Emailing a Professor

Emailing a faculty member can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know them very well.  Getting an email started can be the hardest part of reaching out.  Thankfully, there are a few guiding rules that can help you start off on the right foot!

  • Proper salutation
    • Always start out your email with a polite “Dear” or “Hello” followed by your professor’s name/title (Dr. XYZ, Professor XYZ, etc.).  If you’re not sure what their proper title is, using “Professor” followed by their last name is almost always a safe bet.
    • Tip: If you want to know their proper title, check the class syllabus!
  • Introduce yourselr
    • Even if your professor knows who you are, it can never hurt to give a brief introduction.  Simply giving your preferred name, year, major, and the course you’re enrolled in can provide a great deal of context.
  • Use correct grammar and spelling
    • An email is more formal than a text or message on social media, so be sure this is reflected in your writing (no abbreviations/acronyms).  Be sure not only to use spelling/grammar check, but also proofread the email.  You can even ask a friend or roommate to give it one final read-through.
  • Use a formal closing
    • Conclude your email with a closing, such as “Best regards”, “Sincerely”, or “Thank you” followed by your name.
    • Tip: Set up a signature on your Purdue email account that include your full name, major, and intended graduation year. To learn how to do this, click here.

Example Email to a Professor

Dear Professor Smith,

My name is Emma Jones and I am a sophomore in your Tuesday/Thursday General Physics Class.  I am writing because in class yesterday you mentioned having some open positions in your research lab.  I found the summary of your project very interesting, and I would like to learn more and possibly talk to you about joining the lab.  Is there a time in the coming weeks that we could meet?

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Best regards,

Emma
Emma Jones
Student ID: 123456
Applied Physics, Class of 2022

Carol Randel “When it came time to choose my path after high school, I was lucky enough to have a support system that allowed me the space and resources needed to nurture my strengths. As an undergraduate student, I chose to attend an institution with a small student-faculty ratio. During this time, I had a faculty member serve, as both my personal and professional mentor, and I believe it was this level of personal attention that truly helped shape my goals and my perspective on life. So much of why I joined this profession was to recreate this level of community at a larger institution because I, first hand, have seen the impact that forging meaningful relationships has on our student’s sense of belonging and ultimately their general success.”
-Sanjana Dey