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Here is the current situation I face:

I am currently a postdoc but have begun to apply for jobs as a faculty member for the 2019 academic year. My issue is in securing letters of recommendation.

My PhD supervisor is currently going through chemotherapy and I do not want to worry them with a letter of recommendation on my account. My supervisor seems to be taking a small break from academia during treatment.

My question is, for search committees, if my letters of recommendation include my postdoctoral supervisor but not my phd supervisor, will that be considered a faux pas?

marked as duplicate by Herman Toothrot, Enthusiastic Engineer, Scientist, Stella Biderman, Buzz Jul 17 '18 at 1:25

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    I don't think the issue is etiquette, but rather whether they will think there's something suspicious about not including your PhD supervisor. If you've got other strong references, such as good coauthors or well-known academics from abroad, it might not look out of place. – Jessica B Jul 16 '18 at 15:46
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    If people know the situation, they should understand. Maybe you can ask one of your other letter writers to mention your advisor's health issues? – user37208 Jul 16 '18 at 15:48
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    When are the letters actually due? Further, your PhD supervisor may be quite happy to spend a bit of time doing something not related to chemotherepy, presuming that they are feeling OKish. (When my wife was doing chemo/radiation she really wanted to do something or think about something else whenever it was physically possible. It wasn't always possible, but...). – Jon Custer Jul 16 '18 at 15:49
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    1) Have you talked to your advisor about whether they feel well enough? 2) Is it reasonable to ask for a letter of rec from someone from the same institution, and have them mention your advisor is medically unavailable? – Azor Ahai Jul 16 '18 at 15:59
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If a few of my assumptions here are met, you might try the following. I'm assuming that you are at a different institution now (though that matters less than) and it hasn't been so long ago that you finished the doctorate that you aren't still remembered at the old place.

Ask the Department Head at your degree granting institution to provide a letter that says that Dr. X is not currently capable of writing letters of recommendation due to medical issues that may or may not resolve positively. If the chair him/herself can attest to your good work, that can be added as well.

The Head may actually more comfortably correspond with your advisor to see if this, or some other, solution is possible.

The point is that the letter should come from someone official. It should give minimal details (privacy reasons), and should indicate that a letter may be forthcoming if possible.

There is one other thing the Head might also be able to do in a large department, depending on its organization. If there is a secretary who normally handles that professor's correspondence, he/she may be in regular contact and so a letter might actually be very possible. But again, if the request comes via an official request you can maintain your respectful distance while the advisor heals.

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