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I have completed my Msc. degree and I proposed an invention based on my thesis subject before I had defended my thesis but I have not registered it till now. My professor offered me to fabricate the device that I had proposed, both with him and a professor at a foreign university. He told me that I needed to form a research group consists of 4 people, we two and a professor and a student at a foreign university. I am required to do the half of the job along with my professor and the other half at the foreign university which I am going to find. The whole process is supposed to take 1 year and is fully funded. At the time I am planning to apply for a Ph.D. position at a foreign university too. Can I apply to the same professor for a Ph.D. position who I am going to work with him on this project? Is it constructive and has a positive effect on my application process? If yes, could you please tell me how can I explain the situation to a professor to persuade him to work with me. I mean let me know how can I take the advantage of this project on my application process. Any advice or possible email content would be welcome.

Thanks in advance

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    It's odd that your prof would put this on you. Your professor is going to have better luck than you contacting other professors. Most profs receive so many e-mails from unknown prospective students that they just delete them without even reading properly. – nengel Sep 25 '17 at 2:31
  • @nengel It's over to me to find a lab and of course a professor – Arash Sep 25 '17 at 16:50
  • Can you provide some details on what field you're in and what kind of invention/project this would be? Application processes and collaborations can work differently depending on your field. – Dandan Sep 25 '17 at 17:06
  • How could it affect the application process? The field is optics and photonics, and it would be a nanoscale optical device. @Dandan – Arash Sep 25 '17 at 18:14
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    In some fields, grad students are accepted to a general graduate program and find advisors after doing lab rotations, taking courses, etc. In others, while there's technically an application process for the graduate program, you're really getting accepted by a specific faculty member who wants you as their student. In both cases, having a project in mind with a specific faculty advisor might be an advantage, but in the latter, it would be especially helpful to get in touch with the prof to discuss the project in advance. I'm not sure about optics/photonics, so you might want to ask your prof. – Dandan Sep 25 '17 at 19:30
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Can I apply to the same professor for a Ph.D. position who I am going to work with him on this project?

Yes, at least at US institutions this would not be a problem. I don't know of any reason why it might be problematic anywhere else.

Is it constructive and has a positive effect on my application process? If yes, could you please tell me how can I explain the situation to a professor to persuade him to work with me. I mean let me know how can I take the advantage of this project on my application process.

As I mentioned in my comment above, it's often an advantage to have previously contacted a potential advisor and discussed working with them. Many prospective graduate students "cold email" professors to express interest in working with them, discuss potential research projects and--usually the primary reason for emailing--to make sure the professor recognizes their name and remembers them when actually reviewing applications.

Having a particular topic or project in mind tends to be a positive--as long as it's something the department or professor you're applying to work with is interested in. The only downside to having a specific project in mind is that it might be limiting if the professor isn't interested in it and you haven't expressed any interest in things they DO want a student to work on. That seems unlikely if you're selecting them as a potential collaborator because their work aligns with your project, but I'd make sure to explicitly state that while you want to work on this project, you are also interested in ___ (things that they study that you would be interested in doing for your PhD--read their webpage to get an idea of their broader research interests and ongoing projects).

In general, when emailing potential advisors/collaborators, keep the following rules in mind:

  • Be polite and respectful! Don't ever come off as arrogant/demanding/expectant.
  • Mention who you've worked with--you'll gain credibility if they know your advisor, respect your institution, etc..
  • Demonstrate that you've done some background research into what they do--mention work they've done that interests you, papers you particularly liked, etc.
  • What can you offer to them or their lab? Describe your background, strengths, interests, etc... show them (without being arrogant!) why you think working with you/taking you on as a student would be worth their time.
  • Show your enthusiasm!
  • Try to keep it as brief as possible while still including all relevant information--be succinct. Professor are extremely busy and get about a zillion emails a day. He/she will probably not bother reading your email if it's super long. Also on this note, make sure you include enough info to snag their attention in the first few lines, since that may be all they read if they aren't hooked by then.

An example email would be something like the following (reorganized/worded as needed):

Hi Professor ___,

I'm currently finishing my Msc. degree at [institution] with [your current Professor], and am planning to pursue a PhD in [field] this coming [whenever you'll be applying]. My thesis work has been on [describe your research].

I'm contacting you for two reasons: first, I'm considering applying to [institution], and was wondering if you are currently accepting new PhD students. I'm especially excited about your work in [topics], and [describe any particular topics where your interests intersect with his/her research, strengths you have that would be particularly helpful in pursuing this/these avenues of research, etc.--e.g., I think my background/experience in __ would be an asset in studying __].

Second, one of the outcomes of my thesis work is [describe your ongoing project], which I would like to work on as a [side project/chapter/Phd project/etc. depending on the scope of what you have in mind]. We have 1 year of funding to complete this [maybe include more details--mentioning the funding is very important since it means you come with support!], and are currently looking for collaborators to [describe what you need them to help with]. [Explain why you think he/she would be the perfect collaborator].

I'd love to discuss potential PhD research topics and collaborating on our __ work if you have time in the next [give them a reasonable but discrete timeframe--few weeks is usually good].

Thank you for your time,

Arash

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