I am a PhD student in artificial intelligence from an European university. This year I am going to finish my PhD program, so I am looking around to search for a suitable Postdoc position.

I would like to apply to an important American university, named X. In my research group here I have important professors that follow my work. One is my supervisor, an expert of artificial intellingence, and follows my work. The other is an expert of operating systems (i.e. different field from artificial intelligence).

This operating system professor in the 90s spent some years working at the preminent university X, and he still has a lot of contact and collaborations in that field.

Should I take advantage of this and ask him to contact my potential Postdoc advisor at the university to which I want to apply, even if he is from a different field? Would it be worth?

His mail would be something like "Some decades ago I worked at your university in the operating systems field, and now I would like to recommed this candidate from artificial intelligence..." Would this have sense? Would this be useful?

Or would it be better that I contacted personally by myself this professor for the Postdoc position?

  • 1
    I would do it by myself, then after sometime ask my advisor if he's willing to send a follow up message.
    – user5598
    Jan 15, 2013 at 8:46

2 Answers 2


Put yourself in the shoes of the professor: what would they like best in a candidate? Contacting them yourself demonstrates more commitment than having your advisor do it for you. There may be cases where an introduction by a third party is best, but it seems to me it's better to use that only if really needed: guy is a superstar, your introductee knows him very well, or you are just trying to strategically probe whether a candidature would be well-received without actually getting involved yourself.

Also, you can get your advisor to follow up if you don't receive an answer, or just to help you when/if they are contacted as a reference.

  • 8
    On the other hand, you should name-drop your local faculty colleagues ("I am working with professors X and Y." or "My thesis committee member Prof Z suggested that I contact you.") when you contact potential postdoc advisors. But ask your local faculty in advance for permission to be name-dropped, since you're effectively using them as references.
    – JeffE
    Jan 15, 2013 at 17:38
  • @JeffE yes, very true
    – F'x
    Jan 15, 2013 at 19:17
  • 3
    Another good one is "Professor X suggested I contact you...." Jan 20, 2013 at 14:29

You are asking about having a professor contacting someone on your behalf, which is generally good and positive.

There are other similar notions you may have preferred to ask that have formal terms:

  • "Should I ask my supervisor to write a letter of recommendation for me, even though they are not from my field?" to which, the answer is absolutely. You usually get several letters. It would be prudent to consider that a writer who knows your audience will be particularly influential.
  • "Should I ask for an introduction from my supervisor?"- This is also very common, but less formal than a letter. Your supervisor, if he gets along with you and has contacts in the right area, can send an email and CC you on it. You ask/answer questions and can passively demonstrate that you are amiable and intelligent.

I would recommend doing either or both of these things, so long as you are sensitive to a polite refusal by your advisor. They may not have the positive relationships you think they have, and do not want to embarrass you by a negative association.

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