I just enrolled in my master's program and was fortunate enough to get into a lab.

After discussing research interest, I was offered to work on a project in collaboration with another lab. The first meeting was last week where I sat down with 2 professors to discuss the project.

I expected another meeting sometime this week (OP on Wednesday), but it's been pushed back to next Thursday. I understand this may be due to time conflicts or due to other matters.

Currently, I lack some of the domain knowledge required for the project and am trying to catch up in order to carry out the research. At what point should I start worrying about not being able to make progress on the project?

I personally would like to work on this project with decent results so that I can eventually transition over to PhD program.

Thank you.

  • Which time frame does the project have? Is it critical if the beginning of the project is moved by another week or two? Sep 6, 2017 at 14:48
  • @daniel.neumann Professor in my lab told me it would be a great opportunity for me and could continue to work on it throughout my time as a master's student. My only concern is that due to professor's availability, the meetings will be hard to hold. So to answer your question, not really.
    – HereWeGo17
    Sep 6, 2017 at 15:02

1 Answer 1


Delays happen regularly. That is nothing to worry about. Professors often have a high workload.

However, it is expected from a Master's student and especially a PhD student to be able to work independently. A single meeting with a professor should give you at least enough input to start working on the topic. That is, learn the fundamentals in this area, read papers (those of your professors would be a good starting point) and think about your own ideas.

That said, you might not be able to provide a perfect solution for the problem with the input you already have, but it is expected from you that you have at least something at the next meeting. Then approach your professor with something like

I have read your paper about how you applied method X to problem Y. Do you think it would be a good idea to apply method X to my problem, too? Do you have time for me next week to discuss this?

So, yes, you have to worry if you do not make any progress, especially if you have time constraints. But not being able to talk to your professor is nothing that should prevent you from making any progress in the meantime. At least you can get more familiar with the tools that save you time in the long run, for example LaTeX, Pandas or whatever you will need for your field of research.

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