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Frequently Asked Questions

Check here for your most frequently asked questions.

Are postdoc extramural activities allowed?

At times a postdoc may wish to engage in activities outside of the University and/or beyond the scope of their appointment. Before undertaking such activity, the postdoc must secure approval, in writing, from their mentor and business administrator. The approval for such activities should include a description of the activity, include a specific end date no longer than one year later (which may be subject to renewal) and must be signed by both the mentor and the postdoc. These activities may not give rise to a conflict of interest or divert or diminish the training of the postdoc, and they should be reviewed regularly if approved. Approval may be withdrawn if the activity no longer is appropriate under policy or interferes with the postdoc’s appointment. It is the postdoc’s responsibility to update this documentation and notify their mentor should there be any changes. International postdocs should consult with ISSS to make sure they are in compliance with any visa regulations.

Are postdocs allowed to teach?

Postdoc positions are designed to provide them with time to focus on research and scholarly activities. Teaching may or may not be an explicit component of a postdoctoral appointment. Postdocs interested in teaching experience should discuss with their mentor but it is at the discretion of the faculty mentor as to whether the postdoc position can include teaching responsibilities. Teaching outside the commitment of a full-time appointment as a postdoc is allowed. The determination of whether the teaching responsibilities fall within the boundaries of the scholar’s appointment is made by faculty mentor based on the terms and conditions of the postdoctoral appointment described in the offer letter.

If teaching is a part of the postdoc appointment, then it should be clearly outlined in the appointment letter with a description of associated training goals. This applies regardless of whether or not the teaching occurs within or outside of the postdoc lab and/or research group, department or school, even if provided within the context of a teaching program. Teaching as part of the postdoctoral appointment does not constitute grounds for payment of additional compensation.

If teaching is not part of the postdoc appointment, approval to teach in addition to the postdoc position should still be approved by the faculty mentor, as teaching responsibilities will often lead to change in the postdoc research commitments and may require prior approval by funding agencies. Depending on the length and scope of teaching effort, a reduction in the postdoctoral commitment may be required. Teaching will be approved only if the teaching opportunity appears to serve the postdoc’s career development.

I’m would like to hire a foreign national as a postdoc. What is the visa process?

It can take up to 6 months for a postdoc to secure a visa, so the first step in hiring is to initiate the visa application process. Most postdocs come to Penn on J1 visas, so you should reach out to your department administrator and Penn ISSS for more information about visa options and to begin the application process.

Can postdocs work part-time?

No, postdoc appointments are full time (40 hours per week), based on the expectation that the postdoc will be fully involved in scholarly pursuits. In special cases, upon written request of the appointee and concurrence of the mentor; the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, may grant an exception when the postdoc is unable to make a full-time commitment for reasons of health, family responsibilities, or employment external to Penn. Such a request must take into account extramural funding agency requirements, if any. When a reduced-time appointment has been approved, the mentor and postdoc shall sign an appointment letter specifying the reduction in hours of work, reduction in stipend, and concomitant responsibilities. NOTE: Benefits are based on a postdoc percentage of full-time employment (FTE). A change in FTE may result in a change to benefits.

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.

I have an international postdoc. How long can I appoint them in a postdoc position?

Per the policy, postdoc appointments are made for one year. Postdocs can be reappointed for up to five years total. Faculty mentors who expect to reappoint an international postdoc can offer a multi-year visa sponsorship duration to mitigate the burden of visa renewals if funding is secured for the same period of visa sponsorship, there is an intention to reappoint the postdoc, and the postdoc meets the expectations of the position as documented in an Individual Development Plan. Departments need to include the appropriate language in the appointment or reappointment letter to offer a multi-year visa sponsorship duration and final approval must be secured by ISSS.

How should I address stipend and salary issues?

The minimum compensation level for postdocs at Penn is published on annual basis by the OVPR, in consultation with the Provost’s Council on Research, representing all of the schools of the University. When a funding sponsor mandates stipend levels higher than the University minimum, mentors are obligated to pay the higher amount. Postdocs with prior postdoctoral experience at another institution should receive compensation that reflects their expertise and prior years of experience.

Can I serve as a mentor to more than one postdoc?

Yes, faculty may serve as a mentor for more than one postdoc.

Can postdocs work remotely?

Generally, no, postdocs are expected to be based primarily in Philadelphia for the full duration of the fellowship period unless the research program requires a remote location. However, the final determination of a postdocs eligibility to work remotely is left to the discretion of their PI and/or Faculty mentor. Postdocs on a J-1 visa, or any other visa are not permitted to be fully remote. Postdocs on a J-1 visa can only participate in remote work two days in a five-day work week. The postdoc and mentor should follow the University Flexible, Hybrid & Remote Work policy as well as their school, department, or center’s policy regarding remote work.

How should I handle postdoc Research Records?

Primary research records created by postdocs during the tenure of their training at the University of Pennsylvania are the property of the University and are retained by the University when the postdoc leaves. If a postdoc obtains written permission from their mentor, they may retain a copy of such records as agreed upon by the mentor and the postdoc. Exceptions to this practice may be granted, subject to written prior approval of the Provost’s Office, in fields where it can be convincingly demonstrated that there is a well-established practice that individual scholars retain ownership of data generated through their research efforts. In such cases the postdocs may be permitted to retain notes and records associated with their research and publish their findings subsequent to leaving the University, provided an appropriate acknowledgement is made of the University’s contribution to the work (e.g., in the form of funding).