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(s) 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 potential major professors directly to secure a commitment. Some major professors may not be accepting students during your application period. Individual major professors may require applicants to demonstrate skills or knowledge above the minimums set by the FES Graduate Program. Best practices for identifying and selecting a major professor are described below.

Choosing Potential Major Professors

First, visit the Research page of the department website. Review the research areas (also referred to as 'Areas of Focus') and determine which best describe your interests - there may be more than one!

Second, create a shortlist of potential major professors. You can locate faculty doing the type of work you are interested in either by searching the online 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 potential major professors on your shortlist. Read some of their publications. Use this information to help you determine if this major professor would be a good fit for you and to help you in your communications with them.

Contacting Potential Major Professors

Different major professors look 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 aware of and interested in their work and expertise, and then explain how their work connects to your interests
  • Include your interests, 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 professors agree to work together, it is important to have a detailed conversation about whether you are a good fit for each other. These conversations should include:

  • Whether their continued research and projects fit with your long-term goals
  • The expectations you have for each other while working together
  • How you plan to fund your education, and who is responsible for which 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. You can contact the FES Graduate Program Coordinator or the FES Graduate Program Director for advice on other faculty to contact.