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I recently attended a conference and met a professor who I would be interested in working with for my PhD. One of his students introduced us, and I mentioned some of my research interests, and he asked me about my GPA and GRE scores, and encouraged me to check the school website for application instructions and more information. He didn't seem very interested in talking more then, and I was not very familiar with his research, so I ended the conversation by asking if I could email him if I had any more questions.

Now that I am back from the conference, I am wanting to follow up with him. I have read some of his papers now and was planning to ask a question about his research, but I was wondering if I should try to get a more committed response as to whether he would be interested in having me join his group? How should I bring this up?

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Simply ask. Of course, your email should take in consideration PhD application instructions at his institution. If you can be admitted without an advisor, it changes the context.

"Dear Dr. X,

It was a pleasure to meet you at conference Y and to discuss about Z.

Since we met, I have read about your research area and [Insert question or comment].

Would it be possible to meet/skype to discuss the possibility of pursuing a PhD in your lab?"

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    I agree with this. It can feel awkward to ask, but this is a normal and expected part of being a professor. If they aren't interested they'll let you know - just be patient, as it's not unusual for replies to take time. – Jeff Aug 26 '16 at 13:27
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    Asking to skype may be too demanding. I think at this point it is better to stick to email and ask whether there's a possibility to do a PhD under that professor's supervision. Anyway, from OP's description, it seems that the professor is not actively looking for a PhD student and just encouraged OP to apply for a PhD in that school. So, I expect that OP will again be referred to the school's website for instructions on how to apply. – Alexey B. Aug 26 '16 at 15:23
  • Yes, send the e-mail, and this is a good template. Although I agree with @AlexeyB. that asking to skype may be over-reaching; an email discourse is far more likely. Do make sure that you remind the professor of when you met them! It'll jog the memory, and make your mail rise above the generic ones. – Michael Ekstrand Jan 7 '17 at 21:45
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Follow up on researchgate, there you can see his work and co authors of him. You can reach them as well in case you need more info. You can request him for his latest projects which the researchgate has option. You can mail via email or researchgate, and inteoduce your self with conf reference and your friend who introduced you. And further write your interest like "my interest for research is in X field and i want to pursue it, but my capabilities are not limited to X only, if you have any better area i am willing to participiate if you have any opening". Dont forget to append your academic documents with thr email for verification and also do mention your key favtora in email like. I have a gpa of A overall with B,C and...as 4 further i also have gre score of that percentile and ielts/toefl score of D. Mentiin Your achievement and medals if any in a brief lines, so you get his attention and he read through all email and documents. For them its a daiky routine to check such emails so dont be shy for sending one He might not reply, may reply positively or may excuse politely. In the later case do reply for thanking for reading like Thanks for reading the email it was so kind of you, i really wished working with you will excel my research and creative skills. I hope if you have any oppertuinity in near future, i will be glad to hear about and apply. Once again thanks for your time.

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The introduction you made was great and may prove to be valuable in the future. But you are getting ahead of yourself. Let me explain.

It would help to learn more about how that particular school handles graduate student assistanceships first. Call the Department graduate student office and ask about that. How and when do students normally become GRAs? In some schools, it is possible for first-year students to obtain a GRA with a professor. In others, students are expected to work as TAs for at least a year, sometimes more, or even pass a qualifying exam.

Why? You need to learn the time-frame when the professor can make a decision to support you. The professor does not want to waste too much time talking to anyone who is not even admitted to the school yet. If it is a school where students are expected to TA for a year, the professor might not want to waste time talking to anyone who might be "weeded out" later.

I infer that you will be applying to graduate schools this year, for admission next year. The school you mentioned should be high on the list. You will want to find schools with one or more professors whose research interests you, and, more importantly with happy graduate students like the one who introduced you. Financial constraints play a role when professors can take on GRAs, as well as the graduation of current GRAs the professor is supporting.

In short, making the introduction you already did is perfect for now. Seek to make more such introductions with more professors at the same school, and at additional schools. This way, when you attend, you will have multiple options. Once you get to the right place (for example, finishing up your first year as a TA, with good grades in your core classes), it will be easy to talk to the profs you've already scoped out about GRA positions.

If you are accepted to a school where everyone TAs the first year, you can approach the professor about volunteering. This is a great way to get started at the lab. Make yourself valuable and you'll most assuredly get a GRA there when one becomes available.

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  • This is a school where new students do several lab rotations, then join a group at the end of the first semester. I want to continue contact with this professor to improve my chances of being admitted-- I don't know whether he is on the admissions committee, but I believe he is very well regarded and that a good word from him might improve my chances. His PhD student that I talked to also recommended that I try to make contact with him or another professor before applying. I don't know whether that brief meeting at the conference was enough though, or if I should send a follow-up email. – Megan Aug 27 '16 at 20:39
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    @Megan you definitely should send a follow-up email. He probably met a lot of ppl at the conference. Recently, I had tenured professor at a conference telling me they need those email to vaguely remember that person. – Emilie Aug 29 '16 at 13:50
  • Well, in Megan's original question she talked about joining a research group and said she was unfamiliar with the research in this particular group. Now we learn her intent is to get a leg-up in the admission process. Not that it isn't a good idea, but I wouldn't have answered the question in the first place given the intent. Seems it'd be difficult to impossible to get an advantage in this manner. – Pete Aug 29 '16 at 16:18
  • @Megan, I think your best bet when you email him is to let him know you'd like to work in his lab during the 1st year rotation. – Pete Aug 29 '16 at 16:28

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