POLITELY Informing your PI of all the work you've done

funshine

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So i've put in a ridiculous amount of hours this year in lab because I writing a lab-based thesis. I *think* my PI knows this, and I want him to write me a rec for med school. The problem is, he is so busy and barely pays attention to the undergrads working in his lab. Actually, he ignores us.

But he IS my thesis advisor, so supposedly he should know my research/work-ethic pretty well. I say supposedly because I relaly hv no idea what he thinks of me. shrug.


So, to make sure he is 100% aware of everything i've done, should I give him all the data I've collected along with the other forms you're supposed to give your recommender?

More importantly, will he even read it? Am i being too much of a control freak?

hoping this will reach all you night-owls ;)

stuck in lab :sleep:
 

GuyLaroche

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I was in a similar situation a while ago with my advisor. These guys in science are so tied up with writing grants and solving esoteric ideas in their heads that they don't have time for anything else. I am a fan of being absolutely upfront especially if you really have done the work. I would request a meeting, and I would prepare a summary of all the data and show it to him. I would end with a statement on what you want from him and from your experience. Then you thank him profusely, and then it's done. Simple, dear.

Do not bring forms with the data. It is off-putting and it suggests an exchange, which is just in poor tatse. Discuss data, tell him what you need from him, wait a day (or a week), then send forms.
 

AStudent

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If the deadline is in June, lie and tell him it's in March. Chances are it'll be late...but it'll get there. Plus it's better to have it early than later.
 

wyzeguy

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AStudent said:
If the deadline is in June, lie and tell him it's in March. Chances are it'll be late...but it'll get there. Plus it's better to have it early than later.

Very good point. I wasn't complete till late November because my PI took so long to get me my letter. HUGE disadvantage. I think I would rather have been complete in August and taken a few points off my MCAT.
 
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funshine

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GuyLaroche said:
I was in a similar situation a while ago with my advisor. These guys in science are so tied up with writing grants and solving esoteric ideas in their heads that they don't have time for anything else. I am a fan of being absolutely upfront especially if you really have done the work. I would request a meeting, and I would prepare a summary of all the data and show it to him. I would end with a statement on what you want from him and from your experience. Then you thank him profusely, and then it's done. Simple, dear.

Do not bring forms with the data. It is off-putting and it suggests an exchange, which is just in poor tatse. Discuss data, tell him what you need from him, wait a day (or a week), then send forms.
Or, another option is to tell him I need a rec for med school right now--and ask him to wait until after I hand in my senior thesis before writing it. And reading my thesis, he should have a good idea of everything I did in lab!
But my thesis isn't due until April 21, and I definitely want to have all my recs in by June. Do you think this is wise?

I'm hesitant to schedule a meeting to show him my data, simply b/c I've never had a meeting w/ him before...so it'd seem weird now. Previously, all our "meetings" to discuss experiments were attended by my post-doc, and I just kept quiet.
 

VPDcurt

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As your PI and thesis advisor, wouldn't you want to show him your data regardless of whether or not you are asking him for a LOR? I know I would.
 
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funshine

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VPDcurt said:
As your PI and thesis advisor, wouldn't you want to show him your data regardless of whether or not you are asking him for a LOR? I know I would.
I know...... :( it seems natural right?
But you haven't worked in my lab. I don't know if the caliber of undergrads working in his lab this year are just below average or what (there are 3 of us and we never discuss anything w/ him), but he does not pay attention to us at all...not even a "hello" or "goodbye."

We all work directly under a post-doc, so when we want to talk about our experiemnts or data analysis, we go directly to them.

I could muster up the courage to talk to him, if only he did not exude such a "I don't care about you or want to talk to you" air, but maybe this is my own imagination.
 

supersnuffles

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I don't know if you want him to read your entire thesis before writing your letter. I think the best option is to give your PI a summary of the work you've done for the past however long you've worked with him, being specific of what you have accomplished. Oftentimes, PIs are so busy with grant-writing, teaching, and other students in his lab, he may not be very clear on your progress. Also, giving him a summary of your work allows him to better flesh out your LOR.

With the thesis, because its WAY longer and not as concise, it takes him/her more effort to sort through it, and I'm not sure you want to wait that long for him/her to begin writing your letter.

Hopefully that helps. ;)
 

huduvudu

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Even if you do not want him to write it now, it is probably still a good idea to have a one-on-one meeting (or just stop by his office quickly if that is more comfortable) to give him a heads-up now (i.e. plant the seed). He should expect it. I would put together a bullet form summary of your accomplishments in the lab since you began (just like you would for a resume) and he can incorporate it into the letter using his words. If you are going to wait until your thesis is done, be sure to give him at least one month to write your letter - you do not want to be delayed because of this, it defeats the purpose.
 
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funshine

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supersnuffles said:
I don't know if you want him to read your entire thesis before writing your letter. I think the best option is to give your PI a summary of the work you've done for the past however long you've worked with him, being specific of what you have accomplished. Oftentimes, PIs are so busy with grant-writing, teaching, and other students in his lab, he may not be very clear on your progress. Also, giving him a summary of your work allows him to better flesh out your LOR.

With the thesis, because its WAY longer and not as concise, it takes him/her more effort to sort through it, and I'm not sure you want to wait that long for him/her to begin writing your letter.

Hopefully that helps. ;)
Should this be a summary in writing, or a verbal summary? Maybe both?
thanks :)

about the thesis--yeah i was actually even doubting he would read it.
 

wendywellesley

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funshine said:
I know...... :( it seems natural right?
But you haven't worked in my lab. I don't know if the caliber of undergrads working in his lab this year are just below average or what (there are 3 of us and we never discuss anything w/ him), but he does not pay attention to us at all...not even a "hello" or "goodbye."

We all work directly under a post-doc, so when we want to talk about our experiemnts or data analysis, we go directly to them.

I could muster up the courage to talk to him, if only he did not exude such a "I don't care about you or want to talk to you" air, but maybe this is my own imagination.
how long have you been at the lab?
this is what i would do:
i would send him an email telling him that you are enjoying your research and think his projects are very exciting, etc. tell him you are applying to med school and that you would like to discuss a letter. in that same email i would also add that you would like to discuss some (interesting/exciting/relevent/new/wonderful) data that you recently collected. also, somehow state that you understand that he is very busy, but you would appriciate it if he could take some time to meet with you.
hopefully he isn't such a grump that he would turn you down. try to make it short, sweet and to the point.
good luck!!
 

supersnuffles

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Write out a summary/abstract-like deal about what you've done. Bring in your CV/resume. You can also bring in your PS to give him a better idea of why you want to be a doctor (this is optional, I did this for my other LORs, but not with my PI). But because he may not know you very well personally, bringing in a PS may help give him insight to you on a more personal level than someone who cranks out data. Make an appointment to talk to him, let him know ahead of time that you are planning to go to medical school and are interested in requesting a letter from him, ask him also if he would like you to bring any additional information beyond a summary of work and your CV. Or if he has any suggestions on what to include in your summary. Then go in, talk to him, be specific about what you are looking for. That I think is the most important. You want to be very specific on what you want this letter to portray about you. I think a lot of letter writers may not know, and might flounder here and there about you being a good person, you need to clarify what you want this letter to convey to the adcoms (ie. you demonstrate intellectual curiousity, excellent scientist, blah blah). I cannot emphasize this enough.

You also mentioned your post-doc knows you better than your PI. You can also have your post-doc write it, and then have your PI sign off on it. Some PI's like this because they're too busy or whatever. But make sure you talk to both of them about it first. Your post-doc might have a better idea of how well you work in the lab beyond the summary of work you can give him.

I hope that helps.
 
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funshine

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supersnuffles said:
Write out a summary/abstract-like deal about what you've done. Bring in your CV/resume. You can also bring in your PS to give him a better idea of why you want to be a doctor (this is optional, I did this for my other LORs, but not with my PI). But because he may not know you very well personally, bringing in a PS may help give him insight to you on a more personal level than someone who cranks out data. Make an appointment to talk to him, let him know ahead of time that you are planning to go to medical school and are interested in requesting a letter from him, ask him also if he would like you to bring any additional information beyond a summary of work and your CV. Or if he has any suggestions on what to include in your summary. Then go in, talk to him, be specific about what you are looking for. That I think is the most important. You want to be very specific on what you want this letter to portray about you. I think a lot of letter writers may not know, and might flounder here and there about you being a good person, you need to clarify what you want this letter to convey to the adcoms (ie. you demonstrate intellectual curiousity, excellent scientist, blah blah). I cannot emphasize this enough.

You also mentioned your post-doc knows you better than your PI. You can also have your post-doc write it, and then have your PI sign off on it. Some PI's like this because they're too busy or whatever. But make sure you talk to both of them about it first. Your post-doc might have a better idea of how well you work in the lab beyond the summary of work you can give him.

I hope that helps.
hey, thanks! I've been dragging my feet for weeks over what sort of "info" I need to give to my LOR writers. I will get started on this right away :)
 

fotolilith

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I gave a "Letter of intent" to all my letter writers, including my PI, and got some great results. It might sound manipulative (hey, maybe it is? :) ), but I knew they were all busy and I wanted to help them out.

Basically, I started my letter of intent:
"Dear Dr. so and so,
... blah blah, I think you would be the best person to evaluate my application for medical school because blah, blah, (specific details of what I've done for them).

It's a politically correct way of smacking your PI on the head and saying "Hey! This is what I've done for you and that's why you should write a great rec for my applications." And your PI will appreciate the details you supplied (so that he can include these details in his letter - med schools LOVE details in the rec letter).

Oh, and tell him a date at LEAST a month before you really need it... I got one of my letter *4 months* after I asked for it. It will be late.
 

sunsweet

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How about asking your post-doc for the letter instead? He/she does have a phd, and may be able to write a stronger letter if they know you and your work ethic better/more personally.
 

45408

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Wow, some of you have distant relationships with your PIs. I've been to my PI's house, gone skiing with him, he owes me a drink due to the outcome of the election (I gotta turn 21 first :p), etc.
 
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funshine

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fotolilith said:
Oh, and tell him a date at LEAST a month before you really need it... I got one of my letter *4 months* after I asked for it. It will be late.
Grrr, the problem is I have to give him this official "request for letter of recommendation" from my Helath Professions Advising Office, which of course, already has a date printed on it (it's April 15 though, so maaaaaaaaybe the HPA office also knows that profs tend to drag their feet on rec letters).

But yeah, I am nervous that my PI may "forget." I asked him for a recommendation earlier for a summer program, and apparently HE NEVER SENT IT!! I sent him an email reminder too, which he never responded to.
So you can see why I hesitate to ask him for one for medical school.

I'd ask my postdoc, but she herself said he could write a more "professional" letter. And there' s some bitterness between the two of us, for reasons I won't get into. I hate lab.

Thanks, the letter of intent thing is a great idea!
 

fotolilith

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funshine said:
But yeah, I am nervous that my PI may "forget." I asked him for a recommendation earlier for a summer program, and apparently HE NEVER SENT IT!! I sent him an email reminder too, which he never responded to.
So you can see why I hesitate to ask him for one for medical school.

I'd ask my postdoc, but she herself said he could write a more "professional" letter. And there' s some bitterness between the two of us, for reasons I won't get into. I hate lab.

Thanks, the letter of intent thing is a great idea!
Yeah, I can see where your trepidation comes from - sounds like your PI is pretty typical with the "procrastinating/ absentminded" characteristics of researchers. Looks like you gotta pull yourself up by your bootstraps and take things into your own hands - so it's good you are starting to plot this out now.

Bummer about the tense feeling in your lab, but I can't say I'm a stranger to that. Post Docs have a LOT of pressure on them, and well, sometimes **** rolls downhill. :(

If anything, it's good that your postdoc was honest about not being able to write it: it's better to avoid any chance of a sub-par letter. The adcoms are really only checking for 3 things with the rec letter: 1) whether or not your a psychopath 2) if they know the writer (ie, nepotism), 3) if the letter grabs them (ie, "this person walks on water, is in the top 5% of medical applicants, here are specific details, etc").

So it's not going to make much difference to the adcom whether the letter is from your PI or postdoc, but it's going to make a LOT of difference if the letter isn't very good or late, so I think you are doing yourself a favor by being persistent right now. Writing a letter of intent (pretty much cover letter) to your PI can help get his creative juices flowing on which of your virtues he should write glowing remarks about. Good luck! :luck:
 

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i had kind of the exact same situation, except i was a new full-time employee in the lab. my pi is a big jerk and i was really afraid to ask him to write me a letter. and everythign about pi's is true, the busy factor and then being forgetful and a lot of them are standoffish-of course, there ARE exceptions. but it may be becasue of where i work, they all think they're god. anyway, i also couldn't ask my post-doc to write one for similar reasons. so i had my advisor from my college write about me describing my research. she had known me longer and was happy to brag about my current position. i know it sounds weird but it wasn't like anybody asked why i didn't have a letter from him. so if you pi doens't know you, you may be better off asking someone else.

if you do ask him, lie about the recommended due date, give him a copy of your CV/Resume with PS (if you want to), and a SASE!!! this will help. good luck, i know it can be a tough decision. my pi still doesn't say hi to me and it's been two years almost!!!