Applying to work with Alan Blackwell

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If you are interested in working with me as a collaborator, visiting researcher, intern, or graduate student, then please contact me by email - I would like to hear from you!

If you have never contacted me before, it is essential that you say in your initial email what specific aspect of my research you are interested in (see the note below).

If you do not have any specific interest in my own areas of research, but would simply like to spend time in Cambridge, or in the Computer Lab, then you should explore the University and Department schemes for research fellowships, job vacancies, and internships.

How to explain your specific research interests when approaching an academic

  • First, read their web page. If you are looking for something specific (an internship, a job, how to apply for a degree programme), there may already be links from their web page giving the information you need. If you want to email them anyway, make sure to say "I read the link on your web page about X", so that they understand you aren't being lazy.
  • Second, you should tell them what specific aspect of their research you are interested in. By "specific", I mean something where this person is one of the world experts. If you know of an undergraduate course on this topic, or there is a textbook with the same title, this is not specific enough (unless they wrote the textbook). Look at their list of publications, and refer to something specific that they have written.
  • Third, make sure that you have chosen a topic that they are interested in right now. If you refer to something that they did 20 or 30 years ago, it's possible that they are bored by it now. If you refer to something that they have published this year, it makes you look up to date (and it's possible that not many other people have even read it yet, so they will be pleased of the attention).
  • Fourth, try to be complimentary. Most academics are in it for glory, not for the money. It's a bad idea to imply that you know more about the topic than they do - but try to explain why you like their work. You need to say which specific aspect you find interesting, not just general flattery - this is an important opportunity to demonstrate your understanding (see below).
  • Finally, tell them why you are qualified to contribute to their research. If you don't at least have an undergraduate major in a directly related field, you are probably not qualified. This isn't the end of your dreams - if you really want to work in this specific area, read some books, or take an online course. Ideally, this should be at Master's level. If you can't understand the Master's level material, then read less advanced material until you are ready.

Helpful advice for those early in their research career

If you are reading this page for the first time after already having sent me an email message, it is possible that your previous email may have struck me as rude (perhaps because you sent your email without showing any interest in my research). If you think this may have happened to you, then please feel free to offer an explanation or apology, and we can start afresh. Note that the majority of people who are directed to this page never do take any further action - perhaps they don't even read my reply, which is a shame, since I will have taken the trouble to read theirs, however much spam they were sending.