I emailed a professor a week ago about any potential undergraduate opportunities he might have in his research lab. I have not yet gotten a response. Is this normal? the end of my email went like this, was I too pushy or was I not explicit enough with my question? would it be rude to send another email asking again? thanks for any comments

I would appreciate the chance to talk with you about any possible undergraduate opportunities you are currently offering for the Spring 2016 semester or Fall 2016 semester. I understand you are very busy. We could schedule an appointment or I can drop by your office when you are available. Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide. Thank you, (my name)

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    It means the professor is up to his butt in alligators. It may mean that "undergraduate opportunities" are low on his priority list. If the professor has posted office hours, drop in. If you get the cold shoulder, go away and look elsewhere.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 2:30

6 Answers 6


This is very common. I am a doctoral student and my advisor is the director of department. Sometimes, it took him two weeks respond my email. You can send him/her again with a friendly reminder as start or you can stop by his/her office. The latter one is what I usually do.

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    What if that office is across the ocean? I mean how do I remind her/him the politest via mail or maybe on the phone? Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 12:50

No answer at all is a possible result

Depending on the situation, unsolicited emails "about any potential undergraduate opportunities he might have in his research lab" may not get any response ever, and it may be normal for some professors to discard all emails of such type without delving into the details - if they currently don't have a spot in their research lab due to funding issues or whatever, it's not practical to spend time on appointments or discussions about that.

It's the same as spamming unsolicited CV's to random companies asking for a job, if they aren't interested, they go into the 'round folder' without reading.


The research group presumably has a webpage, where you can rummage for possible projects. Talk to current members to find out what they are doing, and see if it interests you. After the above, if still no answer, sketch a few alternatives of interest to you that are in the line of the research group (and aren't already taken!) and approach the professor again, perhaps in person.

It does happen that email gets sidetracked indefinitely into the "to look at later" queue. A reasoned suggestion of a possible thesis is presumably less likely to suffer this fate than a "What do you have on offer?" question. But how each is received does depend on the recipient, and about that we can offer no suggestions.


Consider sending a followup email which is less vague, hence requiring less energy and time from the professor. Professors love to help but are always short on all of those things. Do what you can to make it easy by giving some information to work with. Mention some things about yourself: your major, what courses you have enjoyed/excelled in, what about this professor's lab interests you, what your ambitions are (applying to grad school?), what you want out of the experience, etc.


Don't take the lack of a response personally. Professors get lots of emails -- for me, it was over 9000 last year, not counting things I immediately deleted -- and so it's easy to forget to respond, or to intend to respond "later," where "later" keeps getting pushed back. I think most professors would not mind at all if you sent a follow-up email, asking again if it's possible to meet. Again, though, don't be upset if a response doesn't come promptly.

That said, it is also the case that a lack of response can indicate a lack of enthusiasm for taking on a new student. Again, don't take this personally -- there are a lot of factors unrelated to you that influence this. You can help stimulate enthusiasm though, by (i) pointing out potentially relevant things like courses and grades, and (ii) indicating effort you've put into learning about the lab's research, e.g. via reading or talking to other students.


Well, perhaps there is no opportunity or he feels your work is not relevant to him? In the latter case you may see no response.

Be careful not to sound patronising or berate the prof (sometimes students in fear of disappointment tend to do that on the second mail).

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