There are many established university research internship program, which ask to get an acceptance from a faculty to apply for the internship. I tried mailing them, but none of them responded. Should I call them over phone to ask about any opportunity? At least that would help me know where I am lacking so that I can prepare myself for the internship the next year. But I'm not sure if the researchers would view it favorably.

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    Speaking only for myself (UK academic): no, this should not be done, if the "target" has not previously responded by email.
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 14:26
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    Professors are people too. They may have other duties to tend to. Give it time, and don't push the subject. Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 14:36
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    @FábioDias What do you mean by "leave them open to get sued" ?
    – user66581
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 15:17
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    @Blue: The more you explain, the more likely it is you say something that can be used legally against you. Sadly, just rejecting someone without providing any explanation is encouraged by legal frameworks as it is the legally safest way for the one doing the selection (among applicants for a job, a flat, ...). Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 17:36
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    @blue, could you clarify a bit better what you are talking about? Are these at a university at which you are a student? Are you a student in another university looking for a summer job in a research group elsewhere? Are these publicly advertised (say a particular funding agency gives money to support faculty to hire outside students for a research opportunity)? I don't have a clue about the what you mean by 'well established university internship programs' as I've never heard of anything that would correspond in the US.
    – Carol
    Commented Jul 16, 2017 at 2:15

1 Answer 1


What's an "office phone"?

We used to have these white (sometimes black) boxes with buttons on them many years ago, but the last round of budget cuts took them away. I don't think many people noticed their disappearance.

On a more serious note, you're sounding a bit like a stalker or an annoying salesperson. If the emails aren't being answered (you should send one follow up after the initial one, but no more than two total), take that as a strong NO**. Phoning the professor is only going to annoy them.

** You didn't ask, but reasons for the NO:

  1. I have no internships.

  2. I have internships but they've all been allocated.

  3. I have internships but they're restricted to our undergraduates or to local high school students who are in the internship program.

  4. A quick scan of whatever you sent me makes it clear you're inappropriate (you can't spell, you just graduated high school, you have no background in the field, our internships are restricted to particular categories of enrolled students, etc.). However, HR told us to never say 'no' in terms of justifications that could open us up to lawsuits, so it's best to just ignore.

  5. Internships are handled through a committee or other open process that if you did some googling you could easily find. And I really have no use for an intern who can't find things by themselves.

As to why I don't send a 'no': I have five grant proposals, an external tenure review, two journal reviews, and my own research papers to write. Writing a polite no takes more time than a simple 'no' and again opens me / my university up to a lawsuit. Finally, answering what is essentially spam e-mail is my lowest priority.

If you are going to phone anyone, phone the department front office, university HR, or university student services or career services program (assuming you're an enrolled student). Be prepared for a 'no' answer and don't badger.

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    Ours used to be black, but we completely switched to mobile phones three years ago. I completely agree: I wouldn't appreciate such calls at all. In fact, the only work-related calls I get are either from people I know well or from journalists. If we don't have a previous relationship, email me.
    – damian
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 15:15
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    Do you really not have an office phone anymore?
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 18:40
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    No. When we moved to a new building, they gave mobile phones to everyone (from PhD student to full professor) and didn't bother to install landlines. I guess no-one misses them. Only exception are some support staff offices (e.g., for incoming calls from students).
    – damian
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 18:41
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    My university started charging US$30 a line per month. Our department decided that while $360/year per faculty didn't sound that bad, when you have 25 faculty, that came in aggregate to $9,000 a year for a resource that wasn't being used much. If you only make 2-3 calls a month on a landline, each phone call is $10+!!
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 18:49
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    +1 "sounding a bit like a stalker or an annoying salesperson" Professors already get reams of unsolicited emails; if they start getting such phone calls on their office phones, maybe they really WILL get rid of their phones.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jul 15, 2017 at 23:58

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