Recommendation Letters

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1) To help Mark write as good a letter as possible, he would appreciate if you could draft a "generic" initial letter -- the base letter. Send this draft to mark ([at]) ONLY. After the base letter is written, approved and edited by Mark, he will send it as a confidential document to his assistant.

2) Then you can send more details (e.g. information on where to send) and coordinate submission with his assistant by sending the info via piaa ([at]) ONLY

  • If many letters are being sent, it may be best to use the Interfolio service to help coordinate submission.
  • MORE DETAIL ON STEP 1: Preparing a DRAFT of the base letter
    • First write a draft in consultation with Mark.
    • Send this draft to mark ([at]) ONLY.
    • Mark will edit the draft (often considerably, sometimes dramatically!) and send it in confidence to Lori. (Do NOT send drafts ahead of time to piaa/assistant as this confuses things; note that piaa goes to assistant as well, so do NOT send to piaa.)
    • Draft of letter should be written in a "generic" way so that specifics (i.e. for what the letter is intended) is at the top of the letter (if at all) and is easily modified. (See below.) You might flag modifiable bits in yellow.
    • The specifics of your accomplishments are important. "He's a great guy" usually doesn't make much an impact. Make sure to specifically refer (by name or citation) to work you've done -- e.g. papers, computer projects, and talks. Draft should (obviously) be written from Mark's perspective.

  • STEP 2: After talking with Mark, submit letters through the ASSISTANT (Lori)
    • After talking with Mark, send an upload link/email address for the desired letter to piaa ([at]) ONLY. Lori, the assistant will upload the pdf of the generic letter to the provided link or email address.
    • Work with the assistant to ensure everything goes smoothly
      • When sending reference details with your application use piaa ([at]) as Mark's contact details. Do NOT enter Mark.Gerstein ([at]) in any web form. See for more information on the former address. It is unlikely that your recommendation will be filled on time if you do not use the piaa address.
      • Also send all correspondence to piaa ([at])
    • Mark does not check off boxes on recommendations as a matter of policy
    • You should make sure you provide exact upload links and letter due dates to both Mark and Lori.
      • Special coordination is required for submission of hard copy letters, or use Interfolio (see below).

  • Making letter requests through INTERFOLIO: Recommended for multiple letters
    • Interfolio is a service that allows one to request and store letters of recommendation from an advisor.
      • The service takes one generic letter and automatically addresses it to the appropriate institution.
      • Interfolio can send hard copies of digitally submitted letters.
    • Make an account on Interfolio at
    • When making letter requests, it is imperative to use the piaa ([at]) as the contact for both Mark and Lori.

  • MODIFICATIONS to the base letter/confidential version after STEP 1.
    • Modifications to the confidential version can be done through email or phone between you and Lori, where one can indicate changes to the top paragraph without compromising the confidentiality of the letter. If you've flagged specific things in the generic draft (above) in yellow, it should be easy to indicate what to change.
    • If you feel it's necessary to do substantial re-edits, you should go back to the draft sent to Mark (see above) or ask Mark to send you a draft he feels comfortable sending. You should NOT request the currently used draft on file from Lori. You should then send this modified draft back directly to Mark at piaa ([at]) as the new base letter.
  • Queries from the recipient of the reference letter
    • If the recipient of a reference letter has additional simple queries (e.g. duration of employment, exact type of position), these may be able to be answered through Mark's assistant. Lori will need to get Mark's permission before answering.
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