Your Major Professor

Applicants cannot be accepted until they have a commitment from a major professor.  We very strongly encourage you to follow these steps before submitting your application.


Your major professor (sometimes referred to as a graduate advisor, or simply advisor) will be a vital part of your application and program.  Before you apply, it is crucial that you learn about the FES Graduate Faculty, investigate the work they are doing, determine who would be the best major professor for you, and reach out to these potential major professor with serious inquiries about working with them.


Applicants cannot be accepted into the FES degree program until a member of the FES graduate faculty commits to serving as their major professor.  Applicants typically contact prospective advisors in order to secure a commitment.  Some major professors may not be accepting students during your application period.  Major professors may require skills and knowledge above the minimums set by the program.  A strategy for identifying and selecting a major professor is described below. 


Choosing Potential Major Professors

First, visit the Research page of the department website.  Review the research areas and determine which ones best describe your interests - there may be more than one!


Second, create a shortlist of potential major professors.  You can locate faculty doing the research you’re interested in either by searching the directory of potential major professors or by reviewing current projects on the Research page of the department website.


Third, conduct a thorough review of the research, publications and accomplishments attributed to the faculty on your shortlist.  Use this information to help you determine if this major professor would be a good fit for you and to help you in your communication with them.


Contacting Potential Major Professors

Different major professors will be looking for different qualities in potential students.  In general, when contacting a potential major professor:

  • Write in a concise, professional and respectful manner
  • Discuss your academic and professional qualifications
  • Demonstrate that you are contacting that faculty member because you are knowledgeable of and interested in their work and expertise
  • Include your goals and motivations for your graduate education
  • Include your CV, transcripts, or other pertinent documents
  • Address any responses from your potential major professor in a timely and professional manner


Before Committing

Before you and any potential major professor agree to work together, it is important to have a face-to-face detailed conversation about whether you are a good fit for each other.  These conversations should include:

  • Whether their continued research and projects fit in with your long-term goals
  • The expectations you have for each other while working together
  • How your education will be funded, and who is responsible for what aspects of your funding

For more information on the role your major professor will play in your graduate program, please see the FES Graduate Program Handbook. 



If you do not receive any interest from the potential major professors you contacted, you can either create a new shortlist or submit your application without a major professor.  Most graduate faculty select their advisees from the applicants who have taken the initiative to review their work and contact them in advance.  However, graduate faculty have the opportunity to review applications with no major professor and contact any applicants they are interested in working with in the future.