I am nominally in a Professor X's lab, but I work with and communicate with his PhD Student Y most of the time. Would it be looked down upon for Y to write me a LoR for grad school, since even though he knows me better, he is only a grad student/would be a fresh PhD by the time I get around to applying? Should I plan to ask X for a rec letter even though I don't directly work with him?


2 Answers 2


Assuming X has high reputation, you should ask X. If (s)he does not know your work already, (s)he can ask Y for details.

  • Not only that, I think it would be encouraging for Y to actively inform X of the OP's work, and X can write the letter based on that...
    – user136193
    Jun 9, 2021 at 3:54
  • @RamPadmanabhan: Most probably X already knows what to write.
    – markvs
    Jun 9, 2021 at 4:00
  • I mean in terms of how well Y knows the OP, which is likely better than how well X knows the OP.
    – user136193
    Jun 9, 2021 at 4:05
  • @RamPadmanabhan: I assumed that X knows what is going on in the lab.
    – markvs
    Jun 9, 2021 at 5:18

A recommendation from a professor is worth more than a recommendation from a PhD student. X also has more experience writing recommendation letters than Y, and probably has a better idea of what makes a good letter from reading the letters of applicants. X may be more aware of your work than you might realize from talking to Y. Anyways, it's best to ask X to write and sign the letter, possibly with Y providing input or assistance in writing.

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