The other day I got a very interesting, and potentially lucrative, scholarship offer in the mail. While reading through the application process I came across a requirement which was not entirely surprising but none the less all but disqualified me from applying. I need letters of recommendation. I am not the type of person who likes to go up to professors outside the classroom environment (or even inside for that matter) and talk about ‘unrelated’ things such as my personal scientific interests or brag about that I do at home in my spare time. Never the less, somehow, someway, I need to find a way to convey these things to these people which I will one day need to ask to put their name to a letter recommending me for something. At this point I would say that I have no one, at the university level, which I would feel comfortable asking for a recommendation…that is to say that no one whose opinion matters really knows me well enough to do so. However, this needs to change, if for nothing else than to apply to grad-school in a few years (forget the scholarship), I need to start building a relationship which will allow me to do this one day. The question would be how I am going to go about doing this. In order to get the best recommendation possible, one needs to do more than just what is expected of them as a student (show up to class, get good grades, occasionally participate, …), one needs to go above and beyond. Maybe just being an excellent student is good for something; however this matter of going ‘above and beyond’ stuff is where I likely will fail. I figured I would join a research program within my area of interest’s department. By doing this not only do I build up research experience doing something I am interested in, but also I would also be building up that out-of-class relationship to show that I am not just some ordinary student but rather someone who deserves to get into the positions I apply for. I think this is a good start (when I get around to doing it), but even then, that still leaves me with a very limited ‘pool’ of choices of those to ask. They are very busy people, I am busy, it does not seem reasonable to show up at their office on a regular basis in order to ask them unrelated questions or talk about my interests when it may or may not have to do directly with the class they teach. After all, it is [part of] their job and the reason they set aside those times is to talk with students about the class, not to talk with someone who they may or may not recognize about what the student did over the weekend. But is this what it needs to come to? Also, the goal should ideally be more than to do all these things just in order to get something in return. I once over heard a student asking a professor, “I’d like to talk to you sometime about your research”…to which the response was to the effect of, “Okay, what about it? What part of it interests you?”, leaving the student unable to answer since he clearly was not actually familiar with anything the professor did, he just thought it sounded like a good thing to ask. I fear that my attempts will come off sounding as disingenuous as this other student sounded when in reality it is not the case.