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I am a second year math student. I go to a fairly small university with at most 8 profs or so. Seeing I have no chance at all in my university, I am looking to see other universities. However, I am not sure how to introduce myself and ask other professors from other universities.

Professors get a lot of research emails, do they read them all? How do I make mine stand out?


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What do you mean by "having no chance at all in [your] university"? That you think you can't keep up with its program and will therefore fail to get a degree? –  Henning Makholm Jan 1 '12 at 23:55
Why do you think people at bigger universities "see it all"? I'm in a medium university and still most of our grad students can finish without seeing a proper definition of what is first/second order logic; what is an ordinal; what is a proof. Not only that, we have three set theorists and a model theorist. You'd think that there would be more room for that in the mandatory curriculum... –  Asaf Karagila Jan 2 '12 at 0:01
@HenningMakholm they are essentially awards that fund short term (4 month) research projects for undergraduates. I think the idea is to get more undergraduates interested in graduate studies. –  Jan Gorzny Jan 2 '12 at 0:36
Oh sorry, I meant that i have no chance because I am a second year student. 3rd/4th years are favored everyone else, or so I heard. –  jak Jan 2 '12 at 0:48
A suggestion that will surely help is: make sure (when writing emails to professors and, more generally, always) that what you write is understandable... I have no idea what you meant with that sentence :D –  Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Jan 2 '12 at 1:19
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I held one in computer science outside my home institution with good results. The best advice I can give is to keep trying and look around; a lot of professors will not be interested but there will be some who will be interested. Be sure to practice writing cover letters, in my experience, the better my cover letter the more positive the replies. I had previously compiled some advice and a list of universities with active programs on my blog here.

Note too that this probably isn't the best place to ask for this advice (especially as NSERC USRA's are Canadian-undergraduate only and not limited to mathematics), but I also can't come up with anywhere better, and since you asked, I might as well try to help. If I can be of more help, feel free to contact me.

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My transcripts for 2nd year won't be ready in a while, should I just send my 1st year transcripts to Form 202 I? I don't have a lot of Math classes in my first year transcripts. –  jak Jan 2 '12 at 0:55
Some of these deadlines are coming up soon. I need to act quickly. How must I be able to introduce myself? I am reading your blog right now and wish I had raed about it earlier. It's useful to drop into the office, but what to do if they aren't in your university? –  jak Jan 2 '12 at 1:00
You should send whatever official transcripts you can, and make sure they list whatever courses you're taking now if you can. As for the introduction, just be yourself, say what you are interested in researching, why you think they might be a good supervisor, and how you found them (especially if it was recommended you contact them). –  Jan Gorzny Jan 4 '12 at 0:16
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I held one in mathematics just last year at a small canadian university as a second year student (although from the sounds of it, still larger than yours). Before worrying about whether you will make the cut, find a professor first who wants to supervise you and has something you could work on. Start by talking to everyone who has taught you a course, then move on to anyone else in the department if those options are exhausted. Once you have done that, acceptance is more or less up to your professor's proposal and your grades and ability to write a resume. There is no reason at this point to not apply, so I dont see why you are worrying.

If your school is so small that there is no one interested in you, or undergrads, or even research, then the next step would be to ask the professors you know, whether they know anyone you can contact at other schools. Contacting someone at another school will go much better if you do it through a respectable professor that is familiar with you and the person at the other university. (this advice is basic logic)

You might even have a better chance of making it to the national level competition than at a big school. Science departments can only send $x$ applications so there is a local competition first. At bigger schools you might be up against more people.

You should note that these kinds of questions aren't suited for this website and you will learn much more consulting with profs at your school who are willing to give you advice.

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You should also talk to your department because often they have an earlier deadline than NSERC for the local competition. Ask your academic coordinator for advice, and if any profs have had undergrads do research in the past (they would be good ones to talk to). –  AnonymousCoward Jan 2 '12 at 3:17
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