Whats so bad about not sending in a LOR from Research?

washington101

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I have worked with a guy for two years in his lab. We have published a paper together, but I really dont know him that well. Whats the big deal about not having a LOR from him? The explenation is...I dont know the guy that well, yes, two years is a lot, but scientists can be unfriendly and not that warm. Thoughts?
I know some people say that if you dont submit a LOR from the guy you did research with you might as well drown yourself. Whats up with that?
 

tennisguy896

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I think it would only be harmful if you really hyped up your interest/experience in research, and then didn't submit a letter to support those statements. If research is something you have done, but don't intend to pursue seriously in the future, I doubt the lack of a research LOR will be harmful.
 

McMD

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I have been told that it is bad because your research professor worked one on one with you on a project and if he/she doesn't write a LOR for you and have "nice things" to say about your work ethic...it looks REALLY bad!! Your research professor usually gets to know you and your work ethic more than any of your other professors.
 
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jackieMD2007

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What about if you just started doing clinical research (May 2006)?
Maybe post-interview, send in an extra letter?
 

tennisguy896

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jackieMD2007 said:
What about if you just started doing clinical research (May 2006)?
Maybe post-interview, send in an extra letter?
Many schools (generalization) don't mind if you send extra letters/letters of intent/etc... as long as you don't go overboard. But basically you should feel free to submit the letter whenever your PI feels like he/she knows you well enough to write it. Have fun w/ your research.
 

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McMD said:
I have been told that it is bad because your research professor worked one on one with you on a project and if he/she doesn't write a LOR for you and have "nice things" to say about your work ethic...it looks REALLY bad!! Your research professor usually gets to know you and your work ethic more than any of your other professors.
If I were an adcom, this would look really weird to me -- to have worked with someone and published together and apparently not been able to get a letter. Pretty much everyone who does substantial research gets a research letter. I'm sure it would not be fatal, particularly if the rest of your letters are strong; but unless there's a real reason you don't want to ask for a letter, I probably would.
 

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to be blunt, it looks like you're hiding something. if you spend enough time to do research with someone, then they are almost always in a position to write about your character and work ethic. if you opt not to take advantage of that opportunity, a red flag goes up immediately. common sense?
 

jackieMD2007

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tennisguy896 said:
Many schools (generalization) don't mind if you send extra letters/letters of intent/etc... as long as you don't go overboard. But basically you should feel free to submit the letter whenever your PI feels like he/she knows you well enough to write it. Have fun w/ your research.
Thank you! I am enjoying the research, and am not really doing it for the app (Started a little late for that, :laugh: )....Frankly it is just nice to do something that requires thought (unlike my paralegal job by day)... :)
 
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washington101

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Well guys, I worked mostly with a grad student, not the PI. So we dont know eachother that well.
 

tennisguy896

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jackieMD2007 said:
Thank you! I am enjoying the research, and am not really doing it for the app (Started a little late for that, :laugh: )....Frankly it is just nice to do something that requires thought (unlike my paralegal job by day)... :)
Glad to hear you really enjoy it- I'm getting a bit jaded from hearing so many pre-meds saying they hate it and are only doing it for the apps. I think its pretty cool when you see your theories come to life. Anyways, keep having fun with your research and getting to know your PI.
 

jackieMD2007

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tennisguy896 said:
Glad to hear you really enjoy it- I'm getting a bit jaded from hearing so many pre-meds saying they hate it and are only doing it for the apps. I think its pretty cool when you see your theories come to life. Anyways, keep having fun with your research and getting to know your PI.
I like to do it because it involves me having to THINK about something other than corporate dribble. It involves timelines more flexible and variable than the "monthly report." People don't micromanage me, they can SEE what I'm doing from where they are. Yeah, lab work is kinda kick ass compared to cubicle work. :D
 

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I worked in a lab for 2 consecutive summers... i figure the fact that they had me back a second summer is endorsement enough.

ditto on the working with the grad student thing.
 

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and you guys all assume that the PI speaks excellent English. What if your PI is from ASIA or from another country? I wouldnt want a letter from someone who cant write a very good letter for me (in terms of english), even if I knew him. My PI was very smart, but he wasnt very good at English period. He can say that I was good, nice, and hard working. But I think the letter my ENglish professor wrote will make me sound much better. Obviously it has nothing to do with hiding anything. Some of you are just too paranoid. Sometimes, its not all about how much you know, but how much you trust the person to write a "GREAT" letter for you. If they arent going to, why ask?
 
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Sekiray said:
Some of you are just too paranoid, I know I am. Sometimes, its not all about how much you know, but how much the person will write a "GREAT" letter for you. If they arent going to, why ask?

Exactly, letters of rec are supposed to be great, and if they are not great letters, then they are simply a waste of space. Anyone can write a mediocre letter of rec. I think most people understand it is hard for most PI's to really know the people in their lab, and if that's the case, the letter will show it. Generic letters don't help, let the work speak for itself, chill out :sleep:
 

Sekiray

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Originally Posted by Sekiray
Some of you are just too paranoid, I know I am. Sometimes, its not all about how much you know, but how much the person will write a "GREAT" letter for you. If they arent going to, why ask?

Darkshooter326 said:
Exactly, letters of rec are supposed to be great, and if they are not great letters, then they are simply a waste of space. Anyone can write a mediocre letter of rec. I think most people understand it is hard for most PI's to really know the people in their lab, and if that's the case, the letter will show it. Generic letters don't help, let the work speak for itself, chill out :sleep:
did you add in "I know I am" in there? lol
 

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washington101 said:
Well guys, I worked mostly with a grad student, not the PI. So we dont know eachother that well.
If I saw your application, I would wonder why I didn't get to hear from this person. Talk to the graduate student you worked with...or even talk to the PI and just ask if he/she feels a strong letter can be written. Maybe that'll calm you down. This letter could be a great one!
 

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Sekiray said:
and you guys all assume that the PI speaks excellent English. What if your PI is from ASIA or from another country? I wouldnt want a letter from someone who cant write a very good letter for me (in terms of english), even if I knew him.
If he doesn't write well in English, he would perhaps be receptive to you drafting the initial draft of the letter for him -- it happens. Or else the grad student you worked under, who knows you better, might be asked to do it. None of your concerns necessarilly means a glowing letter could not be obtained.
 

LizzyM

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Ask for a letter! I've seen some written by people who are obviously non-native speakers of English and I don't think poorly of the applicant because of it. The PI has been around the block and knows that these letters are required. He's not writing about how you were a good pal to him but that you had a good work ethic in the lab, got your work done, helped others when you could, didnt' get discouraged when things didn't work out, etc. All of this information he'll get from the grad student. He may even get the grad student to write the first draft.

Not having a letter is the most huge red flag. If an adcom can only select 10-15% of all applicants for interview the guy who has a publication but no letter from the professor with whom he published the paper is not going to get one of those coveted spots.
 

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washington101, did you even try to ask him? there's no harm in asking and no additional harm in having an another letter to go with your app. i'd try asking before bringing up the fact that scientists are "unfriendly." that being said, i don't think that you not getting the letter from him would kill you; i just think it'll raise some eyebrows.
 
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washington101

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Those of you who claim that not have a LOR from your PI is a bad thing....how do you know this? Is this your opinion or have you talked to admissions people before?
 

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washington101 said:
Those of you who claim that not have a LOR from your PI is a bad thing....how do you know this? Is this your opinion or have you talked to admissions people before?
I think Lizzy who posted above claims to be or have been involved in admissions. The rest of us are just assuming adcoms follow the normal laws of human nature/curiosity and would wonder why there isn't a letter.
 
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washington101

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Is it true that Lizzy was on an admissions board? If I do not include my LOR from my PI, which is not a requirment!, there could be many reasons for this. I dont think the adcoms would jump to the conclusion that I am hiding something. My name is on the paper with him, I worked there for two years, not much can be hidden. I just dont think he knows me that well to write a great LOR. Thats all. I wonder if we are overanalyzing this.
 
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washington101

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Let me put it this way...if I submit the LOR, which he already wrote, and its not that good, wont that do more harm then not submitting it? So either way im screwed right? If I submit it and its not very good or I don't submit it and thats not very good, either way, im done.
 
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washington101 said:
Let me put it this way...if I submit the LOR, which he already wrote, and its not that good, wont that do more harm then not submitting it? So either way im screwed right? If I submit it and its not very good or I don't submit it and thats not very good, either way, im done.
think of it this way: a person won't write a "bad" letter for you; they'll simply say no when you request a letter. If nothing, it'll be a semi-good to neutral letter while also satiating your worry about a letter from a PI.
 

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rajad10 said:
think of it this way: a person won't write a "bad" letter for you; they'll simply say no when you request a letter.
Don't count on this. There have been threads before on SDN about people who deliberately wrote bad letters after accepting the request to write LORs. It happens more often than one would think.
 

LizzyM

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Yes, I've been on an adcom for 6 years. Bad in terms of a LOR is one that states that the applicant was
unenthusiastic
had difficulty grasping the techniques that are used in the lab
lost momentum after things went badly time after time
didn't show up much and therefore wasn't well known to the lab

Sometimes this is a matter of reading between the lines. Many times the PI will state that you were in the lab for x months. Then the PI will describe the work of the lab and the science behind it. Sometimes there will be a little bragging by the PI about the success of the lab: funding, presentations, publications. Then the PI will describe the techniques that the applicant used, and some mention of the applicant's behavior. This is almost always positive: worked the long hours needed to get the job done, always willing to teach others, willing to help others, helped with the general housekeeping of the lab, -- sometimes it is just something like a nice smile and an up-beat attitude that cheered everyone in the lab. Rarely is there anything decidely negative in a letter.

Unless you know you were a screw-up, you are better with a letter than without. You could always leave your lab & publication stuff off of the AMCAS and hope that you get interviews without them. Big, big risk.

Include the letter.
 

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Rafa said:
Don't count on this. There have been threads before on SDN about people who deliberately wrote bad letters after accepting the request to write LORs. It happens more often than one would think.
that's so terrible. spending your time to kill someone's dreams
 

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So, if you are doing research with someone, is it almost imperative to get a letter of rec from them?
 

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rajad10 said:
that's so terrible. spending your time to kill someone's dreams
There's an ochem prof at my school who hates pre-meds. And he doesn't hide it.
A lot of it, I presume, is probably because those profs failed to get into med school and are still bitter about it.
 

LizzyM

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SeaAngel45 said:
So, if you are doing research with someone, is it almost imperative to get a letter of rec from them?
If you were in a lab for 12 weeks or less, I'd say "no". Longer than that, you should have enough of a track record in the lab that the director can write a letter about your work there.
 

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Lizzy, my premed advisor says that the only letter adcoms really care about is the PI letter, is this true? I know my PI letter kicks butt, because my PI feels very strongly about my work ethic and aptitude. He told me that he wrote that after teaching and getting to know med students for 10 years, he would rate me in the top portion of those students. I hope that my premed advisor had a good point.
 

LizzyM

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DRKUBA said:
Lizzy, my premed advisor says that the only letter adcoms really care about is the PI letter, is this true?
No. They care about letters from non-science facutly (particularly if the student didn't score very well on the writing score, sometimes the non-science facutly member will address the applicant's ability to write well). The adcoms care about committee letters and hold in high regard the writers from some specific schoosl (whom they know by reputation if not personally thanks to events sponsored by med schools to promote the school to pre-med advisors).

I can hardly imagine the situation where the only letter that would matter would be from the PI... maybe MSTP.

I can tell you that we don't much care about the letters from your neighbor who has known you since you were 5, your girlfriend's dad, or your pediatrician. Even if you did shadow them for 12 hours. Compared with those letters, the PI is the only one we care about.
 

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DRKUBA said:
Lizzy, my premed advisor says that the only letter adcoms really care about is the PI letter, is this true? I know my PI letter kicks butt, because my PI feels very strongly about my work ethic and aptitude. He told me that he wrote that after teaching and getting to know med students for 10 years, he would rate me in the top portion of those students. I hope that my premed advisor had a good point.

Uhhh was there a question in there? Or did you just want to tell an "adcom" (not sure what kind of adcom is on SDN at all hours of the day and weekend like Lizzy M is) how great you are?
 
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MinnyGophers said:
There's an ochem prof at my school who hates pre-meds. And he doesn't hide it.
A lot of it, I presume, is probably because those profs failed to get into med school and are still bitter about it.
awe...i'm sorry...but, becoming a professor is not a backup plan for bitter med school rejects...it's very difficult.
 

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emgirl said:
(not sure what kind of adcom is on SDN at all hours of the day and weekend like Lizzy M is)
One who hasn't yet started reading secondaries this cycle..... :laugh:

Sometimes this is just a fun break from whatever else I could be doing.
 

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emgirl said:
Uhhh was there a question in there? Or did you just want to tell an "adcom" (not sure what kind of adcom is on SDN at all hours of the day and weekend like Lizzy M is) how great you are?

Look at my mdapps, im not that great :cool: . No, it was legit, thats what my premed advisor told me. Sorry if I annoyed you.
 

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LizzyM said:
No. They care about letters from non-science facutly (particularly if the student didn't score very well on the writing score, sometimes the non-science facutly member will address the applicant's ability to write well). The adcoms care about committee letters and hold in high regard the writers from some specific schoosl (whom they know by reputation if not personally thanks to events sponsored by med schools to promote the school to pre-med advisors).

I can hardly imagine the situation where the only letter that would matter would be from the PI... maybe MSTP.

I can tell you that we don't much care about the letters from your neighbor who has known you since you were 5, your girlfriend's dad, or your pediatrician. Even if you did shadow them for 12 hours. Compared with those letters, the PI is the only one we care about.

thanks Lizzy. I don't have a non-science faculty letter.. I hope that doesn't hurt me since I did score an M on the WS.
 

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BozoSparky said:
awe...i'm sorry...but, becoming a professor is not a backup plan for bitter med school rejects...it's very difficult.
I didnt say it was a backup, but rather than some of those bitter profs were probably pre-meds also.

Also, i do not really see the correlation between pre-med rejects and not being able to become a prof :confused:
Becoming a professor is something than I might be thinking of doing whether after I become a doc, or instead of. While it is different, I personally think it's easier to become a prof than get into med school.
 

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Lizzy -

I posted about this in an earlier thread, but would love your opinion. My PI (whose lab I have worked in for two summers 40+ hours a week, and volunteered during the school year), is a guy who sets very high standards that no one seems to meet. Everyone in our lab (post docs, lab techs, students) are very hard working, but our PI never seems to be impressed, and only focuses on our mistakes.

I think I've been a very hard worker, and I've learned so much in my year of research. I am, however, very timid about asking my PI for a LOR because of the way he talks to many of us. I've never given him a reason to dislike me, but I just don't know if I could trust him to write a halfway-decent letter. I've also heard stories about how he's actually written bad things in past students' LORs.

Any advice on how to handle the situation?
 
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washington101

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I agree with BKadow. Sometimes people agree to write letters and say bad things. The idea that an adcom will immediatly jump to the conclusion that you are hiding something is hard to believe. The work and length of time that I and the above poster mentioned speaks for itself. If we were doing a bad job...we would not be at the lab for that long.
 

Sekiray

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I can see ppl's point when they say its better to have a letter of rec from your PI. But at the same time, I agree with washington101. I doubt they make conclusions based on your 'missing' letter from your PI. Red flag? I doubt it. If you are an overall strong applicant and your professors write you good letters and you show your dedication through ECs and your grades, you can get into many schools. I know tons of ppl who did research, but got into ltos of med schools without a single letter from research.
 
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Sekiray said:
I know tons of ppl who did research, but got into tonzz of med schools without a single letter from research.
that's good to know :oops:
 

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Lizzy,

I only worked for one semester in a lab that was for school credit.
Unfortunately, the place was about an hour away from my school campus and I was only able to contribute about 12 hours/week at the lab.
Furthermore, the lab conditions were not very good for an undergraduate researcher. I was often not permitted to work with RNA kits on my own because no one else in the lab had much experience with it. And my PI never worked with me. A lab tech worked with me. They didn't seem to have the funding to support me in my learning process.

In the end, since I was basically working alone, for the first time with RNA, only one of my 3 designed primers worked for the candidate gene of interest. Although I completed a write up of the experiment, complete with data and conclusions, the results were not terribly convincing because of only one primer. As a result, I got slapped with a B, and the semester was only about 14 weeks. since I went to study abroad the following semester, I didn't have time to complete my research.

I asked her for a LOR and she said because of my limited time with the research, she could not write one for me. And she talked with an adcom member and was told that it would be ok. USC.

So, is this situation warranting of a "red flag?"
 

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Does the "red flag" for not having a letter from a PI apply if the research experience is one of a few and you have a letter from the most recent one? I've worked in 3 different labs (each for more than 12 weeks) and assumed 3 research letters would be overkill since I'm not applying for MD/PhD programs, but if having only one means I'll be believed to have burned the first two labs down, I'd better get on that.
 

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gandychan said:
Lizzy,

I only worked for one semester in a lab that was for school credit.
As a result, I got slapped with a B, So, is this situation warranting of a "red flag?"
Don't list it among your ECs and no one will notice. Of course, if no one notices, you won't get the brownie points that big research med schools expect of the top applicants but it won't be a red flag.
 

LizzyM

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janedoe4 said:
Does the "red flag" for not having a letter from a PI apply if the research experience is one of a few and you have a letter from the most recent one? I've worked in 3 different labs (each for more than 12 weeks) and assumed 3 research letters would be overkill since I'm not applying for MD/PhD programs, but if having only one means I'll be believed to have burned the first two labs down, I'd better get on that.
Having at least one is essential. Don't worry about the other two. If your PI hasn't written it yet, perhaps she (he?) can work a mention of the skills you learned in the other labs that you brought with you to this latest lab.
 

agr285

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Lizzy,

I have two questions. First, do adcoms in general take into consideration that non-traditional applicants have not had the same time and opportunity to participate in research like an undergrad? I became a pre-med about a year ago. I just started doing research this summer because its the first real opportunity I have had to do so. At this point, there's no way the lady I work with could write me a meaningful recommendation. Second question, would you say that if a school grants you an interview inspite of the fact that you haven't had significant research experience, then its a non-issue to them?
 

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I think that it is better not to have letter at all than to have a bad letter...
 

Taty

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agr285 said:
Lizzy,

I have two questions. First, do adcoms in general take into consideration that non-traditional applicants have not had the same time and opportunity to participate in research like an undergrad? I became a pre-med about a year ago. I just started doing research this summer because its the first real opportunity I have had to do so. At this point, there's no way the lady I work with could write me a meaningful recommendation. Second question, would you say that if a school grants you an interview inspite of the fact that you haven't had significant research experience, then its a non-issue to them?
I know people who did not have research at all and got accepted. As long as you have other stats that makes you stand out.

Personally, I started doing research, but I also had to support my family so I saw that I am not going anythere with the research and stopped it. I mentioned it on my AMCAS since I learned something from my research but I will not ask for the letter because it is not that significant (I did not do any posters, did not get published and etc.)
 
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