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Professor Reached Out, Not Sure Project is Good Fit



Hello -

Thus far I've been very fortunate and have heard back positively from most of my PhD programs. However, I've only interacted with one professor. He has emailed me to ask if I'd be interested in joining his project with full funding for 4 years. I'm excited and hate to shut any doors, but I do not find his research area (healthcare) interesting. Ideally I'd like to find an advisor whose work would better align with my interests (production systems and logistics). I have a call scheduled with him to discuss, but what is the best way to broach this subject? I feel confident that I have options as far as programs go, but, as his area of research is a hot area right now, I'm worried I might have difficulty getting synced up with the few professors who research in my desired area.

I hope that doesn't sound obnoxious, and I'd appreciate any insights with respect to how to broach this conversation.

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The best way to avoid shutting any doors is simply to not shut any doors. Think of this conversation as a way of finding out more information about the professor, his research group, and his research project, and come to it with an open mind. Don't write him off just yet, and instead try to think about what you'd want to know in case you did choose to work with him: what is his mentoring style like? what is the school life like in general? what coursework and other work would you have to do? what kind of jobs do students get once they graduate? what are the details of the project you'll be working on? Collect all this information, and at the end of the conversation tell the professor how much you appreciate his time and this information, that you're still in the process of hearing back from schools and so you can't make a decision just yet, but you are excited about this opportunity and you'll let him know once you've decided. You never know how things might work out with your other options, and frankly having an advisor who you get along with is very important, just as much (if not more) than having a topic you like. So if this professor feels like a good possible advisor, that's something to take very seriously when you make your final decision. Working on a topic that (as you say) is "hot" right now might contribute to your future job prospects and might also be something to consider in choosing a program. So, basically, I would think of this as a real and viable option and treat it that way through the interview and beyond it, until you make your final choice. Professors know that students will often have more than one choice and they fully expect some students to turn down their offer. You won't be offending the professor in doing that, as long as you're polite and professional about it. 

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