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Policy for Postdoctoral Trainees at the University of Pennsylvania

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The full statement of policy for postdoctoral trainees (PDT), effective July 1, 2023, can be viewed on Penn Almanac as linked below.

Related FAQs

What is a postdoc?

A postdoc is an individual who has completed their doctoral degree and is engaged in a temporary period of mentored research or scholarly training to gain further expertise in their chosen field. At Penn postdocs are categorized as postdoctoral researchers, fellows, or NRSA fellows. They are collectively referred to in the policy for postdocs as postdoctoral trainees (postdoc).

What is an NRSA Fellow?

An NRSA Fellow is a postdoctoral position. NRSA Postdoctoral Fellows are individuals who come to the University for the principal purpose of furthering their personal development through participation in advanced training programs. They hold post-baccalaureate degrees, normally the highest degree earned in the field. The source of funding is an individual or institutional National Research Service Award from the federal government to support the individual’s training (T32 or F32).

The IRS defines an NRSA Fellow as a trainee that does not provide a service to the college. Due to these IRS regulations, no federal tax or FICA can be withheld from an NRSA Fellow stipend and an NRSA Fellow cannot receive any benefits that result in a tax impact (e.g. pre-tax contributions to a retirement account). An NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow’s stipend is subject to State, Local and State Unemployment Compensation taxes. No employment benefit rate can be charged to NRSA funding.

What is the role of the Faculty Mentor?

Mentors’ responsibilities include: (i) developing in consultation with the postdoc a mutually satisfactory research project or scholarly program; (ii) encouraging postdocs to present their work and to publish their results in a timely fashion; (iii) encouraging postdocs to acquire and enhance their knowledge and technical skills as dictated by their current and future needs; (iv) arrangement and oversight of teaching opportunities as appropriate to their discipline and program; (v) encouraging postdocs to apply for training and research support as appropriate; (vi) meeting regularly with their postdocs to discuss progress in their research; (vii) providing an annual review of performance that includes a discussion of the individualized development plan (IDP) or equivalent performance document; (viii) ensuring that postdocs are aware of University policies regarding postdoctoral training and are instructed about research policies of the University; and (ix) providing career counseling.

What is the role of the host department and/or administrator?

The hosting school, department, and/or administrator are responsible for welcoming postdocs into the department, onboarding, appointment letter management, professional development, and ensuring compliance with university policies and regulations.

How do I manage reappointments, extensions, or amendments?

Assuming the postdoc is in good standing with their faculty mentor and their evaluation is positive, funding is available to continue the position, and both the postdoc and the supervisor agree to continue the appointment, the host department and/or administrator may be responsible for initiating the renewal or extension process. If the postdoc is in the biomedical sciences, BPP will manage the reappointment process. This may involve preparing a new appointment or reappointment letter. The changes should include updating the appointment start and end dates, salary/stipend adjustments, benefits, or any other relevant terms.

How do I address grievances and conflicts?

The University of Pennsylvania strives to promote an optimal training and educational experience for its postdoc community through a professional and respectful environment. Open and routine communication between supervisors/mentors and postdocs throughout the postdoc appointment is encouraged in order to clarify expectations, provide an ongoing and timely mechanism for constructive feedback from both parties, as well as offer the opportunity to identify, address/resolve any potential matters as they may arise. It is the expectation that this communication between supervisors and postdocs occurs openly and regularly. Faculty mentors should refer to the grievance process that is included in the policy for postdoctoral trainees at the University of Pennsylvania for step-by-step information.

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