Why is Email Etiquette important?

Email is a form of communication.As an undergraduate student, you want to represent yourself in a professional manner when communicating with faculty members. Similar to face to face communication, you should conduct yourself the same way through email. When you send your first email to a faculty mentor, think of it like it's your first interview. 

We understand that reaching out to faculty members can be intimidating, so below we have outlined the basic rules of email etiquette to follow! If you need additional help reach out to us through email or drop-in advising hours!

Getting Started

  • Do some background research on the faculty member you plan to email. What is their general research focus? What projects are they working on? What have they published lately? What methods and techniques do they use?

  • Plan for your email to be 4-6 sentences. You want to have enough detail for them to be interested in working with you but you also want to keep it short so it's quick and easy to read.

  • You may have to reach out to multiple faculty members before securing a meeting with one. This is normal! We recommend reaching out to one faculty member at a time.

  • Don't worry if you don't have previous research experience - you can still land a research position by highlighting your career goals, the classes you've taken, or relevant experiences you'd had (e.g. volunteer or community work, a high school project, an international trip, taking care of a family member, etc.).

  • If you think it helps your case, you can attach a resume to your email. However, many students decide not to include attachments.

Structure of an Introductory Email Example

Subject Line: Research Lab Opportunities for Summer Term

Salutations / Titles: Dear Dr. Windfall,

Introduce yourself: My name is Annie Watership, I am an oceanography major in CEOAS and I was hoping to discuss with you potential research opportunities in your lab.

Body: I found your lab through OSU's website and thought your research about selective grazing influencing harmful algal blooms very insightful. I have an interest in harmful algal blooms but would like to learn more and I was hoping to inquire about opportunities in your lab. I am currently available to meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:00pm and 4:30pm. If you could let me know if any of those times work for you, I would greatly appreciate it. 

Ending: Make sure to continue with your professionalism and end your email with phrased such as "Sincerely" or "Kind Regards"

Additional suggestions:

  • Using your ONID email can help prevent your email from getting flagged as spam.

  • Double-check that you are emailing the correct person!

  • Think about creating a signature block, an automatic ending to appear in your emails. This usually includes a closing salutation, the student's full name, and their major.

Ex. Annie Watership (She/her/hers)

Undergraduate | Oceanography

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

Oregon State University

OSU ID: 123456789

[email protected]

  • Consider reading your sentences aloud before sending the email. This will help limit spelling and grammatical errors, as well as limit any miscommunications.


  • Think about the impression your tone will make in the email, you want to make sure to treat faculty with respect and give them a reason to want to work with you.
  • Be cautious using humor via email, it can easily be misconstrued since it doesn't always come across the same as in person


  • Use complete sentences, correct spelling, and grammar when writing an email and avoid using slang; you want your message to taken seriously and in a positive way. 

  • Be sure to proofread for spelling and grammatical errors!

  • When you are including times that you are available to meet, be sure to include the date as well if you aren't always free at that time every week

  • If you don't receive a response right away, don't worry! Professors are busy and this means you'll want to wait about a week before sending a follow-up email. 

The Waiting Game

  • Sometimes it can take a while for a faculty member to respond to your email. This is normal! It is likely because your email got lost in their inbox (we've met professors who receive over one hundred emails a day!) or they saw the email and forgot to respond (we've all been there). You shouldn't view this lack of response as a rejection. There's still hope!

  • If you haven't heard back for over a week, you should send a second email indicating that you are still interested. We've talked to faculty members who really appreciate getting this second reminder email because they meant to respond but got distracted by something else.
    • Tip: Instead of opening up a new email to send. Find the previous email you sent and forward it to the faculty member with a new message at the top. This way, the faculty member can see the history of the first email you sent and when you sent it (they will also be able to see that they didn't reply to your original message)

Example Emails

Dear Dr. Alegria,

My name is Alex Smith, I'm currently a third-year majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology here at OSU. I'm interested in the research you are conducting on the directionality of motor proteins and I would love an opportunity to meet with you and discuss joining your research team!

If you are willing to meet, I am available every Monday from 1-3 pm, Tuesday and Thursday from 9-11 am, and Friday from 4-5 pm.


Alex Smith

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Dear Dr. Winston,

Thank you for meeting with me this week! We discussed the following topics during our meeting yesterday: introductions, the logistics of your lab, lab training, mentoring plan, and communication.

  • My official start date is: 
  • You listed a few projects such as outreach and seawater hydrolysis electrolysis. I am interested in working on:
  • In terms of lab training, you mentioned there was not a lot. I have received the link for training and will work to complete it by: . If there is anything else I can do, please let me know.
  • For the mentoring plan, the plan was very flexible. The general idea is that I would be paired with a graduate student and would also receive additional mentoring from you.

Some questions I still have:

  1. I asked about group meetings and you mentioned that they are Fridays at 9:00 AM. Could I join the group meetings next week?
  2. Do you have strategies for researching remotely/online?
  3. Lastly, I want to ask about the next steps. Is there anything else I should do beforehand?

Again, I would like to thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with you and look forward to it!


[Your Name Here]

Dear. Dr. Winston,

Thank you for the time you have invested in me by allowing me to be a part of your research group. While I greatly appreciate this opportunity and everything you have taught me, I would like to inform you that I have decided to leave my position because [state reason here, e.g. major change, additional leadership role, outside circumstances]. I anticipate my last day to be [Day, Month and Date, Year]. 

Prior to my departure, is there a specific procedure for leaving your research group? Where should I leave my research notebook, documents related to projects, and lab keys? 

I want to be certain that all my duties are fulfilled prior to this date. I am currently working on [insert project here]. If there are any outstanding assignments that must be completed, please let me know. 

Again, thank you for providing me the opportunity to gain research experience and grow professionally. 


[Your name here]

Office of Undergraduate Research