When applying to grad school (e.g. in mathematics), how is a LOR from a Principal Research Scientist compared to that of a Tenured Professor? The only information I have about Principal Research Scientists is from This Question, and I just found out one of my letter writers is a research scientist. I also know from asking arround that a LOR from say an assistant prof is not held in the same regard as that of a tenured prof. Besides tenure, Principal Research Scientists seem to hold the same gravitas as a Professor at my university; is this correct?

Clarification: in US

1 Answer 1


I would guess that the pure vs. applied math issue is more important here. And it would depend on whether you seek a degree in pure math or applied math.

Principal Research Scientist type folk are probably more likely to be in an applied field. Not always, but usually. Great if that is your goal.

A Tenured Professor type could be in either but more likely a pure field. So they would be better if you seek a pure math degree.

But, even more important is how well they know you and how confidently they can express their support and predict your success. A letter from someone who doesn't really know your work is fairly easy to spot and will be discounted no matter their position.

If it is a tossup on all counts and you can only use one then the professor is probably better since readers will understand their point of view better (guessing here, a bit).

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