I have been working as an undergraduate research assistant in my professor's lab for about a year now. I've enjoyed working under his supervision, and though I wish I am acquainted with him more, I haven't been able to have much engaging discussions with him due to his tight schedule and partially due to my inability to start conversations with him.

I will be meeting with him in a few days in preparation for my presentation for the summer research project at school. He's been away for a couple of weeks due to personal reasons, and I wish to take this opportunity to bring some agendas to the table.

  1. I want to take about a week off before the semester starts to see my family and to visit my country's consulate for official reasons. He seemed a bit hesitant, though he agreed, when I previously asked for a leave, most likely due to a very late notice.

  2. My professor met with me before his leave and informed me that my funding will be paid out in time for the beginning of another research project around mid-August. However, my money is dwindling dangerously, so I wish to ask him specifically when I can get paid.

  3. I have been working on the research project that my professor and several other professors and PhD students have contributed to over the past several years. My primary adviser, a PhD student, encouraged me to take my role as the lead author on a conference paper. He told me that it would be up to the professor to decide what conference (level of recognition) I will shoot for. Before his leave, he briefly mentioned that I should be the coauthor for a tier 1 conference and support my adviser who will be the lead author,but the decision has not been finalized yet. While I do not want to sound too greedy, I want to express my desire to work diligently as the lead author and aim for the tier 1 conference. I also feel the need to talk about this as soon as possible because the deadline for the submission of papers for the tier 1 conference is less than two months away.

I am not well informed of the culture of the academia, so I am not sure how to bring up these topics to my professor or if the topics themselves are too arrogant for me to mention. How should I approach him about these topics? Also, how can I let him be well aware of my wish to continue to graduate studies when he seems to be occupied most of the time and doesn't have much time for conversations. Thank you.

1 Answer 1


Send him/her an email reminder that you will be meeting and there are three things you want to discuss:

  1. The week I will be taking off before the semester starts, what is expected before, during, and after?
  2. When funding will be paid for _____.
  3. The ______ project.

Have the email open and mention these "tag lines" if it gets off topic. Professors are usually busy, so I wouldn't beat around the bush with this. Just be direct and to the point, but cordial and understanding.

Whenever I do this before going into a meeting, even if we get off topic, we always tend to at least hit the email points before ending. It also makes it easier to talk about funding since it's much easier to do it via email, and now the email will force it to be a topic of conversation.

  • Depending on how organized the professor is, it may be useful to bring a couple of printed copies to the meeting, and hand one to the professor. Check off items on your copy as they are covered. Jul 21, 2016 at 12:20

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