so i have this pool of potential supervisors who I am super interested in their research.

I have formulated the best introductory email - short, concise and relevant to their research- . No response! I sent back a follow-up email which had my old email in addition to my CV, still no response! I even called , but no one picks up the phone, and whoever picks up the phone is a clueless assistant who tells me to email the supervisor and ask him/her myself.

I even visited one the labs and spoke to one of the researcher's post-doc students who volunteered to edit my emails and told me it was a good one. But then again, no response.

how is that even possible ? I dont live in the university's city (Toronto) so I cant even stalk them in their offices.

any idea why is this happening ?


The time period is 2 weeks. I sent an introductory email, next week I followed up with another email.

EDIT- For those of you who tell me not to "harass" professors, it is not harassment so please use another word. It is the applicant's responsibility to secure a supervisor for Biomedical engineering program by emailing/calling potential PI . To prove my point on following up , one supervisor who works in a hospital told me that the hospital email service filtered out my email. If I hadn't called him to inquire about my original email, I wouldn't have moved on in my research knowing that his lab is indeed "full". Applicants are not expected to simply sit and wait for supervisors to "notice them" and hope for the best , I must put myself on the map. I don't see why professors don't get much heat -like I am getting in this post" from harassing sponsors for grants !

  • 4
    Over what period of time? People are busy, and may not get to your emails for some time. You are not owed a rapid reply.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 19:42
  • 25
    You're not owed a reply at all.
    – Ric
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 19:43
  • 5
    How long is this going on and for how many people? But beware that there's no law which makes it mandatory for someone to answer emails: it's courtesy, but some simply ignore requests which they have no interest in. Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 19:44
  • 3
    Please aggressively merge all these; here's another How to remind a professor in a school I applied to about an introduction email I sent two weeks ago?
    – smci
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 0:33
  • 5
    Sometimes "your e-mail was filtered by the service" is just a nice way of saying "I read your e-mail, didn't find your CV appealing and didn't bother replying".... About your question: sometimes we are extremely busy and it takes few days/ couple weeks to answer non-urgent e-mails, especially around the beginning of the term. If in this time the e-mailer would message me 3 times, call my office and show up at my office at a random time I would definitely see this as harassment, and not pick this student, no matter what is in his CV.
    – Nick S
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 12:27

5 Answers 5


I ignore such emails all the time. And I'd feel threatened/harassed if the email writer kept emailing me, contacted my students or postdocs, or showed up to my university.

The reason I ignore them is because there isn't much to say. I don't want to give you false hope because I can't guarantee your admission (even if you're the best one out of everyone who contacted me, there are plenty of strong applicants who don't contact anyone) and so, what could I possibly tell you? It might be nice to acknowledge the receipts of emails such as yours but I get hundreds of (mostly junk) emails and your email, being from an unknown sender, gets buried in the pile, and I usually just forget to reply.

So, stop stalking professors and focus on writing a good application and getting good grades. If you've emailed them once and if the email was good, they've read it and you've done your best. Any further communication will only lower their opinion of you.

EDIT: now that I re-read your post, I'm also noticing that your style of writing is quite familiar. This style comes across as immature at best, and entitled at its worst. For example, your spelling, grammar and punctuations are not quite correct. You're also narrating in a quite dramatic way, which is not how most academics write. If your email reflects the tone in which you wrote the above post and the subsequent comments, that may have had a hand in why your professor did not respond.

  • 3
    I don't know how to respond to your answer to be honest. I did not stalk any professor. It was the department's advisor who told applicants to SECURE a supervisor before writing the "so-called good application" and applying for the program. I am only doing what the department has advised me , which is to contact the supervisor, express my interest and if they don't have a spot for me, they would simply write me back with rejection.
    – Emma
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 20:28
  • 12
    +1 for "Any further communication will only lower their opinion of you." I think two emails are entirely reasonable, though. @Emma - I'm afraid your department has an overly optimistic image of people in the academia. People often will just be too busy to reply, which is sad and sometimes impolite, but true. Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 21:35
  • 11
    -1, "stop stalking professors", This is not stalking. @Emma is using the same method that many other students are using. I am sorry that you do not know how to send rejections and that getting two emails from a student that is interested in your work makes you feel harassed.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 22:27
  • 12
    @Hobbes emailing multiple times, emailing the postdocs and paying a surprise visit to the lab, as well as calling the department secretary when you're not even owed a response is not normal in academia.
    – Sana
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 22:36
  • 8
    @Hobbes in my field, we do not need to secure an advisor before applying. Some people try anyway, but that almost always doesn't make a difference. In any case, for whatever reason, I'd say that Emma and this proposed professor are not really compatible with one another; this kind of dynamic for the next 5-7 years of grad school would be nightmarish for both parties, and she should move on.
    – Sana
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 22:48

I am sorry but I am going to have to say what I am feeling on this matter. From this post, and a question you posted on Sept 9th Non of the supervisors i contacted responded to me! you come across as entitled and quite overly dramatic.

All that you can expect from any reasonable human being, is for them to read your email, and if they have an interest in you they will reply. If not, you cannot force them to take notice. Sending out multiple salvos of emails will end up alienating you from the people you are trying to impress yourself upon.


Nothing you have done so far has been inappropriate. You are taking an approach that many of us have done in the past and often times it works. I would hold off on sending any more emails for the time being however. Two weeks is not a very long time to wait for a return email. The supervisors you are interested are probably very busy people and it may take a few weeks to make contact.

From my experience, persistence has always paid off, both in academia and industry. For example, I was interested in a summer internship with a lab while I was in undergrad. I emailed several of the faculty several times as well as left some voice mails. It took about 4 weeks before I was contacted. They appreciated my interest and I was invited to the lab.

There are always going to be those who do not respond. Many times these are good reasons, but sometimes not. In the end, it reflects poorly on the supervisor.

  • 5
    I have not downvoted this answer, but I think it would be improved if it stuck to the conrete recomendations rather than these generalizations ("You are taking an approach that many of us have done in the past and often times it works" and "In the end, it reflects poorly on the supervisor.")
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 23:04

Busy people are busy ; as other answers have stated, it probably means that they are not interested. Maybe they're not looking for more students, or maybe they only recruit among the students who already are registered at their university, or any other reason.

If you really think they didn't notice you rather than not being interested, I suggest emailing that post-doc who reviewed your emails, asking them to introduce you to their supervisor, optionally with the supervisor in copy.

  • 1
    I have had responses from various supervisors who thanked me for my interest in their labs, but they cant take me as a student. Much respect for taking 1 minute out of their busy day to reply to an aspiring graduate student. Those "busy" supervisors were once an eager, aspiring undergraduate student. Why is it always "OKAY" to justify everything professors do because they are "busy" ?
    – Emma
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 20:33
  • 6
    I'm not saying it's okay, but I do have an idea why it is happening, which was your question. Also, it is happening an incre-dible lot, it is not very surprising. You sound a little bit like a rant. Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 20:47
  • How did you secure your graduate school supervisor - if you have one- ? i am curious to know.
    – Emma
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 21:12
  • My advisor was the teacher of the graduate class I liked most in the first year of my graduate studies (during which I had no supervisor). That is to say, we met in person and I returned him work to grade before he supervised me. Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 22:54
  • 6
    @Emma As others have noted, you sound a tad arrogant. No one is required to answer an email. Furthermore, the general style and effort with which you write these posts do not reflect either friendliness or formality, both of which are pretty important for in Academia.
    – OFRBG
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 6:44

If you are entitled to a supervisor, e.g. you have made a tuition payment for a program that guarantees a supervisor or regulations for the program entitle you to a supervisor, then contact university administration and ask them for assistance.

If you are not entitled to a supervisor, then it looks like that particular professor doesn't want to be your supervisor and you need to move on. Usually there are many applicants for supervisors to choose from so it may be quite difficult find one.

  • 1
    Surely being entitled to "a" supervisor doesn't necessarily mean that you are entitled to have that particular individual as a supervisor?
    – user
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 11:25
  • Normally no, but some of those for-profit universities have their own rules. Chances are the person asking the question has a false sense of entitlement. I put it out there just in case, who knows. Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 12:33
  • I'd just say that 2 weeks is too early to say whether or not the advisor is interested in the applicant. Good point though, if you are paying for the program then you should be getting responses.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 14:19
  • @ArthurTarasov In order to get admitted to the program( Master of engineering), applicants must state in their Graduate School application the name of the supervisor who pre-approved to supervise the applicant. That's why when I asked the program admission advisor if I can simply apply to the program and hope that some PI might need a student -in case other student dropped out of their lab- , then the PI can take me. However, the advisor told me that the odds of this happening are VERY low.
    – Emma
    Commented Oct 16, 2016 at 4:18

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .