I'm an undergraduate majoring in chemistry. But I'm very much interested in the field of biology too.

Will an internship in biology benefit me, say when I apply for graduate school? I don't yet know what I'll be specialising in later on. If I decide to specialise in biology, then all's good. But what if I stick with something primarily chemistry? Then will it look like I don't have enough experience in chemistry?

Also, can I ask my department's HOD or any other chemistry professor for a recommendation letter while applying for the internship in biology? Since he's a chemistry professor, even if I did ask and he did write me one, will that count for much? After all, it's going to talk about my skills, etc. in chemistry, and not biology.

On the other hand, if I didn't ask him for a recommendation letter and I asked only some of the Life Sciences professors for it, will it be unethical, or would he take offence? ( I have no idea about etiquette regarding these things) I don't want to do something that's going to get me in his bad books.

  • 1
    As to your last question, it's perfectly fine to ask, or not ask, for a letter from whoever you choose. Nobody will be offended at being asked, or not asked. On the other hand, if there are several people who can write you good letters, you might as well ask all of them (up to any limit set by the organization to which you are applying). Commented May 16, 2014 at 23:11

1 Answer 1


I completed undergraduate summer internships in biology although I ultimately wound up applying (and attending) graduate school in psychology. Although the internship did not directly align with my current career path, at the time it helped me narrow down my professional interests. In applying for jobs and graduate school, my internships, regardless of discipline, were seen as evidence that I was motivated, organized, and had some experience in professional settings.

At the undergraduate level many skills (including solid record keeping, attention to detail, and proper lab technique) are transferable across scientific disciplines. Further, completing one internship outside your discipline shouldn't significantly stunt your ability to prepare for graduate school in chemistry.

Having a letter of support from any professor should be acceptable, provided it is a strong letter. In all likelihood, your advisor will know you the best and be able to write the most supportive letter. However, if a life sciences professor knows you well, a second letter or co-written letter might be helpful.

  • The thing is, I don't have anyone called an advisor. While applying for the internship in Biology, would it be better to ask for letters from Biology professors or Chemistry ones? (Assuming both know me equally well and I could get a strong letter from either) Commented May 20, 2014 at 17:48
  • If that's the case, and you feel both can speak equally well to your abilities and experience, then the letter from the biology professor may be preferable. However, I think either should be fine.
    – user30295
    Commented May 21, 2014 at 0:30

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