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Reference for former student - throw me some phrases!

(5 Posts)
worstofbothworlds Tue 30-May-17 16:43:14

It's for a former PhD student who is applying for a tenure track position at a US university.

This student is absolutely amazing and really lovely and has done loads of really difficult research.
I am concerned I will not sound superlative enough as I have heard that US references are really OTT. (sample phrase from one my own PhD supervisor read: "this person changed my life"). I know they like long references too!

What can I say to be accurate but not either overly British or that can be misinterpreted? Other than "you'd be mad not to employ her"?

This person has been a postdoc since but I know they were good at teaching when they were a PhD student and also a good lab mentor so I'm putting that in.

geekaMaxima Tue 30-May-17 20:00:10

I haven't written one aimed at the US but I've read plenty from the US when on interview panels. It seems to be the case that every little good quality gets its own paragraph with superlatives and examples.

So instead of saying that X was a good mentor to her labmates, it would say something like "X is one of the finest natural leaders I have encountered. Her outstanding people skills and passion for science let her quickly assume a senior position in the lab, where she was proactive in getting other team members to produce their best work. She was instrumental in developing lab competence in the ComplicatedStuff technique that led to her breakthrough first-author paper in the Journal of Bigwiggery..." and so on for around 2 single-spaced pages.

I find such references hard to plough through but they do end up being more persuasive than the typical British "she was one of my better students" references!

user7214743615 Tue 30-May-17 20:34:38

I don't think the tone of the letter will actually make that much difference for a tenure track job. (I have worked in the US, write letters for the US regularly and receive them.) At this stage her research record has to speak for itself for her to be a serious candidate. The letters won't play that much of a role or carry that much weight in the decision unless you are yourself a very senior figure.

worstofbothworlds Tue 30-May-17 20:35:16

Thanks, that's helpful (if irritating!)

worstofbothworlds Tue 30-May-17 20:36:13

I'm not!

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