Contacting Faculty about Research Opportunities
If you are a student who feels nervous about reaching out to faculty members regarding potential research opportunities, you are not alone!
Students often report finding the process a bit stressful, especially in circumstances when they wish to contact faculty members they have not previously met. It may be helpful to remember that all faculty members were in a position similar to yours at some point in their careers–they were interested in research but had relatively little or no actual research experience. Remember too another attribute that you have in common with prospective faculty mentors: you’re both excited about the development of knowledge and understanding in a given field!
If you wish to contact a faculty member you don’t already know well about a research opportunity in our database or possible openings within a research group, we would recommend first reaching out to the faculty member over e-mail.
As you write your message, the overall goal is to craft a polished, succinct communication that clearly explains why you're interested in the faculty member's specific research project(s) and highlights the skills and academic background that you would bring to the work of a research assistant.
Important note: If the draft message could only be sent to the specific faculty member to whom it is addressed and could only have been authored by you, then you’re on the right path!
We would offer the following additional guidelines and suggestions:
We recommend sending the message from your official UMD e-mail account; it helps the faculty member know you are who you say you are, and it may also increase the odds of your message being read.
The message should include a clear subject line indicating your interest in research opportunities.
In your salutation, you should use the faculty member’s title and last name (e.g., “Dear Professor Jones”), rather than their first name.
The body of your e-mail should identify your major, class year, and the semester(s) in which you would be available to participate in research.
The faculty member may find it helpful if you include a resume as an attachment.
If you need assistance with preparing a resume, the Career Center has helpful resources available here.
As you develop your understanding of a faculty member’s research interests and projects, it will be useful to review one or more of their academic publications as well as the biographical material about them available on UMD websites.
In some cases, faculty members make copies of academic journal articles and book chapters available directly on their personal websites or in the UMD library’s research repository. As a UMD student, you also have access to numerous databases that index scholarly publications and provide full-text access to these publications via the library website; if you encounter difficulties on the library website, they offer a convenient chat feature.
Think broadly about your experiences. Even if you have never been a research assistant before, you may have had other opportunities to demonstrate traits that are desirable in a research assistant (e.g., organization and detail orientation).
We recommend keeping your message relatively short. If you do not hear back after sending a message, we would suggest that you wait 1-2 weeks and then send a polite follow-up.