This question asking if the subject of current question is spam or not serves as the motivation for further, seeking solutions. As can be seen from the answers and comments, the emails from undergraduate students seeking a short term internship in en masse can be identified as a legitimate problem faced by many in Academia. Most of the emails have a common design or made out of same template and an equivocal tone. Even the researchers who doesn't even started a group were targeted asking them to consider the application to join the group(which doesn't exist) and claiming that the applicant had read the publication(doesn't exist either) on so and so topic. The epicenter of these mass outbreak is a particular country according to the OP and the answered. Some pointed out that most of it are indeed from legitimate students but overly opportunistic and some pointed out the reason why. If this is indeed a growing trend and a real issue,

  • How can the target weed out the emails considering that some applications are indeed real?

  • Taking into account that this may harm the chances of talented students and may form a negative general opinion(?), what measures can be taken to make the students aware that sending out emails in mass is not a professional way to attain a position?

  • 3
    You could place, in a prominent position on your academic webpage or in an advertisement for an open position, a notice that applicants' emails must have a specific subject line (i.e. bananas!). Most people who are sufficiently interested in your work should notice such a requirement.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 3:15
  • 1
    @Moriarty The applicants doesn't seem to notice the target even have a group or not. I guess it doesn't stop them from spamming, but your suggestion is a good filter.
    – Sathyam
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 3:20

2 Answers 2


What I do is to provide on my web page a very explicit set of directions for how to contact me about possibly doing any kind of work with my group. I have separate sections for undergrads, grads, and postdocs. For undergrads, I explain a bit about what we do in my group, describe what undergrad research in the group is like, ask them to answer a few questions about what draws them to our work in particular, what they hope to gain by working with us, about their skills and background, and about their general interest and experience reading primary literature. I also ask for a transcript. You could ask anything, though.

With something like this in place, you can either ignore with good conscience any emails that fail to address these questions, or you can send a brief form-letter response asking that the applicant address these questions in order to be considered for a position.


In many email clients, you can set up rules for where the incoming messages would appear. You can set up a rule that will send a message with a particular set of phrases directly to the thrash/spam, which would at least filter out all the template based messages. You might be able to also set up an automatic response to such messages.

  • The emails doesn't follow a particular pattern(the OP linked the motivation as this), indeed they are real in the usual sense. The problem may be that there are a huge number of students suddenly found a key and they are trying to unlock a large number of locks at a time. The spam filters obviously kill the chances of genuine applicants.
    – Sathyam
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 22:16
  • OP stated that they often do. If they don't, you can still make rules based on what what @Corvus said. Or even ask for something specific on your website, like an title of the message in some specified format and everything else will go to thrash. It will kill the chance of genuine applicant only if they are spamming and/or can't follow simple instructions. Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 6:19

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