This is a funny dilemma that's been bugging me for quite sometime now. I plan to pursue a PhD in Synthetic Biology and when I visit the faculty directory in a university, I see many profs working on it. Now my question is how many profs should I apply to for a position. They all seem equally good. However, I fear that if I apply to all of them, they might meet over a coffee and come to know that I have been mailing to a lot of them and that would put a bad impression on me (Is it not?). I would want my chances of getting into a program to be maximized. I know there are rotation systems in labs and the program would send my application to potential supervisors(I don't know which ones), that's why I am planning to ping every lab possible which are of my interest. Kindly enlighten me on this.Thanks.

  • A lot of very similar questions have been answered here, so you might try browsing through old question on this site. In the meantime, what country are you in? The answer depends highly on that.
    – Anonymous
    Oct 19, 2015 at 11:24
  • As much as you finally got an answer!
    – user41207
    Oct 19, 2015 at 15:04
  • @Anonymous I am from India but I would be applying to the US universities mostly. I would be grateful if you could post the links here! I saw a few questions, bit similar but they were mostly about getting recommendation letters from multiple professors, so mine seemed different. Oct 19, 2015 at 15:20
  • In the US you don't apply directly to profs, you apply to departments as a whole. Your first step, before you ping anyone, should be to thoroughly read the application instructions for the universities to which you intend to apply.
    – Anonymous
    Oct 19, 2015 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


This isn't an answer to your question, but the remark that professors might meet over coffee and find out that you emailed a lot of them seemed funny to me. We do meet over coffee and chat. But you have to recognize that (i) we're people too, with families, kids, etc, and when we have coffee, we often have better things to talk about than students emailing us their applications (we might also be talking about actual science, gasp!), (ii) we get a lot of emails from students applying, and the likelihood that we would notice that one of them has emailed a lot of us is very small.

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