My wife and I are both PhD candidate in major-but-not-elite French universities. We study in completely different fields.

She got a visiting student position in the US for 1 semester as of January 2017. I would also like to go to the US as visiting student, at the same time, for both personal (i.e. not being one ocean away from her during 6 months) and professional reasons (i.e. experiencing the anglo-saxon scientific research paradigm, international experience, etc.).

Question: When contacting Professors of local universities, should I mention that my wife will be in the US at the same time, or not?
In other words, would P.I.s be more prone to accept me as visiting student (I'm financially autonomous, so I'm not asking for a funding) if they know my wife will be there (because of empathy or whatever), or would they tend to consider that I apply because of my wife, and not because of the research -- so that I'm not motivated enough?

Edit: As given answers made me figure out, a motive of my question is that there is no research team in the US that study my particular sub-field. So the question "why are you asking for a position in our lab, since this other lab in the UK is closer of your research topic?" might be raised.

  • 6
    Not an answer, but since being close to your wife is important, keep in mind the size of the US. If you are in a different city, you are likely to be at least a few hours away from your wife, and if you are on opposite coasts, it's a 5-6 hour flight to visit.
    – Karen
    Jul 26, 2016 at 15:56
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    Just a tip for Europeans coming to NA: don't underestimate how big things are. You'll want to be geographically close to your wife. Being on opposite sites of the US won't be all that different from being on opposite sides of the ocean. Jul 26, 2016 at 21:30

2 Answers 2


Be honest. Present it as a happy coincidence. That's what it is, after all. For example,

I've always been interested in different research communities and paradigms, given how this knowledge can help me to work more effectively with others and to introspect my own methodology. My wife has been offered a place in [state] also, so this is a ideal opportunity in my academic career to gain the experience I've sought.

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    I personally would prefer a more straightforward message...
    – Kimball
    Jul 26, 2016 at 13:45
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    Just strip off the whole "I've always been interested in different research communities and paradigms, given how this knowledge can help me to work more effectively with others and to introspect my own methodology." It's too self-glorifying, formal and slightly insulting to the reader by stating the obvious.
    – orlp
    Jul 26, 2016 at 19:16
  • @orlp, Kimball it's just an example for the ideas. That's what I would write in a formal letter; it would be much shorter (both words and sentences) if anything else.
    – Nij
    Jul 26, 2016 at 20:10

I don't think professors would be more likely to accept you out of empathy if you're expecting them to fund you.

On the other hand, there might be a question of how serious you are about wanting to go for research purposes, particularly if your work is not very close to theirs. But if your work is not so close, they probably wouldn't accept you anyway.

So I don't think it makes much difference, but just to keep things brief and straightforward, I might omit mention of your wife in your initial email. (Actually, if you don't know these professors but your advisor does, it's probably better if your advisor contacts them first.)

  • Definitely use your advisor, either directly or (with his permission) as a 'known' name. Your advisor is on board with you doing this, right?
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 26, 2016 at 15:41
  • Funding should not be an issue since I've a grant for my PhD and I could pay for flight tickets with my savings. // Your second paragraph made me realize US lab works might not be very close to mine (see my edit above). // My advisors do not already have existing relationships with local research teams (They have international collaboration, but with South Korea and Japan). They are good (invited keynote speaker to major int. conf.) but have no strong international aura, especially in my subfield.
    – ebosi
    Jul 26, 2016 at 17:18
  • @JonCuster Yes they both are. However, their name might be no asset, since they are rather playing - with all due respect - in the 2nd league (from an international perspective). I could however ask them to ask "Prof A." (with whom they're collaborating and who is 1st league player) to recommend myself...
    – ebosi
    Jul 26, 2016 at 17:24

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