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LOR Question; PI just had a stroke

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by Anadamide, Aug 7, 2011.

  1. Anadamide

    Anadamide Newbie

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    Hi all,

    I'm an MSTP hopeful, planning to apply next cycle. I'll post some more about myself later. Right now, I need a little advice.

    I recently graduated college, completing a two and a half year project with a wonderful undergraduate professor. (This is my only long-term research experience thus far.) The results were statistically significant, and in a couple months my PI was expecting to begin writing up our research for publication. But he just had two strokes. The effects seem to be primarily motor and sensory with little-to-no cognitive impairment. Thankfully, he's making steady progress in his recovery, but I don't wish to trouble him any time soon.

    In a month or so, I will be applying for research positions. I don't know what to do. I shouldn't ask my PI to write a LOR for me now – he has enough to worry about. I could ask some of my other professors to write a letter instead. One of them has a very basic understanding of the project. I've kept her updated on my progress over the course of the last couple years, and she has seen me present on the preliminary results. But she hasn't worked with me personally on the project; she can only evaluate my classwork from the six courses I've taken with her (3 of which were lab classes). If she does write me something, should I ask her to verify the circumstances? Presumably, most labs would be suspicious of why I am not submitting a LOR from my PI. I've also worked as an ED scribe for 2 years (~1200 hours), and I'm sure the doctors would write some lovely LORs attesting to my character and work ethic. I don't know how much that will help me for obtaining research jobs, though.

    I may experience a similar dilemma next year applying to MSTP programs. I don't know what will happen with the article. My PI always does all the writing. But those issues aren't pressing. I can deal with them later, once the extent of his recovery is determined.

    Thanks for your advice in this matter. I feel disgusted with myself even asking all this. I've known my PI for 4 years, and I consider him to be like family. That my mind jumps to this sickens me.

    Mods – I apologize if I posted this under the wrong subforum. I was not sure where to post, as the dilemma has implications for both my job applications and my MD/PhD applications. Please move this as you see fit.
     
    #1 Anadamide, Aug 7, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2011
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  3. Ombret

    Physician PhD 7+ Year Member

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    Tough situation but surmountable. Applying for tech jobs is not exactly like applying for a grant, or grad school for that matter. Is your PI back at work? If so, you may be able to just tactfully ask him if he can write the letter for you. Otherwise I think it should be ok for you to ask the other professor you mention to write on your behalf. She can discuss the circumstances of your PI's health and I don't think this will seem particularly fishy. People are just not going to be that paranoid if there are no other red flags on your application. Letters often end with a closing such as, "Don't hesitate to contact me if I can provide any further information"; this is an invitation for readers to fish around if they think something is amiss, and you have nothing to hide.

    It might also be that you could get the department chair to write on your behalf. Depending on the atmosphere in this department, and the size of it, s/he has an implicit duty to support the faculty member's people in his absence. Noblesse oblige.
     
  4. bd4727

    10+ Year Member

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    Yeah, this is what I was going to suggest.
     
  5. Fencer

    Fencer MSTP Director
    Physician PhD Faculty 10+ Year Member

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    You are a strong candidate for MD/PhD training programs (MSTP or not). I am sorry to hear what occurred to your PI. You need three letters, one from your ED scribe job, while the other two are from the faculty member you mentioned, and perhaps, the chair of your PI. Ask them: "I have a significant problem. I am applying to for MD/PhD programs and I have been working with Professor X for Z years. Are you willing to write a LOR that is strong, but most important, to include the circumstances." There is plenty of time if you are applying for entry until 2013.
     
  6. Anadamide

    Anadamide Newbie

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    Ombret, bd4727, and Fencer: Thanks for the advice and your quick replies!

    No. I’ve been staying up to date on his progress. He’s still too weak to begin stroke rehab at present, so he’s staying in an assisted living facility. It’s unclear whether he’ll be teaching this fall.

    Good. This is such a relief to know. Thank you.


    I don’t think there are any red flags. I graduated PBK and summa cum laude from a good school. Admittedly, my double degree program is a little quirky (BA/BMus), but I have a pretty solid science background, which extends beyond the basic premed reqs.

    That’s a really interesting idea, one I never even considered! I’ve never met the new department head, so it’s a little hard for me to gauge his reaction. Given the very supportive atmosphere of my school, he would most likely verify the circumstances, if nothing else. I'll make sure to contact him. Thanks again!
     
  7. Lil Mick

    5+ Year Member

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    Yes, department chair or another faculty member in the department who may have collaborated with your PI are possibilities. Committees will understand the circumstances around the letter if you are unable to obtain it from your PI (my 1st one had passed away when I applied). Totally okay.
     

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