Written by Christopher Wang (PEACE Advisor)
The answer is that it varies from person to person, but there are always some options which are better than the other. For example, attending office hours may be a better method of showing your consistency rather than bringing a bouquet of flowers to every lecture. How can you efficiently present yourself, while competing with others for the same thing in a large classroom setting?
Again, attending office hours is a good way to show that you are interested in the professor and his or her work. Asking smart questions is critical; you don’t want to only ask questions clarifying material taught in class. Think outside of the box, ask how two or more theories or approaches can work together. Ask questions that show you want to learn beyond the basic scope of the class. Tying it into the professor’s research is also a plus – some like to discuss their work, and may appreciate your interest in it.
Another way is to have a conversation with your professor. It could be at a faculty-student luncheon, or at a presentation or departmental event. Not all professors want to talk about science all the time. A nice change of pace through sharing common interests may make you more memorable.
Last, ask questions during class. It may seem daunting to expose your weakness in understanding a concept to a classroom full of other students, but that should not be the case. Answers benefit you as well as the listeners, and others may have had the same question but were too nervous to ask. In my conversations with some lecturers, they noted classroom participation as something that is very difficult to elicit from students especially during a lecture setting. They valued the students who consistently engaged the materials and tended to remember them more fondly than others.
There are many ways to have a faculty member establish a stronger relationship with you, and by no means is this list exhaustive. However, it is generally a good idea to have an approach before you execute your plans, as some people will respond differently to the same act. Be sure to keep a clear mind and don’t let nervousness take hold of you, and be genuinely interested in establishing a connection, just like with a friend. Professors aren’t robots, they’re people too!