Originally Posted by Clematis
When applying to a science masters program you are required find a prof to be your supervisor before applying for most schools. How is this done? Do you just e-mail them directly and ask? Does every prof take graduate students? Do them ever say no? If your applications are due at the end of January normally when is a good time to do this? Any help would be great!
Many programs encourage you to find your own supervisor, because the supervisor often provides a portion of your funding towards your stipend and its best that you find someone with research you're interested in and who you generally feel comfortable talking to.
While there are some sites which aggregate profs for certain fields, its most common that people just check out university websites where the professors may post letters/statements seeking graduate students. One of the best examples of such letters are in the Physics Department here at McMaster, all of the professors actually write up quite a good overview of what they're doing and what they have as potential projects for graduate students, e.g.:
http://physwww.physics.mcmas ter.ca...e&m2=Facu lty
Note that the absence of such letters doesn't mean the professor isn't seeking graduate students. Many profs don't update their website profile frequently so it may be 2-10 years out of date (no joke). If you have a particular field of interest, you may also want to check out recent publications in the field to find who is working on what.
Does every prof take graduate students? '
Nope, some may not have funding at the moment, some may already have enough graduate students or they may be preoccupied in other ventures.
Do them ever say no?
Yes, expect to get some no's, most professors will be gentle about it, but some will be very upfront, or just be very passive aggressive and never respond to an email you send ever again. You can get a no right off the start of communication, a no partway through the process or a no after you've visited the professor and talked to them in person.
If your applications are due at the end of January normally when is a good time to do this?
Well its probably best to avoid the first couple weeks of the school year, as profs will generally be quite busy with their new graduate students and preparing courses. But once that period has passed, its essentially never too early to start asking polite questions.
Misc advice, based on my experience in Engineering Physics / Physics:
When you write your emails, be sure to be polite and also be sure to give a little bit of info (a sentence or two) about why you're interested in the professors research. Expect some to respond instantaneously and others may take weeks or even a month to respond.
Once you've found a professor you're interested in, the professor will often arrange for a day for you to visit the school / lab and also meet some of the other professors in the department who are looking for graduate students or are in related fields. They'll also often have you go for lunch with the students in their group so you get a chance to ask honest questions about the program you wouldn't necessarily ask a professor. If you have a major scholarship (NSERC, CIHR, etc) you may find the schools also offer to reimburse you for your travel for the visit.
Good luck with your graduate school search! I'm in the midst of searching for a program for my Ph.D. (after completing a Master's this summer) so feel free to ask other questions you have.