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I would like to ask a researcher in a foreign institution to do my master thesis ( 5 months worth of research in Experimental Physics ) under his supervision.

I have written both a motivational letter and a short, coincise email stating what my intentions are.

Should I only send the coincise email, and wait for them to ask me for a motivational letter + curriculum, or should i attach those to the mail?

Otherwise, would it be better if I wrote the motivational letter in plain text under the mail, so that if they want to read it they won't have to ask me for it?

I know from my previous advisor that he often rejected such proposals if they were not coincise enough because he did not want to waste time. He told me that he mainly answer those who "tickle" his interest in few words, but I would like to hear more opinions.

Here is the short mail I was thinking of:

Dear Professor, I am a graduate physics student at the University of QuantumState currently on my first year of my master.

During my four years of studies I developed a keen interest in the peculiar laws that describe lower dimensional quantum systems, alongside a passion for the challenges that are encountered in the experimental study of such systems. I would like to dedicate my master thesis to an experimental study in this field, in particular, I would like to do so under your supervision in your research group.

Alongside my interest in the field ( and I know that your institution is one of the top research centers in the area ), I also have a strong personal desire of moving to Copenhagen: if during my stay you would find me a suitable addition to your group, I would be more than looking forward to apply for a Doctorate position at your institution.

The timeframe allotted by my university for work on the master thesis is the period going from february 2016 onwards (usually 5 months). I know that it is very early, but to do the research in a foreign institution my university requires me to obtain a statement of intent from the external advisor long before.

Attached you find a more throughout letter about my interests and Ideas, and my curriculum.

Best regards, Me Myself

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    Is this email short indeed? – Enthusiastic Engineer Feb 22 '15 at 20:29
  • Not really. But I don't know what would be a wise choice removing. Originally I thought about having only the first 2 paragrphs. – PhilipV Feb 22 '15 at 21:03
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    Personally, I never attach things like this. In this context, I would instead provide them a link to my website/CV/portfolio. – Austin Henley Feb 23 '15 at 1:30
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I do not know what the customs are in physics, but professors get requests like this a lot, and most of them feel like form letters (i.e., as if a student is sending out a bunch hoping someone will be interested).

If you want to get noticed, be very explicit as to why you are interested in this person and their lab, and if your desired research aligns with projects you know they are doing, say so with explicit references. Your paragraphs above sound very generic, something you could have sent many places.

Also, please consider: - if you are excited about a large project the professor is doing and would be happy to do a project for the professor that they need done, say so. Typically, if you have an idea already, that might be less appealing than being interested in doing something that the professor wants/needs to be done. Of course, having as specific interesting idea also shows you understand the area and the professors work. - if you have funding and will not cost the professor anything, say so. Oftentimes, professors don't have spare funding to pay for a visiting student (especially one they do not know) ever if they wanted to. - I would somehow (perhaps in the longer document) give an indication of experience you have (don't just tersely list it on the resume). A big question a professor would have is how much experience you have and how likely you are to be able to do something good in a short few months.

I would also definitely include the attachments of the long statement and resume in your first message. If the professor gets through your note and is interested, they would probably appreciate knowing more about you before replying.

Remember: the most precious commodity to a professor is their time. You need to convince them that the time they will invest in you is worth it.

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Given the fact that professors or even post-docs receive bulks of these emails (most of them mass spam mails), you really don’t want to waste their time looking through numerous attachments.

When I applied for for my master thesis at top-tier institutions in the US/UK, I went with your first suggested option: a short and concise mail with 1 attachment. This worked for me and led to a visiting research stay at the MIT.

This short mail with the most important and relevant information should replace the classical motivational letter in my opinion. It is important that each line of your mail provides sufficient value so that a professor continues to read to the next one. So it’s good to refrain from standard phrases. Besides being short, the message really needs to be individualized. I tried to show that I familiarized myself with his specific research such as recent publications. Aspects of the message were mainly motivation, the research idea/topic, my qualifications and how I can contribute. As already mentioned by Blair your chances increase significantly if you state that they don’t need to fund you.

With this email I would recommend at most 1-2 attachments e.g. your CV or already published papers. In a further note you could still offer to send further documents such as transcripts, writing samples or what else could be relevant in your research area on request.

If you are interested in the application beyond the questions about attachements, it might be worth to look here https://www.termabroad.com/ , where we wrote a little guide about the application as a visiting researcher e.g. for a thesis.

Best regards

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