The relationship with your advisor is one of the most important aspects of your graduate education. When applying to graduate school, your fit with your mentor can (and most likely will) be the deciding factor in whether or not you are accepted into the program.
I was fortunate to be able to interact with my advisor prior to my application, so I had the benefit of building a relationship with her. I do think my interactions with her PRIOR to interview day meant much more than my interactions with her ON interview day.
So here's a breakdown of how I met my current advisor:
My initial contact with my advisor was a simple email. This is a common practice in the PhD application process. Many prospective students will reach out to potential advisors to inquire about their research and whether or not they will be accepting students. For those of you wondering what to say in this email, here is the exact email I sent:
Following this, my advisor actually responded to my email and asked to set up a time to talk over the phone. This conversation ended up being about an hour long. I shared the research and methods that I was doing at the time as well as my interests and why I was interested in that line of research. We talked about her current research projects and her plans for the future. During this call she actually let me know that she went to grad school with the PI at the lab I was working at, which shows you how important networking is!
Also on this phone call, she mentioned that she would be attending ISDP, a conference I was also going to be at! I viewed this as a great opportunity to get to meet her in person.
That conference occurred in October. I did recognize her a few times thoughout the conference, but made a point not to force myself upon her or into her conversations. When presenting my poster one of her graduate students passed by and I was able to talk to that student briefly. We chatted about her experiences in the lab and she actually went and grabbed Dr. Tarullo. Thus, I was able to share my poster and talk to her briefly in person.
Finally, in December I submitted my application. I made sure to mention my conversations with Dr. Tarullo in my personal statement and how they led me to believe we would be a good fit with each other.
If you're looking to connect with a potential advisor here's my tips:
Networking is everything! Ask your professors if they have any connections with researchers related to your interests.
Email any PI's of interest asking about their research.
Try to connect with potential PI's at professional events or conferences.
Until next time...