I am in the process of contacting potential supervisors for PhD and I need a bit of advice on how to reply to one of them. I initially contacted him with the following email.

Dear Dr X,

My name is X and I am currently studying for an MSci in Physics with Particle Physics and Cosmology at the University of X in the UK. I will be graduating in July 2017 and I have begun to consider possibilities for continuing my studies as a graduate student. The 3 year doctoral program at Sokendai is one such possibility.

I would like to do a PhD in particle physics. After reading some of your recent publications, such as ‘Measurement of Higgs boson couplings at the ILC’, I am aware of your research into the ILC’s potential and would be interested in applying to study a PhD with you. Being able to conduct my PhD in Japan is of especial interest to me, since the country is so heavily involved with the development of the ILC. I am excited to see how the ILC will further the field of physics both by itself and by complementing the studies being done at the LHC.

Please let me know if there is a possible project for a graduate student for entry in October 2017. I will be attempting to receive funding via the MEXT scholarship (university recommendation). You are welcome to contact my reference, listed in the attached CV; he is aware that I am applying for graduate positions.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Now before anyone mentions that I don't have a research proposal (in case you were about to) I don't believe I need one at this point. I have asked my current tutor if it's ok to not have a plan and to only have an idea of what area you want to do research in (in my case the ILC) and his reply was "You would definitely not be expected to have a fully worked out research plan before you even start, at least not in any physics project I've heard of, because unless it coincided exactly with what the activity of the host group, you would be excluding yourself from working with them."

Now the supervisor in question responded with this:

Dear X,

Thank you very much for your message and your interest in ILC and Sokendai.

I suppose you have already taken a look at

http://kek.soken.ac.jp//sokendai_en/f_student/scholarships/ http://kek.soken.ac.jp//sokendai_en/f_student/the-international-graduate-program/

I am afraid the web page in English is not very well maintained and I suppose it was difficult for you to get necessary information.

As you can see if you click on the second link above, the entrance day is Oct. 1 every year. The scholarship application is usually due sometime in December.

I will ask the KEK Sokendai office to send you more information about the necessaryprocedure and paperworks.

Best regards,

I don't think he fully understood what I was asking. I fully understand the admissions procedure at Sokendai. They expect you to have already contacted a supervisor, and for you to have received a letter of recommendation from that supervisor (by this I'm assuming it basically says they're willing to take you on assuming you get accepted). So now I am a little unsure of what to do. Does the fact he doesn't know the admissions procedure tell me that he doesn't take on grad students?

I was thinking of replying somewhere along the lines of

Dear Dr X

Thank you for your quick response. I am aware of the admission procedure at Sokendai, and one of the requirements is that I must contact a potential supervisor, someone who I would like to work with, before I apply as I must gain a letter of recommendation from them. I also need to develop a research proposal that aligns with the research being done by the supervisor.

I don't know if that's ok, and beyond that I'm kind of stuck. Any advice? (sorry for this long question)

closed as off-topic by gerrit, David Richerby, scaaahu, Fomite, user3209815 May 16 '17 at 9:11

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

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  • 1
    This could be that he wants to give you as much information as possible but does not have any power in the decision making. It's also possible that you buried the information that you wanted him as an advisor in the second paragraph and it got buried in his scan of your email. Maybe something like contacting him saying "After reading the information on Sokendai you sent, I see I need a potential supervisor to support me in my application. Since your research aligns with my interests, would you be willing...." – T K Jul 9 '16 at 12:46
  • Where is the requirement that you already have a supervisor at that school? I followed the links (even the broken ones...), and read it differently. When they talk about an "advisor," isn't that your mentor/primary letter-writer/similar at your current school? It seems you apply through their admissions office, then, if accepted, get allocated a supervisor (or find one), and with them you will hopefully try to get one of the 2 scholarships mentioned (the 3rd - "by embassy" - would seem to be on you). Did I miss what your understanding of the process is based on? (Nice initial letter, btw :)) – gnometorule Jul 9 '16 at 15:11
  • @gnometorule From the admission guide: "As a general rule, international applicants should select their prospective academic advisors in advance and then process their applications under their guidance." [soken.ac.jp/en/admission/guide/pvscholarship/] So I'm pretty sure I need to find someone willing to take me on. I know for sure that I need a research plan to apply as well, so it makes sense that I need to find a supervisor myself as I need to make sure that my research aligns with theirs. (And thanks. I'm pretty sure I spent a week composing that email XD ) – InvisibleInk Jul 9 '16 at 16:11
  • @InvisibleInk: ah - that's the page that is a broken link for me ("page does not exist"). In that case, I like your draft reply letter, and have 2 minor suggestions: 1) say instead "and it is my understanding that one of the..." (allow for misunderstanding on your end), and 2) finish with something like "As I said before, I would love to work with you. Should this not be possible, or not be possible to be discussed at this time, I would greatly appreciate any further advice or suggestions you could share with me." – gnometorule Jul 9 '16 at 16:21
  • 1
    What is the point in hiding his name when you've written down the full title of one of his publications? – padawan May 15 '17 at 23:24

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