1

I want to apply for a program where I will be doing research in a particular area for roughly 6 months. This is an area of research I'm very deeply interested in, but I don't have any experience yet. The program asks for a letter of recommendation and I'm a little torn who to ask to write this letter for me. I'm currently a visiting assistant professor at a college and I have a colleague in my department who knows about my interest, but he's honestly someone who isn't super familiar with my work. He's offered to write a letter with the caveat that this would be a relatively weak (albeit positive) letter. On the other hand, I'm considering asking my thesis adviser to write a letter for me. My concern however is that this would like like I'm relying too much on my grad school experience to get me into this program (it's been almost 2 years since I finished my PhD). Unfortunately neither one will be able to speak that much to my experience in the intended area of research (since I have none). Are there merits to relying on a newer colleague at this juncture, or is it safer to rely on someone more familiar with my work?

5
  • I assume that your skills, if not your direct experience, will be useful in the new area. – Buffy Jan 5 at 19:55
  • @Buffy Yes, i definitely have the prerequisite skills to enter this field, it’s just new for me. – Mnifldz Jan 5 at 20:00
  • What have you been doing in the 2 years since grad school? – user151413 Jan 5 at 23:26
  • @user151413 adjuncted for a year, and just secured a full time position last August. Fall semester was too teaching intensive for me to work in research. On top of that, I went to a very small grad school with little funding and didn’t make any collaborators during my time there. Trying to change that now. – Mnifldz Jan 5 at 23:31
  • Ok. But if you want the last two years to be accounted for when assessing your application, it makes sense to have a letter from someone who can assess that time (can be your PhD advisor, but only if he/she can in fact assess it). – user151413 Jan 5 at 23:51
1

You want letters from the people who know your work best. At this point that is probably your thesis advisor, with whom you have actually done research, even though in a different area. Be sure to explain your new interest when you ask your advisor for that letter.

Recommendation letter from CS faculty for math grad school (and vice versa)

4
  • Yes, always from those who know you best. Preferably those who have worked with you. – Buffy Jan 5 at 19:54
  • Not clear that someone who knew you best 2 years ago (even better than anyone knows you now) is the best person to write a letter. After all, what people did recently matters, not what they did X years ago. – user151413 Jan 5 at 23:28
  • @user151413 Depends on the work you've done with the person who knows you more recently. The OP says not much in this case. – Ethan Bolker Jan 5 at 23:41
  • @Ethan Indeed, just saying that it is not clear in this case. – user151413 Jan 5 at 23:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.