How do you describe the relation between a course instructor to his teaching assistant? Is he the "teaching supervisor" to his TA? This is encountered during PhD application. Thanks!

  • I think the answer is between supervisor and mentor.
    – Nobody
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 4:26
  • 2
    I actually disagree with scaaahu above quite strongly. You are just his/her teaching assistant. There is no need for further description, because quite often, you just grade his assignments, or lead tutorial sessions, or you do other trivial things that helps the course run smoothly. The instructor usually provides minimal directions, and he/she would definitely not think of themselves as your mentor.
    – user10269
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 6:11
  • I agree that "mentor" is a terrible choice (never use "mentor" like it's a job title). I would usually write something like "TA for course MATH XYZ, taught by A. Nobody." If the professor actually provided some kind of training or something, you can discuss that, but otherwise phrase things in terms of your relationship to the course, not the professor. Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 6:58
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    @user14449: I wouldn't be so quick to say that a professor wouldn't mentor his teaching assistants with respect to honing their teaching skills. Also, the question is asking for another word to describe "the professor for whom I served as a teaching assistant." While scaaahu's answer isn't 100% correct, it's not completely wrong, either.
    – aeismail
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 7:52

1 Answer 1


It sounds like the question is that you need to fill in the "In what context have you known the applicant" box on a PhD recommendation letter.

If this is the case, then, for this particular point, I would not list "research supervisor," since this is clearly a teaching situation. However, "student" also doesn't make any sense. So, if there's no specific option which clearly satisfies this, I would check off the "other" box, fill in "teaching supervisor," and then explain the relationship clearly in the text of the recommendation letter itself.

  • 1
    "I was her teaching assistant" also works.
    – JeffE
    Commented Dec 30, 2013 at 14:15

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