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Should I even bother asking my PI for a LOR?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical Allopathic [ MD ]' started by breakxbarriers, 03.15.12.

  1. breakxbarriers

    breakxbarriers

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    So I've worked in this lab since about September 2010. I've spent the overwhelming majority of my time working under a grad student and I haven't really gotten to know my PI very well. He knows my name, occasionally talks to me about my project and classes and jokes around with me in lab meetings but besides that he's a really, really busy guy. I feel like he would only be able to write me an average LOR (whereas the grad student could write me a great one. obviously he can't actually write me one).

    I know I could get three good LORs from teachers, but how would it look if I didn't get a rec from my PI even though I worked there for two years? Would the whole "I mostly worked under a grad student and didn't get to know my PI that well" even be a plausible response if it came up in an interview?
     
  2. sector9

    sector9 Administrator Administrator SDN Senior Moderator

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    Solution: Grad student writes the letter and has the PI sign off on it.
     
  3. breakxbarriers

    breakxbarriers

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    I never even thought of that. so that is allowed? I guess my only dilemma with this would be that my grad student is graduating in may and I won't be applying until summer 2013.
     
  4. ipoo

    ipoo

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    have the grad student write the letter now and the PI can update it in the future with the current projects, pubs, etc
     
  5. sliceofbread136

    sliceofbread136

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    It happens all the time. Just get the grad student to do it now.
     
  6. Osteoth

    Osteoth Fake it till ya' make it Bronze Donor

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    To hop on this, what would the situation be if you worked relatively autonomously in a lab without much supervision or contact with your PI? Could you possibly write your own letter and then have your PI/ grad student sign off on it?
     
  7. sliceofbread136

    sliceofbread136

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    I've never heard of that, don't think that is allowed. Talk to your PI about what he thinks would be best?
     
  8. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers SDN Advisor

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    Here's what goes in those letters....

    The PI says ,"I've known breakxbarriers since September 2010 when s/he began in my lab as a .... We are studying blah, blah, blah using x, y, z and breakxbarriers worked hard with greatgraduatestudent to establish yada yada in a [animal name] model.

    Here a description of a particular challenge of the lab is inserted and how it was overcome is described. Next there is a description of how you personally overcame a disappointment or a set back in the work (bounced back & kept working, tenacious, etc) and any great stuff that has happened in the lab since you started such as a presentation or a publication.

    The PI goes on to say that you think creatively, that you have good hands, that your notebooks are always well organized, that you get along well with others in the lab, that you contribute to the discussion at lab meetings and that you are a good citizen of the lab, always willing to help out the new students or other graduate students. It might be said that you work on the level of a graduate student or that the PI wishes that you were choosing [his field] rather than medicine.

    Finally, there is a closing statement that points out that the applicant is well prepared for a career in medicine and that the PI would look forward to having the applicant as his own physician some day.


    These things just about write themselves and even if you don't feel as if the PI knows you very well, he might be able to state the stuff listed above without growing a Pinocchio nose.


    If you are in someone's lab for 2 yrs and don't have a LOR -- you are waving a red flag. Dont' take that chance. If the guy knows your name and jokes around with you, he can write a nice letter. The same letter not so nice usually says the same drivel but will not mention that you bounce back from disappointments but just that you were disappointed. Or that you are cheerful and friendly with everyone in the lab (rather than saying that you are helpful) and that after trying lab work it is obvious that your interest in science is well suited toward a career in medicine (the scientists reading this just spewed Diet Coke all over their monitors and I apologize for the inconvenience).
     
    Last edited: 03.15.12
  9. argama

    argama

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    Sorry to hijack the thread w/my own problem, but I have a question about this....I have been in a selective lab (according to some of the attendings) for 2.5 years but I feel like I have not impressed my PI really and he's a very very ambitious person. Our lab manager who directly supervises me is very strict on me (aka never acknowledges if I do things right and usually gets extremely upset at me if I mess up something even trivial and even if it's the first time doing a hard procedure). Obviously, i have contributed a lot but mostly benchwork and data analysis. I have a feeling he may have my supervisor write my letter b/c my PI is always busy.

    I am also afraid I do not live up to his expectations but it's really hard to read how my PI views me. In lab meetings I do contribute but usually it's my supervisor who presents our analysis and he usually grills us (more like me) on the results of the procedure. He knows I am an undergrad student (the only undergrad in that department) with other obligations but he makes me work close to 25 hours a week when I am "supposed to" do a max of 16 for 4 unit course credit.

    At the same time, I (like every human) have made one or two mistakes in the past due to momentary lapses in responsibility/maturity (none of which compromised anything) and I am afraid that will make him write a slightly negative letter on me. I will get a letter from him b/c I have been in his lab from when he first started but I can't help but feel he may be a little disappointed in me sometimes. He knows I work very hard and I try my 120% and he has expressed his appreciation for that. Maybe I am being stressed for no reason because I recently made a careless mistake in a simple administrative task (ordering materials, organizing received packages, stuff I normally don't do but are brainless) and I handled it wrong leading to delayed materials and unneccessary frustration for which I rightly took full responsibility. I am usually very thorough and careful so it was surprising I was the one who did that.

    I had even considered leaving this lab when summer comes b/c I felt like I shot myself in the foot for making a stupid mistake even though some of the postdocs told me "it was ok" after they lectured me on how careless mistakes are intolerable in this PI's lab.

    /sorry for the hijack of the thread, wasnt sure if I should have created a new one...
     
  10. LizzyM

    LizzyM the evil queen of numbers SDN Advisor

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    Can I have a show of hands of researchers who have never made a mistake in the lab or in administrative tasks?


    Yeah, that's what I thought.


    Hijacker, don't worry about it. If you are giving it your all and making an effort not to make the same mistake twice, you'll be ok.
     
  11. argama

    argama

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    Yeah that made me feel a lot better. I think they were more upset with how I handled my mistake by not being swift enough or proactive enough to correct it since I had not been in a situation like that before. It was definitely a good lesson in responsibility and maturity...just hope my PI doesnt think too sourly of me.
     

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