I've worked for an university for one year after my master's degree. Now I'm searching another job. For the moment I've tried to ask to several professors via email if there is any internship opportunities but only a couple of them answered me. I'm wondering if I'm doing something wrong or this is not the praxis or the formal manner for this type of requests. This is a general template I use:

Dear Professor Surname,

I'm a young chemist for the conservation of Cultural Heritage. In my career I've studied mainly non-invasive techniques for art diagnostics and authentication, such as reflectography and Raman spectroscopy. I've also learned, on my own, to use GIS software for organizing data for Cultural Heritage management. I've seen that one of name of a Project I'm interested tasks is the maintenance of cultural heritage. Therefore, I would like to ask you if there are any internship opportunities in which my expertise could be useful to your current research? Thank you for your time.

Best regards,

How can I propose myself for an internship? Which is the most accepted praxis?

  • 2
    Do you mean academic internship or something else? I am not sure whether or not non-academic internship would be on-topic for this site
    – posdef
    May 9, 2014 at 10:23
  • Unless you find the chance to talk to him or her at an event such as a department morning tea, seminar (etc), and no positions are advertised, then IMO email really is the only way to ask. There are a few minor grammatical errors in your example email, so if you're writing to the professor in English you should try to make sure that it is perfect.
    – Moriarty
    May 9, 2014 at 11:04
  • @posdef I'm talking about an academic internship!
    – G M
    May 9, 2014 at 12:34
  • 1
    @GM see the edit I have made (for grammar only, not content). Note that while "learnt" is common in British English, it is seen as very colloquial in American English. If you are writing formally, you should (debatably!) also avoid contractions such as "I'm".
    – Moriarty
    May 9, 2014 at 13:02
  • 1
    In the US at least, most professors don't have the authority or know-how to hire anyone, except through standard channels for standard academic positions. (And often not even that.) And I've never personally heard of an "internship" at any university (although I wouldn't be surprised if they're more common in fields other than mine). So, unfortunately, the people you're contacting possibly have no ability to help you.
    – Anonymous
    May 9, 2014 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


I don't think this practice is rude, but if these are not people with whom you have any connection, and who have not advertised a position, then I don't think you should be especially surprised that you aren't getting many responses. In all likelihood, the answer is "no" and they don't feel like anything will be achieved by telling you that.

A few things which might be hurting you:

  • The email above really reads like a mass form email. You aren't making any argument about how your expertise is relevant to their specific work, and you're putting the burden on them to think about how your skills might fit with what they're doing rather than thinking about it yourself.
  • Maybe this is different in other fields, but it's not clear to me what "internship" is supposed to mean here. A paid position? Unpaid? You may be being deliberately vague, but if you're not responding to an ad for a specific position, you have have some clarity about what you're looking for.
  • I think that the slightly awkward English doesn't really help. "Chemist for the conservation of Cultural Heritage" sounds very strange to me. I think "Chemist specializing in/interested in/working on the conservation of Cultural Heritage" is much better.
  • Thanks a lot, I keep "internship" vague because if I ask him directly for a paid position I think it could lower the chances to get a reply, however tell him directly that I can work for free will make him chose for this option directly.
    – G M
    May 9, 2014 at 12:47
  • 1
    It is illegal in many (western?) countries to have an unpaid position or internship, and will probably become so in the next few years in the US, so I wouldn't worry about being so vague.
    – Bill Barth
    May 9, 2014 at 14:07

To add to Ben's answer, professors usually get these emails by the dozens and for various reasons, most of them are auto-tuned to ignore them. The maximum notice such emails may get is a mention in a lunchtime comment to colleagues. Like Ben said, if you are not getting a reply, the answer is probably "no". If there are open positions, they would already be advertised on the prof's or the department's page. Some departments do not take interns as a policy and say so on their webpage.

Your best bet is to contact professors whom you personally know, or have your own professor recommend you to colleagues. Go to places where you can meet more professors, e.g. conferences. Look for professors who have published in your area and start a discussion on some paper of theirs you find interesting. Those emails do get noticed! Bring up your need for an internship in said discussion.

  • 5
    +1 for "professors usually get these emails by the dozens". This is indeed a big problem. It seems everybody who shows up in proximity to a faculty list gets an insane amount of such requests, to the extend that it is really difficult to not just auto-ignore them.
    – xLeitix
    May 9, 2014 at 12:05
  • On the other hand, when I asked for PhD vacancies, some professors answered saying they were going to open one in [date], that will be announced [website].
    – Davidmh
    May 9, 2014 at 14:25
  • 2
    To be considered above the clutter, you want to have some pre-existing relationship with the person you are asking for help. May 9, 2014 at 18:09
  • 1
    Even I, not even a doctor yet, receive such emails occasionally, and it's obvious that they just did a copy-paste of my name / affiliation into a standard email...
    – Lagerbaer
    May 9, 2014 at 23:03
  • 1
    Sending from a .edu email address might up your chances a little bit.
    – David Z
    May 10, 2014 at 4:22

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