Adventures in Ethics and Science

I get letters.

This just arrived at the email address associated with my blog (rather than the email address associated with my university appointment):

Dear Sir,
I am [Name Redacted] a student of [Institution Redacted], currently in 3rd year pursuing Integrated M. Tech. in Polymer Science and Technology. I learned about you through your website and I am extremely impressed with your research interests, I think they are an excellent match to my skills. I have an intense urge towards the development and enhancement in the field of polymers and now I want to be associated with a diversified group like yours. As an intern I may have the opportunity to work and meet a variety of experienced and qualified people at your laboratory. In particular I would like to work in the field of Polymers. Therefore I’m writing to seek an internship in your institute during the period of May 2010 to the end of July 2010 (8 to 12 weeks).This internship is compulsory for fulfilling the degree requirement.

 
I am a diligent & dedicated individual with innovative thinking having good learning abilities. I have strived to learn from the best and have endeavored to contribute the best. This has given me certitude in my convictions regarding my undergraduate studies. I was an excellent science student in my high school. I think the knowledge and skills which I have gained till now (both in high school & college) could be instrumental in research. I have grasped the fundamentals of  Polymer Science and Technology and I now want to master the intricacies of the subject further. During my academic studies I have studied courses like Polymer Composites, Polymer Blends, Testing and Characterization of Polymers, Polymer Product Technology, Polymer Coating, Macromolecular Chemistry, Structure and Properties of Polymers, Polymer Chemistry, Fluid Mechanics, Heat Transfer, Process Equipment Design, Material and Energy Balance. I think that your institute could certainly provide me this opportunity.
 
 I have worked on a research project during May-July 2009 under the guidance of [Name and Institutional Affiliation Redacted]. There I studied various methods of making polymer composites including short fiber, continuous fiber, particulate and nanocomposites. I had done a research project on the Natural Fiber Reinforced Polypropylene Composites.Based on the data collected over a time on several compositions, I finally identified the trends of physical properties (tensile/flexural modulus, tensile strength, elongation and stress at break, densities, water uptake measurements etc.) with their relationships to fiber properties including their distribution and adhesion to matrix. Subsequently the resultant statistics were plotted on the graph. Moreover, I have learned about the various thermoanalytical techniques for studying and testing the materials including differential scanning calorimetry, dynamic mechanical thermal analysis, thermogravimetric analysis and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. I am also working on a project for modifying the polypropylene such as to eliminate the need of silane coating on fibers while making the polypropylene composites.

At this point of time in my academic career, this internship provides me with an excellent opportunity to explore the research opportunities, as I am also looking for a platform with an adequate work environment and expertise in sustainable research work, which may further help in my career. 
 
Herein I have enclosed my curriculum vitae for your kind consideration. Thank you and I will look forward to hearing from you soon.

I will hazard a guess that the sender did not, in fact “learn about [me] through [my] website”.

I will further suggest that there may have been advantages to the state of affairs where there was a somewhat higher activation energy associated with sending out one’s curriculum vitae.

Comments

  1. #1 NFQ
    April 9, 2010

    Special. I’m curious — are the bold words like that in the original email, or did you bold them for emphasis?

  2. #2 J-Dog
    April 9, 2010

    Ouch! Perhaps a Sprog could advise them better?

  3. #3 Janet D. Stemwedel
    April 9, 2010

    All bold in the original.

  4. #4 Pinko Punko
    April 9, 2010

    I always go to Dr. F with my Polymers and Composites material questions.

  5. #5 HP
    April 9, 2010

    Would you like to meet hot, single polymers? Sexy polymers are waiting for you!

    Great blog. I enjoyed reading about this just arrived at the email address. Do you like university appointment? Best prices on polymers.

  6. #6 Sonia Balagopalan
    April 10, 2010

    I can guess the country of origin with 99% confidence. See also e.g., http://recursed.blogspot.com/2010/01/weirdest-request-to-work-with-me.html

    Admitted that your correspondent did not do his homework properly, but it is also to some extent a cultural thing. Certain ideas like personal boundaries, not sending unsolicited mail, etc. do not exist in certain countries. See also http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Venki-Ramakrishnan-miffed-at-emails-from-India/articleshow/5120125.cms

    Sorry about the multiple links, but I just wanted to point out that the email you received is symptomatic of something deeper.

  7. #7 Comrade PhysioProf
    April 10, 2010

    I will further suggest that there may have been advantages to the state of affairs where there was a somewhat higher activation energy associated with sending out one’s curriculum vitae.

    I get about a dozen “Dear Esteemed Professor” spam e-mails per week. These people just send them out to every single faculty member whose e-mail address they can find on every single university Web site in the United States.

  8. #8 csrster
    April 10, 2010

    “Subsequently the resultant statistics were plotted on the graph.”

    Well that’s good. You wouldn’t want someone who plotted their statistics all over the bibliography or on the bottom of a Petri dish.

  9. #9 Eric
    April 10, 2010

    The best one of these I’ve gotten was when I first-authored a paper as an undergrad. Its surreal to get letters from people two degrees your senior about working “in your lab” – which at the time was the desk in my apartment.

  10. #10 WiseWoman
    April 10, 2010

    Oh, I get those all the time, and yes, I can guess the country, too. They are always from India, always list things I no longer do research in, and are always addressed to “Dear Sir”. I used to send sarcastic replies about doing one’s homework, I just delete them now.

    A colleague actually answered one, and a nice, quiet Indian boy showed up. He was given a desk and a computer, and spent his months there doing something, I suppose, and then slipped quietly away.

    So there are real people there, and we got extra points for internationalism that year.

  11. #11 Abel Pharmboy
    April 10, 2010

    I will further suggest that there may have been advantages to the state of affairs where there was a somewhat higher activation energy associated with sending out one’s curriculum vitae.

    This.

  12. #12 Namnezia
    April 10, 2010

    I get so many of these “Dear Honorable Professor” I am interested in “research” letters, even if my research has nothing to do with whatever it is they did. Here are some excerpts from one of my favorites:

    Dear Professor,
    I will be astonishingly delighted, if I get back a sweet reply form
    you in recent future. With due respect and humble honor to your path
    breaking discoveries and novel contributions to modern day
    “Neuroscience”, I have a strong urge to join your group as a post
    doctoral fellow as my future research goal is firmly oriented towards
    a broad area of research interests.

    Followed by:

    “From the beginning of my research carrier I have enormous interests… Most of us, beginning from the Amoeba to Human belong to a same kind of socioeconomic family.”

    I realize these are real people, but spamming every US email address is not a good way to find a postdoctoral position!

  13. #13 Krystal
    April 11, 2010

    I also recently received a batch of letters – students were based in the US, did not reference my specialty, and were also working in very different areas than I am (cultural anthropologist). Very strange. I was debating about responding … and seeing as how common this is, I think I’ll just ignore them going forward.

  14. #14 Mike Olson
    April 12, 2010

    I don’t really know if this is a completely non-sequitor idea or not. I don’t work in acadamia and I don’t know the etiquette of your circles. But, I’d like to relate an observation. While serving in the Navy 15 years ago I worked in the medical lab at Balboa Naval Hospital. The entire senior enlisted section was comprised of Filipinos. We all completed a year long course of study to work in a Navy lab, including the Filipinos. But, since they were foreign nationals, to get into our Navy they had to pass the ASVAB with a much higher cut off score. They also were frequently already working as Med Techs in the P.I. some held masters degrees, others had been officers in the Phillipines Navy. All spoke english, their own geographic dialect, tagolog and in some cases spanish. Generally speaking they were a very hard working, conscientious group of people. As any group would be that was willing to leave their home to provide for a better life for their family. They generally were over educated and over qualified for the jobs they held. There were culture clashes that went both ways…but, consider how you’d feel if you got your degree and then not only had to leave your family and friends, but had to leave the whole country to get an education…