I am meeting with a biology professor to discuss opportunities for an undergraduate research assistantship. I initiated the contact by introducing myself via email and sending him my CV and general areas of interest. He agreed to meet with me to discuss research opportunities, but I am wondering what is the expected length of a meeting like this? Also, are there any materials (e.g. printed copy of my CV) that I should bring? Should I come prepared with questions about his research (which would require hours and hours of critical reading, because while his work seems interesting to me, it's also very difficult to fully understand) or simply honestly tell him that I'm not as knowledgeable about his work as I would like to be but it sounds very interesting to me and I want to be involved? Lastly, is casual clothing appropriate?

Any answers are appreciated. Thank you.


1 Answer 1


Typically from personal experience these types of meetings are informal so no need to get overly dressed or prepare a large portfolio. Casual but nice clothing is definitely appropriate. It won't be a job interview but rather just a friendly discussion. If this is your first meeting about research, it will most likely just be a brief overview of what he does and potentially what a student would be doing. If you decide to do research with him then he most likely have future meetings in which he will discuss things more in depth, give papers to read to begin learning area of research and explain what is expected.

A professor is usually more than happy to discuss their research and take on someone whose interested and determined to conduct research if they have room. That being said, often times the professor would like that you have at least a general idea about what he or she does in their research and areas that interest you. You can expect a question such as, "What about the work I do stuck out for you and made you want to pursue this?" as I can recall being asked this more than once. It is also a good idea to have a few questions for them about their research, labs, etc. Again questions don't need to be an in depth inquiry on their research but just some light questions to get to know them and their work.

It's ok to be unknowledgable on the area of research as that's the point of research; to learn about the field and discover new concepts. The important thing is showing the desire to learn. Also you are an undergraduate so it's more expected that you don't have much experience in a research field.

All in all, from my personal experience it's a quick informal discussion with the professor to provide insight to you so you can decide if you want to conduct research with them. I've had nothing but pleasant experiences with this since professors love others interested in their research and I'm sure you will have the same experience! Good luck!

  • Great answer! I would add that maybe you should try to get a good idea about at least one specific paper that the professor has done. This way, you can show that you put in a fair amount of effort to understand his/her work instead of possibly just skimming. You can even try to remember specific questions that you can bring up when the professor asks you about his/her research.
    – EL_BR_CV
    Aug 18, 2015 at 4:18

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