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LoR from a "National Space Agency" from an internship

Posted: Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:22 am
by Schroedingers2c
Hi all!

I have two hopefully strong LoR form my bachelor research project supervisors. I could probably ask another faculty member, but she only knows me from two classes. So I thought I could take as the 3rd LoR the one I got from the President of the National Space Agency after an internship 2 years ago. I am not sure if it is strong or weak, what do you think?

Re: LoR from a "National Space Agency" from an internship

Posted: Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:17 pm
by TakeruK
Letters are stronger if the person knows you professionally and can comment on your research abilities. If they can comment on your academic abilities, that is fine, but not as preferred as research abilities. Usually if you have 2 letters on your research, having a third letter be about your academic ability is okay and pretty common.

So, if you are choosing between faculty member who knows you from two classes vs. the president of the national space agency, I think you should consider these factors:

- Who knows you better, in a professional sense?
- Who can comment on your individual specific achievements and talents better?
- Does the president of the national space agency have a PhD and/or have supervised students in the past? (Sometimes these positions are held by researchers and former faculty members but sometimes they are political appointments).

Re: LoR from a "National Space Agency" from an internship

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:41 am
by Schroedingers2c
Adressing your questions in order:

- Well, the faculty member I could ask is exactly in the field I will apply to, but only knows me from one lecture and one seminar I'm taking this semester. I think I made a good impression on her by actively contributing to the course and asking questions. However, at the time of deadline, neither have I finished the courses (i.e. gotten a grade such that she could comment on my abilities in this field), nor have I given my talk in the seminar. So she could not say much more than "was motivated and asked good questions". With the president of the space agency I worked with for 1.5 months on a quite big analogue mars mission (19 countries contributed). But I did not much physics related, more experimental preparation and procedures and stuff like that.

- Concerning talents, I'd say the president of the space agency, but more on the organisational/leadership/interpersonal side and not really academically. In the LoR it is quite concretely described what I did and how I showed organisational talent with big projects and leadership qualities - which I think is also relevant in research projects.

- Yes, he has a PhD and is affiliated with a University, but not on Prof.-level but rather on lecturer-level. However, he supervised several MSc. and Diploma theses.

So I tend to take the non-faculty LoR, since I have 2 academic LoRs from research project supervisors anyways (who will also comment on my academic abilities - they know my grades and also had me in 1-2 courses.). The space agency LoR focuses more on organisational/leadership/interpersonal qualities, so I think that might make a not-too-bad balance.

However, I also apply to programs in Europe/Canada with later deadlines in February 2018. For these I might ask the faculty member.

Thanks for your input!

Re: LoR from a "National Space Agency" from an internship

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 11:27 am
by TakeruK
I think the national space agency president sounds good then. Remember that it's the content that matters a lot more than the status of the writer, so it is good that the president knows your abilities well, not that the president is the president.

One thing to note: most grad schools in North America want a new letter submitted specifically for their application. It sounds like you already have a letter in hand from the president of the space agency. However, when you apply, usually the schools want you to provide an email address for the letter writer to fill out a form and upload a letter. You usually cannot submit a letter you already have yourself.

So, make sure you talk to the president of the space agency (or his staff) to make arrangements for this. I am guessing that he will be pretty busy and might not be able to personally do the letter submission. This means that if the school asks questions in addition to requesting a PDF upload, then I am not sure what the staff member doing this work for the president would do.

Re: LoR from a "National Space Agency" from an internship

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 11:34 am
by Schroedingers2c
Thanks for your concerns. I already took care of that and talked to him. He will personally upload them.

Re: LoR from a "National Space Agency" from an internship

Posted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 2:06 pm
by TakeruK
Great! Good luck :)