It's very normal to be nervous about your first meeting with a potential faculty mentor. Most students are happy to find that these meetings are very informal and that the faculty mentors are very supportive of your interests, even if they don't have a space for you on their research team. These meetings become excellent networking opportunities. In many cases, students walk away from these meetings with a plan to engage in a research project with the faculty mentor. If a faculty member isn't able to mentor you directly, they often help students identify other potential mentors with related work!

Preparing for The Meeting

  • Do your research on their research! What is their general research focus? What projects are they working on? What have they published lately? What methods and techniques do they use? Read their faculty profile on their departmental website or do a Google search of "their name" + "Oregon State University."
  • Students usually describe these meetings as informal conversations about the faculty mentor's research and the student's interests. While most meetings are not structured like formal interviews, it's good to have a couple of responses ready for questions that could be asked, like: Why do you want to work on this team? Why should I select you over the other qualified applicants?
  • Be prepared to highlight some of your previous experiences or relevant coursework. Try your best to connect those experiences to the work you would do as a researcher. You can bring a paper resume, but most mentors aren't expecting one.
  • Make a good first impression by smiling, making eye contact, and dressing business casual for your meeting.
  • Make sure to bring a notepad and pen.

At the Meeting

  • Make sure to arrive on time.
  • Greet the faculty member by introducing yourself. Feel free to ask them how their day is going or comment on something interesting in their office. This is an opportunity to get a sense of how friendly and approachable they are.
  • Make a good first impression by smiling and making eye contact.
  • Write down important information from the meeting on a notepad.
  • Ask the faculty member some questions about their research. Asking specific questions demonstrates that you are sincerely interested in the work.
  • Be sure to also clarify any logistics or expectations you have about the research experience (e.g. Is the position paid? How many hours per week will you be working? Will you be getting course credit? How often will you be meeting with the faculty mentor?).
  • Thank the professor for their time at the end of the meeting. If you think it's necessary, tell them you'll follow up with an email.

After the Meeting

  • Send a follow up email thanking the professor for their time and reiterating important parts of the meeting (e.g. "I really enjoyed learning more about XYZ"). This email will look very different depending on what happened at the meeting. For example, if you and the faculty mentor decided that you will be doing a research project together, you might say in the email that you're very excited to get started. If the professor said they needed to think about whether they had the capacity to mentor another student, the email might say something like "Thank you very much for meeting with me today. Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide as you determine whether you have the capacity to mentor another student. I look forward to hearing from you."
  • Be patient! Professors may not be able to reply to your email right away. If 1-2 weeks have passed, send them a follow up email restating your interest in joining their research group. Feel free to visit drop-in advising hours for help writing this type of email.