Notes for potential student collaborators
If you are a student and want to work with me on a project, I would be happy to hear from you! Here are some notes for potential collaborations.
Topics of interest
In case you want to pitch something that is not aligned with my current research interests—or does not appear to be aligned with them upon first glance—feel free to reach out anyway! I am always happy to expand my horizons, but I want to have a rough understanding of the domain before committing to a new project. This is because I fundamentally believe in being a good mentor through competence; if I am completely ignorant of a topic, I cannot provide a lot of guidance.
Master’s and Bachelor’s Theses
If I know something about the topic, I am happy to serve as your primary or secondary thesis supervisor. Please follow the application process outlined on our group website.
Short-term research opportunities
If you are interested in a short-term research opportunity, such as a research visit over the summer, please reach out to me. I am particularly interested in stays that may result in long-term collaborations. However, such research opportunities typically require external funding, for instance via a Helmholtz Visiting Researcher Grant. While I am typically very happy to write a proposal with you, this needs some time for preparation, so please familiarise yourself with appropriate funding opportunities before reaching out.
If you are looking for an internship, please note that my institution does not permit paid internships. There are funding opportunities for such internships available; please check out RISE or DAAD Scholarships in general. The latter database is also great for other research opportunities.
How to contact me?
In case you have never reached out to an academic before (I know I haven’t when I was first looking for internships or related things), here are some things that might make it easier for you to contact some people, including myself.
Caveat lector: These are just suggestions, not strict rules. I hope to make it easier for people from a non-traditional background like myself to survive in the muddy waters of academia. I realise that I am writing this from a privileged position, but believe me, every e-mail I wrote during my graduate years was painstakingly assembled, mulled over, dissected, and put back together again until I felt it was all right and sufficiently polite. I hope to make this process easier for you by giving you some tips.
Starting an e-mail can be as easy as ‘Dear NAME.’ I am most okay with being addressed as plain ‘Bastian,’ i.e. my first name. If you want to err on the side of caution, a ‘Dear Dr. LASTNAME’ is always good. For myself, this reads a little bit weird, but it’s definitely not wrong or anything; in fact, it is very polite. Some people may appreciate it a lot if you use their title; notice that ‘Prof.’ supersedes all other titles in most countries: ‘Dear Prof. LASTNAME’ is just as good in these cases. In my opinion, only very weird people expect you to be aware of all their titles a priori. You probably don’t want them to be your collaborators or supervisors—that could be a big red flag.
Parsing a name and tokenising it into FIRSTNAME and LASTNAME may require some additional cultural knowledge. In ‘Western countries’,1 names are traditionally listed in the order of FIRSTNAME LASTNAME. If you suspect that someone comes from a different cultural background, it could pay off to do some research in order to figure out how to address them. The same goes for you: if you are addressed incorrectly in an e-mail, please tell the other person! When I was a young student, I addressed my colleague incorrectly and always use his family name—luckily, he corrected me quite quickly and understood that I was not trying to be impolite.
When in doubt, mimic the other person: if you address someone as ‘Dear Dr. LASTNAME’ and they address you as ‘Dear NAME,’ while using the simple ‘Best, NAME’ in their closing, it’s all right if you use their first name from now on. After some back-and-forth, most academics like some familiarity. Personally, I appreciate it a lot.
‘Cold e-mails’ are easier to reply to if they are precise and concise. A few sentences can really help. Most academics are drowning in mails, so you increase your chances of a reply by keeping it brief; at least, that’s true for the first contact.
I also wrote a blog post about things you are ‘allowed’ to do in academia that might be helpful. Always keep in mind that you cannot get anything unless you ask for it. Good luck!