Approaching Faculty


First, do your homework — Prepare for conversations with faculty

You want to establish a rapport with professors, so show interest in and knowledge of their field. This means that you may need to do some homework in advance.

  • Read faculty web pages, CVs, research abstracts, etc. Detailed information can generally be found on the faculty member's profile page on his/her department's website. Department undergraduate offices often have information on current faculty research as well, so speak with your department's undergraduate/academic administrator.
  • Review MIT News for up-to-date articles on current research projects and interviews with faculty about their projects.
  • Read the professional journals relevant to your field to stay informed about research developments (MIT Libraries provide students access to many journals free of charge).
  • Not sure were to start?  Connect with UROP staff for tips and advice. You can reach us at urop@mit.edu.

Approaching Faculty

Every scientist was once a novice, so when searching for a UROP project and faculty mentor, don't be daunted the first time you knock on an office door. Most faculty are experienced UROP supervisors and will be interested in talking with you.

Faculty often have busy schedules, so approaching a potential faculty mentor directly after a class may not be the best time to have an involved discussion, but a quick chat can be a great way to find out if a given professor is enthusiastic about a possible collaboration. An after-class chat may also present an opportunity to plan a future meeting to discuss UROP in more detail.

Given that we are currently working remotely, email can be a great way to make initial connections with potential mentors. Here are some tips for an email approach.

  • Keep your initial correspondence brief and concise.
  • Indicate your knowledge of the faculty member's research area or a specific project.
  • Detail your reasons for interest in such research, your skills and qualifications and/or willingness to learn, etc.
  • Request to meet with the faculty member or a member of his/her lab group to discuss potential opportunities.
  • See our email templates for additional ideas about how to structure your email outreach.

When on-campus, it is important to note that office hours vary for each faculty member, so it's a good idea to book an appointment in advance. If you are simply dropping by a faculty member's office in person, try to do so during posted office hours.

If you ever have questions or concerns about how to approach faculty, UROP staff can help - you can reach us at urop@mit.edu.