How to Write Cold Emails for Research Opportunities
Updated: Apr 21, 2022
Cold emailing can be a daunting task, especially for high school students seeking research opportunities: an intimidating task on its own! Most of us, working professionals included, avoid cold emailing due to fear of rejection and/or its high non-response rate. However, cold emailing is sometimes the best way to make contacts with professionals outside your network. Being able to make these kinds of connections confidently is not only a great skill to hone as a young researcher, but one that will come in handy throughout the rest of your professional career.
So, to get your started, here are some tips and tricks for writing cold emails to obtain research opportunities:
1. Know your audience
Who are you sending this email to? Professor? Administrator? Community organiser? Remember to read up on the background of the person you are sending this email to and make sure that your research interests align with his/hers.
Keep this person’s interests in mind as you write; make sure you include what you want PLUS what the recipient can gain from a connection with you in the first few sentences.
2. Introduce yourself
To start, introduce yourself with your full name, background, school, high school year, as well as the purpose of your email.
The purpose of your email is likely to be an interest in their field of research work and a request to work with them.
Your subject line should also capture the essence of your email. For example, “Seeking Research Opportunity at XXX Lab.”
3. Explain your interest/ motivation
Next, explain to your recipient that this is not just another generic research request. Instead, take the time to show that you have read up on the background of the professor / contact and you know what they are working on.
You may cite some of the projects that you are interested in to demonstrate that you have done some research. You do not have to be extremely specific, but you do need to show that you have genuine interest in their work.
Additionally, it will be great for you to explain why you want to embark on a research opportunity with this particular professor / researcher. Given that you are a young student and that research opportunities are done outside of class time, the researcher will want to be assured that you have the motivation and drive to finish a project on this scale.
4. Explain your request
Usually your request will be “any available position in their lab.”
OR if you are interested in carrying out your own project whilst asking this person to be your supervisor, you do have to explain what your project is about and how that aligns with your supervisor’s research interests.
You need to address timing as well, including your general availability for working at the research place and/or specific availability for a first meetup.
5. Final punchline
Wrap up your email with a short pitch on why he/she should pick and work with you. This should be stated somewhere in the first 50 words of your email, and again in the last 50 words.
Additionally, update your resume and attach it to the email so that the recipient can access it if they wish!
That’s all for crafting your first cold email! Do remember to follow up on the first email after ~2 to 3 weeks if you don’t get a reply.