I am an undergraduate student in my final year and started doing my bachelor's thesis in a research lab. My official thesis supervisor is head of the lab, and a highly experienced expert and equally busy person. He has assigned a junior Professor and a PhD student as my direct points of contact.

I will be applying for masters in another university in a year and would need letter of recommendation from the head of the lab. But, since the interaction with him would be very minimal (2-3 meetings in 6 months), how can I ask him for the letter of recommendation? Also, is there anything I can do at this point in time to get the strong letter from him later?

2 Answers 2


The solution seems fairly simple. At your next meeting with this professor, or one you can arrange sooner rather than later, let him know of your future plans and that you will eventually want to ask him for a letter. Make a special request that he "follow your work" enough that he can write such a letter. But also ask hime for advice about how to be a success in the project and to prepare yourself for later academic work.

The goal is just to get him to notice you even if you aren't interacting much. But, of course, this assumes that your work will be very good overall so that there are only good things to say about you when the time comes.

It is helpful for a professor to know that students have certain aspirations beyond the current project/course/degree. Make him aware early on, rather than later.


Buffy's suggestion about arranging a meeting is good advice. Outlining your aspirations will mean it will be easier to ask for a letter of recommendation later on.

Networking is the other aspect to this question. Even though you are being "supervised" by the head of the lab through his PhD student and junior professor, networking is a useful skill that you might want to work on while you have the opportunity now. Find out which meetings, activities that your head of lab goes to. This might give you opportunities for informal discussion about your project and for him to get to know you.

Consider developing your "professional identity" online as well. This may be useful for you as you network with your future university and developing a strong presence. Sign up to Twitter, ResearchGate, Mendeley, etc. Participate and engage with the various meetings of the department and lab - Academic Skills article, Manchester Uni

I liked this light-hearted article about social networking by Thesis Whisperer. Jennifer Streeter's article is also impressive.

Remember, if you can meet and get to know your future colleagues from your other university, you would be light-years ahead from the competition. If they grow to trust and appreciate your work, they would be bending over backwards to help get you across to them. Academic excellence is important and so is the recommendation letter, but if they like you, it does matter as well...

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