It's always tough to know how to approach anyone when you're looking for a job. And the academic field somehow sounds especially tough.
One science professor -- who's less than warm and fuzzy -- gives some advice in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how to approach a potential graduate adviser through e-mail.
I've condensed her tips to make things easy.
The key thing to remember: Your first e-mail to a potential graduate adviser should be professional and short.
Before you keep reading ...
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What to include:
Name of your undergrad institution
Major and minor fields
Relevant research experience
Field of interest for grad study
Whether you're interested in just a master's, a master's and possibly a PhD, or definitely a PhD
A request to meet -- such as at a conference -- if you're really serious about working with the adviser. Just understand that he or she may not have time.
Requests for specific, relevant information you can't get any other way
What not to include:
Questions of money (tuition, benefits, salary for a research assistantship)
Information about your personal circumstances (spouses, significant others, etc.)
Your full CV (though you could always include a link to one)
A statement informing the adviser that you'll be meeting. (That's presumptuous.)
A request for the adviser's cell phone number
A Facebook friend request
Vague requests for more information
Anything that makes your note look like a mass e-mail
One last tip:
Find out who the adviser's current and recent grad students are and ask them about their experience with that professor.