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A few years ago I did a month lab rotation in a lab. At that time I was doing my masters and I was directly supervised by the Ph.D. student (X) of that lab. He taught me all the techniques and corrected my lab report. Then I sent it to the group leader. So basically I worked closely with the Ph.D. student and also the work I did during this one month, X used them in his further test and analysis. So that year, he published the paper and acknowledged me in that article.

Now I want to apply for a Ph.D. position and I wrote to that group leader who did not reply to me. So is it ok if I ask X to write one for me? (He completed his Ph.D. that year and I think he's a postdoc somewhere). we were not connected after that lab rotation but I got no choice except to ask X or that group leader who did not reply to me yet.

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Everyone can write a recommendation letter for you. So the answer is an absolute yes. Nevertheless, the question now becomes: how strong can a recommendation letter written by a Ph.D. student be in order to have a strong application in order to get accepted? But this is a different story.

You may want to send it in addition to the other recommendation letters.

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  • "You" shouldn't send the letter. Letters should be sent directly be the recommender. – user151413 Jun 4 at 19:00
  • It was an abuse of language: of course you write the email of the Professor in the application website and she or he uploads the letter to the provided link. – Son Gohan Jun 4 at 19:37
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    Fair enough. I still feel this is important to point out. Otherwise people might think that both types of letters have the same weight, which they often don't. – user151413 Jun 4 at 19:44
  • I definitely agree :) – Son Gohan Jun 4 at 19:58
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Letters from postdocs are definitely fine. Letters from people who have worked closely with you are definitely better than letters from people who have only met you two times or only experienced you in a lecture.

Then again, the issue with a only-just-now postdoc is that he/she has little, if any, experience in writing recommendation letters - and, in fact, even in reading recommendation letters. So it will likely be difficult for whoever receives the letter to judge you properly - either because the letter is not written in the usual way, or because whoever reads it knows that the writer did not have experience with recommendation letters. And finally, it will be hard for a PhD/postdoc to make meaningful comparison over a large sample ("best intern in the last 10 years").

The ideal situation would be a joint letter of the group leader and the PhD student/postdoc (whoever actually writes it). Ideally this would be sent by the group leader, stating that it was written with significant input from the postdoc. Then again, there's nothing wrong to ask the postdoc if they could ask the group leader to write a joint letter.

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