I have been accepted to a university (in England) to do a masters degree in Computer Science with a focus on machine learning. My background is mathematics.

During my time at the university, I plan to collaborate with computer science professors, which I think will be very important for my education. The problem is that I have never been in England and don't know local etiquette concerning student-professor communication.

How should I best formulate an email, where I am asking professors, with whom I had no prior contact, if I could work together with them on projects related to machine learning?

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    First, you need to prove yourself to any potential professors. Attend their classes, do well, ask advance questions. Show them you are an advanced student. If they think you are good, then they will most likely recruit you. – Prof. Santa Claus May 13 '16 at 2:20
  • @ProfSantaClaus Yes, this is the standard way, which I like to avoid, because it's too high risk: What if no interesting project/advisor turns up ? Then I have a lot of debt and essentially have wasted my time. – l7ll7 May 13 '16 at 2:28
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    how do you expect to get anywhere without following protocols? I for example will never take on a student I've never seen in action. CV and words alone are not enough. There are many wanabes. – Prof. Santa Claus May 13 '16 at 4:31
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    @user10324 high risk compared to what? That implies there is a better strategy for success, but there may not be. – user24098 May 13 '16 at 9:05
  • @dan1111 high risk to make "significant debt - and just doing it for the courses and the diploma seems a waste of time and money", as I explained in my question, but it seems this passage was removed by other people. – l7ll7 May 13 '16 at 10:51

I did graduate studies in Ireland, and am now a Professor in Asia. I would recommend the following:

  1. Search for professors on the school website. Most likely they will have a profile page that lists their projects and publications.
  2. When you find some professors with interesting projects, read some of their publications.
  3. If you are still interested in their research, prepare a list of research / papers / projects that you have done, if any.
  4. Create a short email for each Professor (3, 4 sentence paragraphs at most).
    • It should say that you will be joining the school in X semester
    • That you know they work in X area
    • That you would like to help with their research relating to machine learning
    • That you have X experience with ML and research
    • Express whether you are looking for a paid position or part-time research for free - they will probably assume you want a paid position

The response will either be: 1. Nothing (they don't have a position / time) 2. They will ask you for more information 3. They will ask you for a meeting once you start

I would recommend against telling the professor that if they don't work with you, you won't go to the university.

  • Thanks. I already did 1-3 and of course would refrain from saying this to the professors. (This I am only saying here, to the world-wide general public, so I think I'm safe.) The part 4 is where I'm unsure, especially regarding funding: I would have thought it best to say nothing about this, because I imagine that they probably get enough emails by other people asking for funding - and, if the project is sufficiently interesting, I'd also be happy doing it for free. – l7ll7 May 13 '16 at 11:11
  • @user10324 I would make your funding situation clear. When students come to me and need funding, that means that I need to find them a grant / scholarship, which I may or may not have at the time. If they don't need funding then you can start working together right away, and funding may (or may not) come later. That information will make it easier for the professor to judge how they can work with you. – Joshua I. James May 14 '16 at 8:26

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