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Is it a red flag if you don't send in all your research letters?

Arodramaticity

Full Member
2+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2018
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  1. Pre-Medical
I have multiple research experiences in different labs, but one in particular was a lab I was in early on in my undergrad career and it was not that meaningful since I wasn't very independent. I also did not get to know the PI very well since it was a huge lab, so I'm afraid this letter will be very lukewarm. Though, I did collect enough data during my time in the lab that I became second author to a publication.

Some schools are very clear and specifically request for letters from every research mentor you've had, whereas other schools don't specify. Is it always a red flag to not include letters from all your research letters?

I've heard a lot of mixed responses to this question, so I was wondering if someone could shed some light on this.
 

p01t43

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Apr 16, 2020
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I had a very similar experience, first lab was huge and I never even met the PI. Just my personal experience but it was fine that I didn't get a letter from the mentor, explained it to the schools that asked about it and I think I wrote about it as a stepping stone/first experience in research. Everyone understood but again, just my personal experience. Good luck!
 
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cellsignaling

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May 10, 2019
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  1. Pre-Medical
i didn't include a letter from my first PI, but i got a letter from my post-doc mentor in the lab instead. is it possible for you to reach out to someone who could write a stronger letter from that experience? if not, i think it is fine anyway! i have heard of a lot of people who didn't include letters from their first research experience and are at top MSTPs now.
 
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Seihai

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I didn't have a letter from my first research experience for a variety of reasons (not really related to the quality of the letter), and I like to think I made out well in my application cycle.
 
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hellothere69420

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Sep 19, 2019
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I only had a missing letter come up in an interview once, and that was because the PI was in the institution I was interviewing at! I was honest and said that it wasn't a particularly big research experience and I still got in so... *Shrug*
 
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Arodramaticity

Full Member
2+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2018
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  1. Pre-Medical
This is comforting! Thank you everyone for your insight.

Just out of curiosity: for these labs that you didn't get a letter from, did you talk about them in your research experience essay or mention them in your work/activities section? I wonder if it raises eyebrows when you consider it significant enough to talk about it in your app, but not significant enough to request a letter from the PI.
 

cellsignaling

Full Member
May 10, 2019
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  1. Pre-Medical
i did mention it in my application, but downplayed it a lot. it was in work and activities and i said i mostly did small tasks in the lab like lab management or certain protocols, but not much big picture experiments. i framed it as a learning experience in what lab culture is like (what the structure of lab is, what lab meetings are like, how to learn new techniques, etc). in my significant research essay, i just wrote 3-4 sentences on that experience, saying it just motivated me to start exploring my field of interest more in-depth and supplemented my course work.
 
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