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I applied to several corporate research labs for internships. Seeing no progress on my application, I emailed a professor in a top university asking for an internship. He was impressed by my work and agreed to accept me. Now I got an offer from a top corporate lab in my area of research. How do I politely decline the professor's offer, given that I might want to do a PhD with him in future?

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Just send her/him a polite e-mail saying that although you were/are very much looking forward to working with her/him, you are taking another offer right now, but wish to stay in touch:

Dear Prof. X, I am very much looking forward to working with you. However, at this time I have also received a placement offer at company Y, and I will go there. I hope we can work together in the future.

Best regards,
Firstname Lastname.

Or something similar. If you are polite and honest, you should be fine.

  • won't he be angry on why did I even apply to work with him if I was already expecting another offer? – Rohit Mar 16 '15 at 16:59
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    There's no reason to be mad. It's normal to apply to several places. – Marc Claesen Mar 16 '15 at 18:17
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    I would avoid this sentence: "I am very much looking forward to work with you" as it starts off the email as if you will accept. I would say something like "Dear Prof. X, Thank you for your replies, your work looks very exciting, however, I have received a placement offer... " – Stephanie Jun 9 '15 at 12:34
  • @Rohit: Not as long as you were clear and honest with the professor. If you did something like clearly accept his offer, then back out of it, yes, he may be angry. – kec Apr 8 '17 at 2:22

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