Professors get lots of emails, that’s why you’re reading this. Many of them are generic and have nothing to do with their specific research. Let’s say a professor works 40hrs a week and works with 10 students/collaborators.
- 40 - 10hrs of collaboration meetings = 30hrs.
- 3hrs teaching, 6hrs preparing, & one office hour = 20hrs left.
- Review cards, thesis committees, graduate admissions, hiring, rec letters, … = 10hrs.
- Grant writing and staying current on the literature… = 0hrs.
All of these things actually take much longer than what I’ve listed and are worse around paper and grant deadlines, but we still haven’t budgeted any time to reply to emails from our collaborators or anybody else. This means, a professor likely is reading your email while eating lunch, on the bus on the way home, or at night when they are trying to figure out what they forgot to do today. So, a useful exercise might be to ask yourself:
The following a few broad classes of common emails we receive:
- How much time does it take to reply to the email I’m sending?
- Is this email actually a DOS attack? [i.e. did it take me much less time to write than it will for them to reply?]
❌Generic “please accept me into your program” email -- DOS attack
This email is unlikely to get a reply
- We will read your application eventually anyway, I promise, I will.
- We have to look through our budgets, look at existing obligations, etc
- We have to read through your previous research papers to find a fit
👍Tailored “please accept me - we do similar work” email -- Potentially balanced
If there is a specific question, a reply is more likely
- We still can’t promise anything, we still have to investigate funding, you still need to apply and we still will go through your application and recommendation letters in detail.
- You brought up a specific intersection in our research and yours. This requires substantially less homework for us to say something helpful and even if we don’t end up working together now, hopefully, we’ll cross paths and learn from each other in the future.
✋Very specific technical question
- Love that you’re in deep in the same area as me, but these often are better answered by one of the other authors. Use your best judgment here.