I am not sure whether this is normal. I worked under a PhD student last year and I don't think I had any contact with prof.

After I finished my work last year, we arranged a meeting so I could present my work directly to the prof. Back then, the Prof acknowledged my work and decided to provide a reference.

Ok. Here is the problem. As you can see, I am primarily working under a PhD student, and I almost never talked to the prof directly (except during our only meeting). I think he has a good impression of me. But the problem is that the Letter of Recommendation should usually come from someone who knows you well, which isn't in my case. So the question is, is it normal for a undergraduate student involved in research, to have very little contact with the prof? Is it normal for this to happen?

My country is Canada, and I worked on a robotic research project. My role was to set up a platform for the PhD student so that he could implement his algorithm (which is the main part of the research). In fact, Phd student and I have published a paper together (offcourse, with the prof's name on it as well).

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    What is your country? What are the usual expectations there? For instance, in Germany, it is completely normal for Bachelor and Master students to have little to no direct contact (as in, conversations, rather than just watching lectures) to any professors during their entire studies, but then, it is also completely normal to never require any recommendation letters. Please expand your question with the context that gives us a better idea of your situation. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 7:07

1 Answer 1


As O.R. Mapper notes, this may vary by country. Undergraduates will usually have much less contact with professors than graduate students, because of the sheer numbers of students involved - professors don't have infinite time to meet with each undergrad for an hour every week.

That said, even German professors write letters of recommendation for undergrads once in a while (e.g., for student grants). Usually, they will get their information from the graduate students that do have a lot of contact with the undergrad. For instance, they may ask the grad student to draft the letter of recommendation, then review, improve and sign it. That way, the undergrad gets a recommendation written by someone who actually knows him and may have more time to invest in the letter than a busy professor, and the grad student gets a little experience in writing letters of recommendation (which is a good preparation for later academic life), and everything is done under the supervision of the professor.

Bottom line: your situation is routine. Don't worry. Just do a good job, and your letter will be fine.

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