I'm starting in a phD program in September, and am in the process of finalizing my three lab rotations. The two PIs I'm really interested in working with are not available for the first rotation, so I'm going to do my second and third rotations in their labs. In our program, we hand in a list of lab preferences for the first rotation, and are placed in a lab on that list. However, none of the PIs I listed have agreed to take me on as a rotation student, and I've only talked with one of them (my first choice), as I was hoping that I could do my first rotation in his lab. I just got my rotation placement though, and was placed into another lab where I've had no communication with the PI.
This lab does research in an area I'm interested in and I'm looking forward to the rotation, however, I'm really kicking myself for never having reached out to this PI before. I think this really makes me look unprepared and not that interested in his lab, which is not a great start to graduate school. I now need to email this PI for the first time to ask for reading material, rotation projects... and I'm at a loss for how to set up this email. Ideally, this sort of introductory email should have been sent before this point. So I'm really interested in hearing from any professors whether you would reflect negatively on an incoming student who has never contacted you. As well, how would you phrase the first introductory email at this point? Obviously, I'm going to first introduce myself and attach my CV, but should I request a meeting with him to then talk about rotation projects? The problem is that I live about three hours away from the school, and so it would be a little difficult for me to go in for just one meeting (but I will do it if that is the best way going forward). Alternatively, should I request a skype meeting, or simply ask questions in the email? Also, should I apologize for having never reached out to him before this point, or just not mention it at all? Thanks!