeed you never know what people have on their plate, it may be a lot and they may forget you, although not having an email from him for four months does not necessarily mean that you are forgotten. It may or it may not be.

Personally I appreciate if people show some determination, but there is a fine line, and it is certainly also advisable to avoid communication that doesn't have a purpose other than "keeping an orbit around someone". So contact him by all means with something that makes proper sense, but don't overdo it. There's honest and to some extent competent interest that is appreciated, and there's spamming people which isn't. Writing after four months is certainly not overdoing it, writing once a week is, I'd say.

  • 1
    Thank you. I don't want to be passive and just wait for things to happen / for him to contact me first. I was just worried that I was in a rush because I am aware that submitting for a grant / funding will take a while. Your answer was very helpful for me since you've been in the same situation. So, sending an email asking for an update after a few months is okay, I'll send my email !
    – raisa_
    Aug 24, 2021 at 12:19

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