The title is pretty self-explanatory, but let me explain.
The lab I'm at right now is very big. It's around 30-40 people. I'm a master's student that just finished his first semester and am looking to apply for PhD programs this fall/winter so that if all goes as planned I'll start school in the fall of 2021 right after graduation.
The problem is that my advisor is "more like a business person than an advisor," so to speak. He's always attending networking events, meeting people, etc. rather than advising his own students. The few times that he does hold "meetings" with students is when there's something to be discussed regarding a project that brings in the funding. Even in these meetings it's more like a briefing session where the students fill him in on progress rather than him advising us on what to do.
Anyway, long story short I need him to write me a strong letter but I'm not confident he'll be able to. Your advisor is the one who should be the most familiar with your work, but in all honesty my advisor probably doesn't even know what kind of research at least 90% of his students are doing.
I imagine that it would also look a bit strange on the admissions committees' parts if an applicant's advisor's letter lacks quality content.
What should I do in this situation? I have about 6-7 months until applications open.
Allure brought up a great point in a comment and I'll try to fill up some more details on how the lab I'm at usually operates.
The lab is usually busy grabbing government or corporate grants (as I assume most are).
- The professor pinpoints a few that he wants.
- The students write up a proposal and bring it to him, which he assesses. Afterwards he meets with whoever to present the proposals.
- If the grant is approved then we get projects to work on.
- Teams consisting of PhD students and juniors like myself are assigned to different aspects of the project.
- The "meetings" that I mentioned are usually the aforementioned teams briefing the professor, with the PhD students usually doing most of the talking. Honestly speaking, juniors like myself usually just sit there and pretend to take notes.
So yes, usually it's PhD students that I'm working close with, and I'm more than certain that a letter of recommendation from "someone who's not even a PhD" aren't acceptable as LoR's.
My anxiety and worry stems from the fact that, as mentioned above, the most detailed and supportive letter should be from one's advisor. However, I have a strong feeling that it's going to turn up to be a generic one like "student X exhibits very strong research potential!"