Serve On My Dissertation Committee

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I received the following email recently:

Hello DrDrA,

I am in the process of putting together my thesis committee. I would be honored if you would consider being a member of my supervisory committee. Once I have a list of potential faculty members, I will, at a later date, arrange for a committee meeting early next year. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me, and I am readily available for a chat if you would rather meet in person.

Have a great day!

Grad-Student-With-Fairly-Common-Last-Name

Nice, polite request for me to be on his/her thesis committee. Just one problem: I have NO IDEA who this person is, what his/her project is, or WHY he/she thought my expertise might be a valuable addition to the thesis committee, nor did (s)he give me any clues. The only details I removed from that email were my name and his/hers. I’m in the mood to be snarky today- but I’m going to hold back and try to be instructive instead. Here is what I’d like to see next time:

Hello DrDrA,

My name is Very-Thorough-Student, and I am a graduate student in the Widget Making Department pursuing my doctoral work in the laboratory of Big-Shot Professor (actually it doesn’t matter if she’s a big shot professor, as long as you tell me WHO your advisor is). I am a second year student and my thesis project is to understand the molecular basis for widget function (might elaborate on this just a touch).

I am in the process of putting together my thesis committee, and your expertise in widgetry would be very helpful. Would you be willing to be on my thesis committee?  We are tentatively planning to have my first committee meeting early next year. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. Thanks for considering this request.

Sincerely-

Very-Thorough-Grad-Student-With-Fairly-Common-Last-Name

In this second version all the important details are included. Let the person you are making a request of know who you are, where you are from, what you are working on, and why you think their expertise is needed. If you do it this way you are much more likely to get a response.

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