I had emailed a professor for a summer internship opportunity. He had accepted me and aksed me write a proposal for applying through a fellowship.

I replied back putting down some points for my proposal. I got no reply from his side. I emailed him again after 2 days and continued to do so for the next 3 weeks. Afterwards, due to no response, I believed he was not interested in me due to no email response and stopped mailing.

But now, after the deadline is over, I found out from another source that he was not happy with my behaviour for not applying for the fellowship.

How do I convince him that this was a honest mistake and I did not intend to be rude and am still interested in working under his guidance?

  • Just to clarify. Did you write back to him when he asked you to write/apply for the fellowship? You do understand that you might not be the only one who applied to the same position, don't you?
    – Sathyam
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 18:20
  • Yes I did. No he has rejected others who had applied for the same position. Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 1:57
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    The applications must go through the fellowship committee, if I understand correctly. Its fine to contact the potential supervisor, and he replied asking you to send the application directly to the fellowship committee. I am sorry but I don't understand what you meant by honest mistake.
    – Sathyam
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 10:31

3 Answers 3


Agree with Dave, as supervisor/student relationship is like a marriage, communication is essential for it to remain healthy.

However also note that, since you have emailed him quite a number of times and he never responded with any feedback, he did not want to help you, and hence he might not be the kind of person you want to work with. There is nothing worse than a bad supervisor in academia.

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    I think there is something else at work here. He said you should apply, but perhaps he wanted to avoid partiality and even the semblance of partiality and therefore he had to stay away from giving you any advice. Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:29
  • This, exactly..
    – BobRodes
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 4:03

Why is it your mistake, honest or otherwise, if he never responded to ten or so emails? If he didn't feel like he should give you advice, then the professional thing to do is respond to your emails and tell you so. It sounds to me like you bent over backwards to establish communication with this guy, and he somehow failed to hold up his end. So, you might think about turning this around. I don't know why you would be interested in working under his guidance if his behavior raises some questions about his character--he does seem to be willing to make negative comments about you behind your back to another source.

I would first establish whether you might have sent the emails to the wrong address (probably not), or that whether he might have not gotten them for some reason. You might call him and ask. If he says he got them, you might ask him why he didn't respond and see what he says for himself.

I suggest that you keep in mind that you are the one paying the bill, not him. Perhaps you are better served to find someone else to work with, especially if you don't like his response to your attempt to find out why he didn't respond to your emails. You don't need to spend your money working with someone who is going to make you miserable.


I was in worst than this situation which was solved by meeting the person or people involved. So:

Request a Meeting: First thing, request a meeting from the professor and see if he/she accept your apology during the meeting.

Moving on: Lets say the professor in the question still doesn't want to work with you. Then, you need to move on and don't get in the apology cycle forever. Keep another professor from the same or other university and move on.

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