LoR: From the PI, or from the Postdoc?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by coffeebeanjenn, Jun 1, 2008.

  1. coffeebeanjenn

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    Hey!

    Five years ago I worked in a lab (during undergrad) closely with a Postdoc who is now an Assistant Professor at a different school. I hardly interacted with the PI of the lab... should I ask the PI for the LoR because it was his lab, or should I ask the Postdoc? I believe the Postdoc will write me a more sincere LoR... but I also had the PI for one of his classes and got an A.

    PS I searched around for a thread on this already but didn't find anything. Although my SDN searching skills are not fully developed yet.
     
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  3. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills

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    How about both? PI = Academic letter with a tinge of research and Postdoc = research.
     
  4. coffeebeanjenn

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    Intriguing solution. You don't think it would be too redundant? For my top choice, I need between three and five letters... here's my list of possibilities.

    1. Current grad school adviser (also did well in two of her classes)
    2. A different PI that I worked with closely my senior year and who I think will write me a really good letter
    3. The instructor of the bio lab class that I TA'd for my senior year
    4. PI already mentioned. Not a lot of contact, but I also did well in his class.
    5. Then-Postdoc already mentioned. Worked together closely.
    6. Current employer, best "non-science" option, should I need one. I'm assuming I will... but I haven't been able to find the exact requirements anywhere for KU.
     
  5. tbo

    tbo MS-4

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    Not certain if breeak meant it this way, but I've seen co-signed LoRs. So what happens is the person that can best vouch for your work and write about you writes the letter and signs it (in your case, post-doc) and next to your post-doc's signature is the more senior/coveted signature (whom theoretically has read it as well and "blesses" what is said")

    If you can't, I'd say go for the prof/PI. Name and title do mean something, particularly in the world of biomedicine.
     
    #4 tbo, Jun 1, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  6. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved

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    If the post doc were still a post doc, I would agree about getting his/her letter cosigned. However, this person is now a prof in their own right, and a LOR from him/her would be meaningful as a research letter. The LOR from the original prof would be more meaningful as an academic performance letter. So if it were me, I'd get separate letters from each of them. Although most schools require three letters, they will usually permit you to submit up to six. (Read each school's instructions carefully before submitting extra letters though!) You would have six recommenders on your list if you got separate letters from the two profs you mentioned. Thus, there shouldn't be a problem submitting letters from both profs to most schools. Best of luck to you. :)
     
  7. tbo

    tbo MS-4

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    Yeah, I'll agree with Q. Two different letters is always good so long as the original PI has enough to say about you. If not, do a co-sign.
     
  8. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills

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    I meant get them both to write a letter. Although I think there are one or two exceptions, most schools accept 6 letters, and if you are getting a committee letter then the more positive fodder the better (since you won't be overwhelming the adcom with letters).

    I don't think they're redundant because presumably each will focus on what they can speak to the best, ie. prof = academics and postdoc = research.

    My one concern though, speaking of redundancy, is that would make 5 of your 6 either academic or research (although presumably your advisor can speak to your personal character as well). Did you not do any clinical work or volunteering? What kind of employment do you have now?
     
  9. coffeebeanjenn

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    Thank you guys for all the advice!

    My top choice says "three to five letters," but I'll call them and see how strict that is. I thought about the joint letter, but the two professors are now in labs across the country and it seems logistically implausible.

    Yeah, I realize some of my letters are pretty similar. I have some clinical volunteering and shadowing experiences, but they're dated and it will be extremely difficult to get those letters. I've discussed this issue in posts in other forums, and I'm aware it's a weakness in my application... But I don't want to assume it will automatically exclude me and so I've decided to apply this year. I worked all throughout college at a wedding company (they would give me a glowing letter, but it's not really related or recent so I wasn't planning on asking), but that meant I didn't have a lot of time for volunteer work. I currently work in a very demanding job at a defense contractor in the national security field (which is why I don't have continuing volunteering experience). Recently I've made time to begin volunteering in a hospital again, but it is probably too recent to request a good LOR from the experience.

    Anyway. Again, thanks for the advice! I think I'll ask both the PI and the then-Postdoc to write letters and go from there.
     
  10. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills

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    Sorry to rub salt in the wound (or the anxiety)...not intended. Good luck, I'd go for it too. :)
     
  11. coffeebeanjenn

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    No, I appreciate it! It's refreshing compared to my friends and family saying "don't be silly, of course you'll get in!" At least the internet agrees with me. :) I think each time I explain it on SDN I get a little better at making my case. So maybe by the time interviews roll around, I can easily address it and move on to talking about things that make me awesome.
     
  12. tbo

    tbo MS-4

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    Awesome, I like where your head's at. Sounds like you're approaching this beast in a healthy way and in a way that will reflect positively on your candidacy. Good luck.:thumbup::luck:
     
  13. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    Unless they've ever tried applying to med school, they have *no* earthly idea how competitive and stressful the app process is. None. Even those of you who are first-time applicants can't totally appreciate what an emotional roller-coaster ride you're in for yet.

    Don't ask people for LORs unless you know they'll be stellar. You can still list your hospital volunteering on AMCAS; there's no need to get a LOR from them if you haven't been working there long enough to get stellar letter. I didn't get any letters from my volunteering gigs either, except for the clinical trial PI.
     
  14. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills

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    Totally agree! As long as you don't let the feedback get you down, I think it toughens you for the process.

    And oooooooooooooooooomg, every time I explain the process to a new person they are astounded. They're freaked out that I'm applying to 15 schools, much less the 25+ that seems pretty common!
     
  15. coffeebeanjenn

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    Hooray for SDN. Your advice was excellent. I thought getting a joint letter would be a pain, but both professors immediately started communicating and drafting the letter. They offered to let me see the letter and it is really really great. Seeing the letter in advance made me a little uncomfortable because I'm a big proponent of following the spirit of a rule, but they offered without prompting and after looking through SDN for a while I determined that it wasn't that unusual.

    Cheers and goodnight!
     
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  17. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills

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    Glad it worked out!

    I have seen a couple of my letters...it made me intensely uncomfortable. They were absolutely glowing, so I was like, uhhhhhh, guys, that's not me, a bit over the top don't you think? But it's always great when people want to help. :)
     
  18. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    Better that problem than the opposite one. ;)

    Best of luck with your apps, CBJ. :)
     
  19. CultureDoc

    CultureDoc MSII

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    Cool! Sounds like this is working out well for you. I would definitely still call KU (especially as it appears you're applying ED - the more communication the better) and find out how many LORs is the max and exactly what types you need. Someone had mentioned a committee letter, but I didn't see that in your list. At some places I applied last cycle, if you didn't have a committee letter, you needed two science academic, one non-science academic, and a grad school letter (if applicable). Whatever else you wanted to include was icing on the cake.

    And just to get my two cents in on the matter, I would say getting a letter from your current employer would be worthwhile (if it's good, of course!). Employers can speak to things like professionalism, working on a team, and to the dedication and long hours it sounds like you put into your job. If one of your concerns with your app is that your job has prevented you from doing more volunteering, etc., I think a school might want to see that you're a valued and dedicated employee on this job.

    :luck::luck:
     
  20. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills

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    I was REALLY reluctant to get a LOR from my job since only one person at work knows I'm doing this - I can't tell my boss. However, I got really consistent advice from both my advisors and the schools I called that not getting one would be a huge hole in my app given that it's a big part of my life, even though I've been in recent post-bacc classes and currently volunteer. They said that since I can't ask my boss, a letter from a co-worker was better than not having one at all.
     
  21. CultureDoc

    CultureDoc MSII

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    Ah - good call. I hadn't thought about the circumstance where telling the boss would potentially be a problem. I've been fortunate to have two bosses who have been incredibly supportive of me in this process, but that's certainly not a given. A letter from a co-worker is a good alternative. :thumbup:
     

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