Letter of Rec from ALL PIs? Really

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by hzjames, May 29, 2008.

  1. hzjames

    hzjames New Member

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    First time posting, hope it's a useful question for many.

    I know that some schools (ie HMS) says they expected LOR from all PIs that you 've done research with.
    I have jumped around between two labs the first two years and settled in a lab that I'm pretty dedicated to now (and a few scholarship from here).
    While I should be able to get a letter from the previous PI, I don't imagine it'll be VERY strong. The things is my only publication (6 or 7th author) was from his lab.
    But I have no intention of continuing with that field of research; rather I'm all about (in my essays) the field of research in my current lab for the future.

    Can I get away without my previous' PI's letter or should I include my old PI's letter even though I don't research there anymore?

    I also don't have a humanities letter....:scared: too much science for me....
     
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  3. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    Most schools expect this as far as I can tell/speculate. Whether they require it (i.e. you can get in without it) is a touchier issue.

    Why? Is there any particular reason for this fear? Having no letter from them is going to hurt you more than a decent letter that isn't VERY strong. Besides, your letter may be very strong anyways. Talk with the PI and see how they feel.

    Your PI shouldn't hold ill-will towards you for this. MD/PhD programs aren't thinking along those lines though.

    Yes, in summary, you should.

    Get one. ;) Try to find a humanities requirement that is a small class and you think you can get excited about. It's great if you can find out who the cool profs are so you can plan for that too. Work hard in that class, act really interested, and get the letter.
     
  4. RapplixGmed

    RapplixGmed Looking for the Ether

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    What if you did research in high school? I wasn't in touch for several years and recently found out she retired and passed away.
     
  5. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    Well PI dying is a good excuse for not having a letter :D. When I say that letters are very important I'm talking about from your undergrad and post-undergrad supervisors. You could, especially if you had singificant experience in high school, submit a letter from your high school mentor and include that experience in your research essays, though it won't carry as much weight.
     
  6. delirium81

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    How long did you work in this lab? I'm not sure I agree that not having a letter will hurt you more than a mediocre letter. I had a pretty negative experience in a lab I worked in for a few months post-undergrad and didn't even consider getting a letter from that lab for my applications. I briefly described my experience in that lab in my essays and said that I had decided to switch to a more productive lab that was closer to my interests to gain more experience. No one ever asked me about it and I never got the sense that it hurt my app at all. So, I dunno, I'm more ambivalent than Neuronix. If you worked there very briefly, and really think they won't give you a great letter, I'd avoid it.
     
  7. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    That's true. If it was very brief it might be worth skipping. Since you got a paper with them I figured it was more significant, but I forget that sometimes undergrads get put on papers for doing virtually nothing.

    As for mediocre, well mediocre isn't good, this is true. I still think it's in the op's best interest to get a good letter from the person, but if it really isn't gonna work out it's probably not as big a deal as I made it out to be. It all depends...
     
  8. JHopRevisit

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    I did not include letters for two summer, full-time research project that I mentioned in my AMCAS research essay and again on secondaries. I just didn't think they really knew me at all.

    No one at any school ever said anything about it.

    My advice would be that if you don't think a letter will be strong, don't include it, because even a lukewarm letter will hurt you.

    However, I take no responsibility for any repurcussions that result. :D But it didn't hurt my app. Of course, that's just one example.

    Edit: Oops, but its your only paper. That's a bit more significant. Umm, I think you might actually have to get it b/c I assume you'll be making the case that's a significant experience (and you probably don't want to say it wasn't). But I'll leave my answer up here for others whose experiences were not that significant; if you spent a summer with a PI three years ago, I don't think a letter is necessary.
     
  9. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    Ditto. Granted, I was applying for MD programs, and I had excellent research letters from my PhD advisor and a second PI that I was working for on the side while I was in grad school. But, even though some schools like Harvard said that they wanted letters from *all* research mentors, I still did not also go back and get additional research LORs from my previous boss (I worked as a tech for a while before my PhD), my PI from my MS, my PI from undergrad, or (geezus!) my PI from HS. I hadn't even spoken to some of those people in over a decade. There just has to be some kind of statute of limitations on hunting down old PIs! I figured it was reasonable in my case to pick the two most recent major research gigs, and I never got any grief for it even though I mentioned my previous research experiences on AMCAS. One interviewer at one school did ask me to discuss my UG research thesis, which was in agricultural science (totally unrelated to my MS and PhD, which are in organic chemistry), but he did not ask me why I didn't have a LOR from that PI.

    OP, I agree with the others that you probably should get a LOR from the prof you did the paper with, as well as the prof you're working with now. It seems pretty reasonable for an MD/PhD applicant who worked in two main labs during college to have two research LORs from those PIs.
     
  10. czarrar

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    I was a bit freaked out when I saw this as a requirement for Harvard. So was Harvard one of the interviews you got where they didn't mention some of the missing letters?
     
  11. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    Yes--meaning, I did get an interview at Harvard, and they did not ask me why I didn't have research letters from 5+ years ago. Again, this was for MD-only (that New Pathway program of theirs), not for MD/PhD; I started med school already having a PhD.
     

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