For people who are nervous about starting conversations with professors:
I just emailed a guy who is, academically speaking, a huge deal, who doesn’t know me from Adam. Like, my opening line was, “I hope you’ll pardon me for writing to you out of the blue, but…” And then I proceeded to just ask him if he might be willing to tell me some stuff about his recent research, and you know what he did? Replied within two hours with a four-paragraph email full of exclamation points saying how glad he was to hear from me and that I was interested in his work. Now, obviously this doesn’t happen every time, but the worst response I’ve ever received to this kind of communication is an “I’m so busy right now, can I direct you to my colleague Professor So-and-So instead?” Basically, you have nothing to lose. Be polite and professional and reach out. There’s a lot of potential reward and very little actual risk involved.