For many students looking to get into research, one way of finding opportunities and getting involved is to email faculty directly. By emailing a faculty member about your interest in research, you can share more information about yourself, why you’re interested in their research area, and qualifications that show off what you would bring to their research/lab. This is also a great opportunity to network with faculty in your department (or department of interest) to learn more from them, even if they do not have an available position at the moment.
So, what do you include in an email to a faculty member?
This email is a first step in finding a position in a research lab, so treat it like you’re speaking to an employer. Your email should be professional and personalized for each faculty member you write to. You do not want to send a generic copy/paste email to multiple faculty members. This is your first impression! Show them that you have put thought and time into contacting them.
The format of your email should be professional, short, and to the point. You want to give them enough information so they know all of the key points of why you’re contacting them, but you do not want to make it a lengthy paper either. A well-written email to faculty can be about 1 – 3 short paragraphs. Check out our resource with tips on what to include in an email.
Start off with a detailed Subject Line. Tell the faculty member why you’re contacting them. Remember, each faculty member is not only conducting research, but they are also teaching, supervising others, writing their papers and grants, and so much more. If you write a generic subject line, it can get lost in their inbox.
The foundation of your email should include:
- A brief 1 – 2 sentence introduction of yourself. Include your name, academic year (Freshman, Sophomore, etc.), and major.
- The reason you’re reaching out. Let them know early that you’re interested in their research.
- The reason you are interested in their research. Did you previously take a class covering that topic and it interests you? Did you want to research a similar topic in the future?
- Show that you have done your homework on their research. When possible, try to read the faculty member’s website, or one of their publications, and mention it. This shows that you are interested in a more in-depth understanding of what they were doing. It is okay if you read only part of an article of theirs. Try to at least scan the article or read the main parts (abstract, the introduction, and the conclusion section) to understand the main findings.
- Tell them any of relevant experience that shows you are familiar with the topic or with working in a research lab. Have you taken a class on the topic they’re researching? Mention it! Do you have previous experiences working in research? Mention it! Show them that you would be a benefit to their research team.
- Give them times that you are available to meet to talk about your interests in greater detail. Typically, the faculty member will want to meet with and discuss things further to learn more about you and to share more information with you. It’s important to give them a few days and times so they can compare it to their availability. One tip is to learn their office hours and ask if you can come by the following week to discuss your interests.
- Optional Addition – Attach your resume, but only if it’s professional and ready. If you feel like your resume needs to be updated, visit our resume section on our website for some resources!
- Before you send the email, proofread it.
I Sent the Email. What Happens Now?
While you wait for a response, try to look for other research opportunities. You do not want to have your mind set on one lab – sometimes professors can’t take on more students. You will want to be prepared for any scenario, so look for a number of options. Start by emailing three to five faculty members. This is a good start that is not overwhelming. Also look for research programs available across the university. You can find some of the research programs on our Research Experiences section and on our main research website.
Didn’t hear back from them? Follow up in 1 – 2 weeks from your first email. As mentioned above, faculty members are busy. It’s possible your email got buried in many other urgent items. Check in to ensure they received your email and ask them if they have a time to talk or let them know if you will be visiting them during their office hours.
When you do meet with the faculty member, ask if they know of other opportunities that might meet your needs. If they are able to invite you to work with them, wonderful! If they cannot, they might know someone who can, or have other ideas for you.
Resources for Emailing Research Faculty
- Tips for Emailing Faculty: Emailing Faculty About Research Resource. Our Tips on Emailing Faculty about expressing interest in their research.
- Resume Resources: There are tips for formatting/editing your resume as well as resources for getting a resume review on our website.
- Research Tracker: Create a list of who you contacted and their responses. We have a Research Application Tracker that can be used to track emails as well.
- Meet with an Undergraduate Research Ambassador in a 1:1 Appointment: Need help getting started on finding research, support drafting your emails, and/or want someone to look at your email before you send it? An Undergraduate Research Ambassador can help you in any step!
Example Research Request Email:
Research Example Information:
Professor Doe – Psychology and Social Reponses Research
Research Interest: anxiety, guilt, cultural differences, religion, and terror management
Subject Line: Social Response Research and Available Opportunities
Dear Professor Doe,
My name is Wildcat Student and I’m a junior majoring in Psychology here at the University of Arizona. I was looking for research positions on the psychology website when I came across your research on Social Response and Terror Management. I’m interested in expanding my knowledge on the relation of religion and terror management, so your research is very interesting to me. I read your paper on how different religions affect the way people cope in stressful situations. It was very insightful to learn how people use social beliefs, such as religion, to motivate themselves and deal with the negative impacts of difficult situations such as anxiety and guilt. I’m interested in applying to a PhD program after graduation and I would like my research to have an emphasis on using Terror Management Theory to examine the response differences between cultures. Your research would give me the foundation to start this in my undergraduate education.
I have gained knowledge in these topics through courses such as Abnormal Psychology, Social Psychology, Social Psychology + Cinema (where I examined social theories such as Terror Management Theory through contributions from cinema), and Religion and Film (which explores religion and its relationship with visual storytelling culture). Furthermore, I have previous experience with research from my advanced research methods class, where I ran a research study and analyzed the data afterwards to find significant values in each test group.
I would love to discuss the possibility of volunteering in your research lab for the Fall semester. I am available on Mondays – Thursdays anytime after 1:00pm and I’m flexible to meet in-person or over zoom. Please let me know if any of those dates/times work for you. I have also attached my resume if you are interested in reviewing my other experiences.
Thank you some much for your time,
Wildcat Student (she/her)