I am currently doing a Master's degree in applied mathematics. I am worried though about after I complete my degree and I apply to another graduate school for an applied mathematics PhD program. While I have a good relationship with my supervisor an expect to get a good recommendation letter, most graduate schools and research award applications require three.

My question is what should I be doing now to ensure that I can easily get good recommendation letters when I graduate?

Right now I spend most of my time doing research which by it's nature in my field is a solo activity in collaboration with my supervisor. The rest of my time is being a teaching assistant, and doing a few extra circulars. I want to start working on getting good recommendations while I still have time before I graduate.

More Personal Notes

  • I am in my first year, started September 2017.
  • Things I do outside of research and being a teaching assistant include being part of my school's graduate society, and mentoring undergraduate students in the department.
  • 1
    Do you not take classes from other faculty in your Master's program? As well as a separate professor you're TAing for?
    – Kimball
    Jan 20, 2018 at 23:15
  • Sorry I should have mentioned this. Yes I do.
    – AzJ
    Jan 20, 2018 at 23:16
  • In part, the requirement of 3 letters tests exactly whether you do interact with more than just your advisor. Genuinely "solo work", unless it is ground-breaking, is not necessarily compelling in itself. Jan 20, 2018 at 23:57
  • Okay then in a field where it is common for papers to be authored by one or two people how can I work in the meantime to show that I am a team player.
    – AzJ
    Jan 21, 2018 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


One suggestion is to get a good teaching reference if you're working as a TA. Most departments have one or more faculty who supervise graduate student TA's. If you're actually leading a recitation section or teaching a class, you should ask this person if they would be willing to write a recommendation letter addressing your teaching and you should invite them to observe you in the classroom environment. A good letter of this support together with good student evaluations will make a strong case for your ability as an instructor.

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