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Frequently Asked Questions

The FAQ includes information related to postdocs who are recognized by Vanderbilt as individuals with the following postdoctoral titles and job codes:

  • Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (9145 VU)
  • Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee  (9146 VU)
  • Research Fellow (9132 VUMC)
  • Research Fellow Trainee (9134 VUMC)
  • Visiting Research Fellow (9136 VU and VUMC)

 

Appointments and Reappointments

The candidate must have a graduate degree (i.e., Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate degree such as a Sc.D., M.D., PharmD, J.D.). Additional information is located in the Appointment and Reapointment Guide for Faculty and Staff Administratiors.

No, the OPA only appoints postdocs who will primarily be engaged in research activities for the purpose of becoming an independent researcher. Individuals engaged in clinical training are not considered research postdocs. Clinical residencies/fellowships are considered house staff and are appointed by the Office of Graduate Medical Education at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). For additional information, contact the Office of Graduate Medical Education.

The hiring faculty member/department is responsible for recruiting postdocs. Postdoc recruiting and hiring is not managed by human resources. All open postdoc positions must be posted on the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) website for a minimum of five days before a candidate is selected by following the directions on this page.

All schools and colleges have designated a school point of contact (SPOC) responsible for working with faculty and staff on postdoc appointments. The SPOCs work with the department and serve as the liaison to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) throughout the appointment process. All postdoc appointments must be processed through the OPA.  The SPOC for each school is listed on this page.

Before beginning the process of hiring a postdoc faculty should contact the staff administrator in their department that handles postdoc appointments and reappointments. Faculty and staff can also review the Postdoc Faculty & Staff Administrators Webpage which includes the following important information and documents:  

●      Key points for hiring postdocs.

●      The Appointment and Reappointment Guide for Faculty and Staff Administrators.

●      School-specific ‘how to’ guides for staff administrators responsible for appointing and reappointing postdocs.

 

 

Yes, staff who are responsible for processing postdoc appointments are required to attend a training session with the OPA. This training includes process and policy overview, as well as how to correctly complete each of the required web-based forms. In addition, refresher training sessions are available on request. Contact Faith Bishop to schedule an appointment for training.

     
     
     
     
     

Several factors impact how long it can take the first time a postdoc is appointed at Vanderbilt. For example, if the postdoc has not successfully completed all the requirements for a doctorate degree (i.e., defended and turned in their thesis) or if the postdoc’s degree has not been conferred (see Appointments and Reappointments FAQ #13: Why do we have to verify degrees and what is the process?). Other factors that impact the process are how long it takes for a department to complete and submit the required forms or if the appointee requires a visa or employment authorization (see Appointments and Reappointments FAQ #15: Who manages the visa and/or employment authorization process?).  

If the appointee has completed all the requirements for a terminal degree from a USA institution, the process takes approximately 4-6 weeks. Appointees with a terminal degree from outside the USA can take a minimum of 8 weeks.

Faculty who hire and mentor postdocs are critical to a postdoc’s experience and success at Vanderbilt.

 

Before starting the hiring process, faculty are strongly encouraged to contact the staff administrator in his/her respective department who manages postdoc appointments for assistance with the appointment process. If you do not know who your staff administrator is, contact your SPOC or opa@vanderbilt.edu.

 

After the postdoc is hired, faculty are expected to provide advice and assistance regarding the postdoc’s research project and professional career development goals. Mentors are encouraged to review the Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors. In addition, mentors are required to provide the postdoc with written and oral input and evaluation annually regarding his/her progress via the Individual Development Plan (IDP). In addition to the IDP, mentors should discuss performance and expectations throughout the year. 

Postdoc appointments are for a period of one year and may be renewed if applicable. Vanderbilt has a five-year maximum term limit, which includes prior postdoc experience at other institutions. Special circumstances are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the OPA.

No, postdocs must be appointed in an academic department. They can be affiliated with a center or institute; in which case they are typically appointed into the academic department of their faculty mentor.

Vanderbilt has six postdoctoral titles/job codes: 

●      Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (9145 VU)

●      Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (9146 VU)

●      Research Fellow (9132 VUMC)

●      Research Fellow Trainee (9134 VUMC)

●      Visiting Research Fellow (9136 VU and VUMC)

A postdoc’s job title is determined by their funding source (i.e., if the postdoc will be compensated by a salary or receive a stipend). During the appointment process, detailed information about the postdoc’s funding is provided by the hiring department.  

A postdoctoral appointment is a full-time, exempt position (i.e., a minimum of 40 hours per week). Part-time positions may be approved for extenuating circumstances. The home school’s dean and the director of the OPA must approve all part-time positions.

Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (9145 VU) or Research Fellow (9132 VUMC): flexible work options may be allowed at the discretion of the mentor and/or the department. Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (9146 VU) or Research Fellow Trainee (9134 VUMC): are not Vanderbilt employees, but may arrange flexible work options at the discretion of the mentor and the funding agency.

Vanderbilt Human Resources (VU and VUMC) requires degree verification as part of the background check for all initial, first-time appointed postdocs.     

Domestic Appointees: When a doctorate degree from a USA institution has not been conferred yet, the background check will not be able to verify a terminal degree. When this occurs, OPA sends the staff administrator a Degree Verification Form to complete. The form includes a letter template to send the awarding institution certifying the postdoc successfully completed all the requirements of a doctorate/terminal degree along with the expected conferral date.

International Degree Holding Appointees: Since both VU and VUMC background check vendors cannot verify international degrees, verification must be obtained from a source such as the World Education Services, Center for Educational Documentation, or Global Credential Evaluators, Inc. The postdoc appointee will receive instructions for ordering a degree verification report when they receive the background check request from OPA. Original reports must be sent directly to OPA. The World Education Services (WES) is recommended as the preferred service for degree verifications reports as Vanderbilt has access to real-time applicant evaluation updates and online delivery of completed evaluations, which can save significantly on processing time and fees.

No, international degree reports should only be ordered after your doctorate degree has been conferred. When a degree has not been conferred yet, the following is required: 

  • An official letter from the awarding university on institutional letterhead stating the postdoc has  successfully completed all the requirements of a doctorate degree with a conferral date. The OPA will send the department staff administrator the Degree Verification Form to complete, attach the letter and submit to OPA.  
  • After the degree has been awarded, the postdoc must send OPA a copy of the receipt confirming an external report has been ordered. While a report is required as part of the credential authentication process, the official letter is usually accepted by human resources as conditional degree verification until OPA receives an official report.  

Department/program staff administrators are responsible for working with the appropriate VU or VUMC Office: VU Global Support Services, VU International Student & Scholar Services or VUMC Global Support Services. The OPA is not involved in managing this part of the hiring process.

Start dates are contingent upon completion of the required verifications for employment, including the background check. The OPA will notify the department staff administrator and mentor when all verifications have been completed and the postdoc can begin employment. Under no circumstances can a postdoc begin employment without a cleared background check. When the background check is cleared the OPA notifies the department that the postdoc is cleared to start.   

If a postdoc’s job title/code changes during an appointment or reappointment term (e.g., from Research Fellow 9132 VUMC to Research Fellow Trainee 9134 VUMC or Postdoctoral Scholar, Research 9145 VU to Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee 9146 VU), a revised appointment letter must be issued since a postdoc cannot be appointed without a valid appointment letter. Transition between job titles/codes will also result in changes in health insurance and other benefits. Postdocs classified as Postdoctoral Scholar, Research 9145 VU or Research Fellow 9132 VUMC are eligible for health insurance/benefits provided by their respective Human Resources Department. Postdocs classified as Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (9146 VU) or Research Fellow Trainee (9134 VUMC) are eligible for trainee health insurance/benefits provided by their respective institution.

When a job title/code changes, the department/program administrator must:   

  1. Notify the appropriate School Point of Contact (SPOC). The SPOC will send the administrator the current appointment/reappointment link and return code to modify the Appointment/Reappointment Request Form.
  2. Revise the following fields in the form:
    • Anticipated Appointment/Reappointment Start Date.

Note: the end date does not change.

  • Postdoc Code/Title.
  • Update the compensation section

 

For VUMC appointees only: All VUMC appointees also require a revised offer letter to be uploaded in the appointment/reappointment form. Since the revised offer letter will supersede the original letter, it must be dated and signed by the same individuals as the original offer letter. It is not necessary to re-type a new letter. If it is legible, revisions can be made on the original letter by putting a line through the incorrect information, handwriting changes and making sure all the required individuals (i.e., postdoc, mentor and chair/director) date and initial.

  1. Return the revised form to the SPOC who will notify OPA to send a modified appointment letter to the postdoc and copy the department.
  2. Complete the following required forms and all HR processes:   

If a postdoc’s title/job code changes from a Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (9145 VU) to a Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (VU 9146) OR a Research Fellow (VUMC 9132) to a Research Fellow Trainee (VUMC 9134):

VU:

 

VUMC:

  • Submit a paper Personnel Action Form (PAF)* to change the job code and change the compensation to zero. Note: must be done via paper form because you cannot change someone to $0 in ePac.  
  • Submit a Benefits Action Form (BAF) to Karen DeFosse by the deadline noted on the BAF. Submission of the BAF is required. Karen DeFosse reviews and sends the BAF to Garnett-Powers confirming the postdoc’s eligibility. Once the department staff administrator submits the BAF to Karen DeFosse, the postdoc will receive an e-mail from their department staff administrator with a link to enroll in benefits.   The postdoc will enroll on the Garnett-Powers website and they will receive an automated confirmation from Garnett-Powers confirming submission. A second confirmation will be sent from Garnett-Powers once their enrollment with Aetna has been confirmed. Enrollment must occur within 30 days of the postdoc’s hire date. Postdocs are strongly encouraged to check with their department/program staff administrator to confirm a BAF was sent to Karen DeFosse. 
  • Submit a Stipend Request Form* (this is required for the postdoc to be paid).  

 

*Note: after you submit a PAF, human resources sets up the postdoc with a 9134 job code. When the Stipend Request Form is submitted, human resources also creates a 9407 job code which is how the stipend is tied to the postdoc. This means the postdoc has two HR records.      

If a postdoc is moving from a Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (VU: 9146) to a Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (VU: 9145) OR a Research Fellow Trainee (VUMC: 9134) to a Research Fellow (VUMC 9132):

VU:

  • See the guides in the Oracle Help Center -
  • End date the stipend award compensation and costing in Oracle.
  • Submit a BAF to terminate the postdoc in trainee insurance prior to the requested termination date or no later than two weeks after the requested termination date.
  • Register the postdoc for the VUMC Human Resources Orientation. Note: the postdoc must be enrolled in health insurance within 30 days of the hire date.

 

VUMC:

  • Submit a job code change in ePac and change the compensation rate from $0 to the current rate (this is required for the postdoc to be paid).
  • Submit a BAF to terminate the postdoc from trainee insurance prior to the requested termination date or no later than two weeks after the requested termination date.
  • Submit a Stipend Request Termination.  
  • Register the postdoc for the VUMC Human Resources Orientation. Note: the postdoc must be enrolled in health insurance within 30 days of the hire date.

Since VU and VUMC are legally two separate institutions, this is the same as a new hire. It is important to begin this process as early as possible in order to avoid a lapse in health insurance coverage and compensation for the postdoc. In addition, if the postdoc is on an employment-based visa (e.g., H-1B) acquiring the appropriate work authorization can take a while.    

The department/program staff administrator in the postdoc’s current department needs to:  

a. Notify the appropriate School Point of Contact (SPOC) and OPA to make them aware of this change and to discuss the anticipated start date.

b. If the postdoc has an employment-based visa, OPA facilitates the initial communication between the current and hiring departments. However, it is the responsibility of the hiring department to acquire work authorization with the appropriate VU or VUMC visa offices.

c. OPA notifies the department once the hiring process is completed.

d. Department terminates the postdoc from their current position via Oracle (VU) or ePac (VUMC). 

e. (VU only) Terminating a postdoc

The department/program staff administrator in the postdoc’s hiring department needs to: 

a. If the postdoc has an employment-based visa (e.g., H-1B), the hiring department must prepare new documents and/or file a new petition prior to employing the postdoc. Note: depending on the visa type, acquiring appropriate work authorization may take 3-4 months. Contact either VU Global Support Services: ois@vanderbilt.edu (if moving from a VUMC to a VU postdoc position) or  VUMC Global Support: immigration@vumc.org (if moving from a VU to a VUMC postdoc position).

b. Contact the SPOC in your school listed on this page. Note: for appointments in the College of Arts & Science, contact your department administrator. Make sure you notify the SPOC this is a Vanderbilt institutional transfer. 

c. The SPOC will create a new record and send the appropriate Reappointment Request Form to the department. Note: even though the postdoc is changing institutions, their prior postdoc experience still counts towards the maximum five-year policy at Vanderbilt.

d. Department completes and submits the Reappointment Request Form.

e. The reappointment is reviewed by the home school and submitted to OPA.

f. OPA reviews and sends a reappointment letter to the postdoc for signature. OPA also notifies the current postdoc’s department to discuss/coordinate timing of the change.   

g. If a visa/employment document is required, OPA sends the department administrator the Appointee Status Clearance Form to complete.      

h. OPA sends the background check to the postdoc appointee.

i. Once all the required verifications are completed, OPA sends final clearance to the department.

j. Department completes the appropriate new hire and payroll forms and process required by human resources (VU or VUMC).

k. Depending on when the transfer occurs, a revised IDP may or may not be required and will be determined by the hiring mentor and OPA.

●      Yes, postdocs are required to complete their first IDP within three months of their hire date and annually as part of the reappointed requirements.

●      Postdocs will automatically receive IDPs electronically. The initial IDP is sent one month after the start date. The reappointment IDP is sent four months before the postdoc’s reappointment start date.  

●      The Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a valuable communication and planning tool that facilitates collaboration between postdoctoral scholars and their research mentor/principal investigator (PI). An annual IDP is one component of a broader professional development and mentoring strategy. The IDP is an opportunity to discuss the fellow’s long-term career goals and identify short-term objectives that will help the fellow achieve career success. These short-term goals should include goals for the fellow’s career and professional development (e.g. developing contacts and skills pertinent to the field they hope to pursue) as well as goals for the research project.

●      Effective October 2014, the NIH issued a revised policy requiring the implementation of the IDP for all postdocs supported by any NIH grant.

All new postdocs are required to complete the CITI course during their initial year of appointment. In addition, plans for ongoing RCR training must be discussed as part of the annual reappointment process. Additional information is located on this page.  

The department/program staff administrator will automatically receive a short questionnaire four months prior to the postdoc’s current appointment end date. Staff are responsible for consulting with the mentor to determine if the postdoc will be reappointed. 

If the postdoc will not be reappointed:

  • Department/program administrator terminates the postdoc via Oracle (VU) or ePac (VUMC).

If the postdoc will be reappointed:

  • Department/program administrator automatically receives the appropriate Reappointment Request Form.
  • Postdoc automatically receives the IDP.

 

Important: Both a completed, approved Reappointment Request Form and IDP are required in order to be reappointed. The postdoc is copied on the Home School Dean’s reappointment notification email when both items are submitted to OPA.

As soon as the OPA receives the completed Reappointment Request Form* from the home school dean’s office, reappointment letters are issued within seven days (typically, sooner).

*Note: reappointment requests forms cannot be submitted to the OPA until the annual IDP is completed. The most common reason for a delay in processing a reappointment letter is an unsubmitted IDP. 

A comprehensive listing of resources for postdocs can be found on the OPA web site here. The NIH Advanced Trainee Handbook, 2019 for Graduate Students, Postdocs, Research Fellows and Clinical Fellows and the National Postdoctoral Association are also good sources of information.

 

Departments/programs complete the appropriate new hire and payroll forms and processes required by human resources (VU or VUMC).

For VU Postdocs only: Bringing in a new postdoc (first time)- See the guide in the Oracle Help Center Hire a new postdoc

 

Postdoctoral Compensation

Vanderbilt policy requires all full-time postdocs (except for visiting postdocs) are compensated at the current, minimum level established by the NIH NRSA scale based on years of postdoc experience. This policy applies to postdocs who receive either a salary or a stipend. A postdoc salary/stipend may be supplemented at the request of the faculty mentor and approved by the respective dean of the postdoc's home department. For more information see OPA Stipends & Salaries.

When the NIH releases new stipend levels, a postdoc’s minimum annual salary/stipend will be increased to reflect the new level as follows:

Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (9145 VU) or Research Fellow (9132 VUMC):

When the NIH releases new FY rates, the OPA determines a specific date for using the new rates for all new appointments/reappointments received from that date onwards. This date is communicated by OPA to all schools and departments. The OPA does not reissue appointment/reappointment letters sent prior to the specified date. Any salary adjustments that a department chooses to make can be done at the department level through Oracle (VU postdocs) or ePac (VUMC postdocs).

 

Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (9146 VU) or Research Fellow Trainee (9134 VUMC):

When the most recent Notice of Award (NOGA) for a training grant or fellowship is awarded (and from what date), trainees should receive an increase. Specific questions regarding revised NOGA’s should be directed to the relevant program or training grant director.

Yes, postdocs who work less than full time (i.e., 40 hours per week) will have their salary or stipend prorated based upon the current minimum salary and years of experience. 

There are several important implications to understand when a postdoc changes from a salary-based compensation to a stipend payment or vice versa:

 

●      Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (VU: 9145) to Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (VU: 9146)

OR

●      Research Fellow (VUMC: 9132) to Research Fellow Trainee (VUMC: 9134)

Benefits

Eligibility for benefits (i.e., health insurance and other benefits) will change. Postdocs should carefully review eligibility for benefits by clicking the appropriate postdoc classification. In addition, because a postdoc’s current insurance deductibles and out-of-pocket costs do not roll over to a new insurance plan, a postdoc should discuss a classification change with their department in order to avoid any potential issues. (Link to question #18). 

Tax Withholding and Other Important Implications

●      Since a service-free stipend is not considered wages, social security deductions or withholding taxes are not taken out. However, service-free stipends may count as taxable income for income tax purposes. It is strongly recommended that postdocs consult the IRS and/or a tax professional to understand the tax implications (income and FICA) of their service-free stipend payments. Because interpretation of tax laws is the domain of the IRS, Vanderbilt cannot determine what an individual’s tax status may be or dispense tax advice.

●      The National Postdoctoral Association provides useful tax information for postdocs who receive a service-free stipend.

●      Postdocs who receive a service-free stipend may have child/dependent care tax implications. It is strongly recommended that postdocs consult a tax professional to understand the potential tax implications of their individual situation.

 

Postdoctoral Benefits

Eligibility for benefits is determined by a postdoc’s classification which is based on the funding source. Regardless of a postdoc’s classification, enrollment for benefits is required within 30 days of the start date (i.e., hire date).

 

Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (9145 VU) and Research Fellow (9132 VUMC) fall under the employee category and, therefore, are eligible for benefits provided by their respective Human  Resources Department. For information go to: OPA HR Benefits.

 

Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (9146 VU) and Research Fellow Trainee (9134 VUMC) fall under the non-employee classification and, therefore, are not eligible for employee benefits. Postdocs in these classifications should carefully review trainee health insurance benefits located at:  https://gradschool.vanderbilt.edu/postdoctoral/postdoctoral-scholars/hr/benefits.php. Click on the appropriate Non-Employee (VU or VUMC) information. The department staff administrator is responsible for submitting a Benefits Action Form to the OPA (VU trainees) or Karen DeFosse (VUMC trainees) by the deadlines noted on the BAF. Submission of the BAF is required to enroll postdocs in trainee health insurance (individual coverage only).

 

 

VU Postdoc Trainees:

The department staff administrator is responsible for submitting a Benefits Action Form to the OPA by the deadlines noted on the BAF. Submission of the BAF is required to enroll postdocs in trainee health insurance (individual coverage only). VU postdoc trainees cannot self-enroll for individual health insurance coverage. The OPA enrolls the postdoc and will send an enrollment confirmation email to the postdoc and department/program. Enrollment must occur within 30 days of the postdoc’s hire date. Postdocs are strongly encouraged to check with their department/program staff administrator to confirm an enrollment BAF was sent to the OPA. Once enrolled, trainees are responsible for enrolling their dependents for health insurance coverage within two weeks of the effective start date. Enrolling in optional dental and vision coverage is separate and independent of health insurance.

 

VUMC Postdoc Trainees:

The department staff administrator is responsible for submitting a Benefits Action Form to Karen DeFosse by the deadline noted on the BAF. Submission of the BAF is required. Karen DeFosse reviews and sends the BAF to Garnett-Powers confirming the postdoc’s eligibility. Once the department staff administrator submits the BAF to Karen DeFosse, the postdoc will receive an e-mail from their department staff administrator with a link to enroll in benefits.   The postdoc will enroll on the Garnett-Powers website and they will receive an automated confirmation from Garnett-Powers confirming submission. A second confirmation will be sent from Garnett-Powers once their enrollment with Aetna has been confirmed. Enrollment must occur within 30 days of the postdoc’s hire date. Postdocs are strongly encouraged to check with their department/program staff administrator to confirm an enrollment BAF was sent to Karen DeFosse. 

Because they are not considered ‘employees,’ postdoc trainees are not eligible for the following benefits:

Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (VU)

Life Insurance

Accidental Death & Dismemberment

Short-term Disability

Long-term Disability

Flexible Spending Accounts

Retirement Plan

 

Research Fellow Trainee (VUMC)

Short-term disability

Flexible Spending

Retirement

The department is billed for both individual and dependent trainee health insurance. While most departments pay for health insurance coverage, postdocs are responsible for discussing this with their mentor first. Any costs not covered by the department are the responsibility of the postdoc. If this occurs, the postdoc is responsible for reimbursing the department.

If the postdoc trainee’s fellowship/training grant has an Institutional Allowance (IA), funding for the postdoc’s individual coverage and for the Vanderbilt contribution to health insurance will be taken from the IA first and to the fullest extent possible. The postdoc may also choose to pay his/her premium (the “employee” or “payee” portion) from the IA, although the Vanderbilt portion will be extracted first - in other words, if there is not enough in the IA to cover both the Vanderbilt portion and the premium, the postdoc must pay the premium out of pocket.

The postdoc should choose to use the IA for health insurance – other institutional costs, such as lab supplies, may not take precedence over health insurance costs.

Due to federal requirements regarding employment status, postdocs classified as employees may receive a COBRA notice from their respective Human Resources Department if they transition from an eligible benefit status to non-eligible benefit status as long as they were enrolled in VU’s insurance plan prior to the change in benefit eligibility status.

 

For more information, contact:

https://hr.vanderbilt.edu/benefits/cobra.php 

https://hr.vanderbilt.edu/benefits/cobrafaq.php

Benefit Express administers the COBRA program for VU:  877.837.5017

 

 

Only postdocs who fall under the employee classification (Postdoctoral Scholar, Research/VU or Research Fellows/VUMC) are eligible. Since postdoc trainees are not considered employees, they are not eligible for the retirement plan.  

VU Postdoctoral Employees are eligible if they meet the criteria located at: Education Assistance Programs.

Because postdoc trainees are not employees, they are not eligible for the Education Assistance Programs.

Filing for unemployment benefits is up to the individual, not to the department or Vanderbilt.

●      Since Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (VU) or Research Fellow (VUMC) are former Vanderbilt employees, they are eligible for unemployment benefits. Each state determines eligibility based on the facts and circumstances around the individual’s employment. See Tennessee Unemployment Benefits.

●      Since Postdoctoral Scholars, Research (VU) or Research Fellows (VUMC) are not employees of Vanderbilt; rather, they are trainees of the funding agency and are unlikely to be eligible for unemployment benefits related to Vanderbilt at the end of their appointment. An individual who believes he/she may be eligible can apply for unemployment benefits and the State will determine his/her eligibility.

 

Orientation

●      All VU postdocs regardless of their classification/job code, including visiting postdocs, attend an OPA orientation which is held the 2nd Wednesday of each month. While not required, it is strongly recommended that postdocs attend orientation during their first month of employment. Your department administrator will register you for orientation. If you have not received confirmation of your registration, contact your staff administrator to make sure they have submitted your registration.

●      Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (9145 VU) and Research Fellow (9132 VUMC) also attend a mandatory Human Resources Benefits Orientation. Your department administrator will register you for this orientation.

The postdoc orientation covers a range of topics including an overview of Vanderbilt, resources and programs, VU and postdoc specific policies, an overview of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and the services/programs available to postdocs, information about the Vanderbilt Postdoctoral Association, how to stay connected, information for international postdocs and an overview of trainee benefits.

Orientation is held the 2nd Wednesday of each month from 9:00-10:30 a.m. For additional information, visit the OPA website.

Yes, but not through the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Orientation for VUMC postdocs is managed at the school/department level. Questions should be directed to sompostdocs@vanderbilt.edu.  

 

Paid Leave Time

No. Instead, all postdocs (except for visiting postdocs) earn five paid leave days prorated by quarters (October 1, January 1, April 1 and July 1). Paid leave must be used in the appointment year; it cannot be carried over. Paid leave can be used for scheduled absences such as vacation, extended parental leave and unscheduled illnesses/injuries. Paid leave must be approved by the PI/mentor. See HR Leave Policies for Postdocs for additional information.

Postdocs are not required to formally submit a record of any paid leave days that they take. VU postdocs have the option to record/submit time off in Oracle. There is no time off reporting system available for VUMC postdocs. However, it is good practice for postdocs to independently keep track of his/her paid leave for future reference. 

Yes, all earned paid leave days must be used in the postdoc’s appointment year. Unused paid leave days cannot be carried over into the next appointment year. Each fiscal year (i.e., July 1st), postdocs will start accruing paid leave days again (5 days per quarter). 

PI/mentors are strongly encouraged to allow postdocs who change institutions at Vanderbilt to use any remaining, earned paid leave days. If approved, this is treated as an informal agreement between the PI/mentor(s) and the postdoc.

Regardless of the postdoc’s classification, all requests for additional time off after exhausting paid leave day limits must be discussed and approved by the mentor/PI.

In addition:

●      Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (9145 VU) or Research Fellow (9132 VUMC) must follow VU or VUMC Human Resources employee policies and procedures.

●      Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee ( 9146 VU) or Research Fellow Trainee (9134 VUMC) who are an NIH NRSA recipient, must comply with NIH Grants Policies. Note: notices of policy changes in the NIH Grants & Contracts can supersede information in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

●      Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (9146 VU) or Research Fellow Trainee (9134 VUMC) who are a non-NIH NRSA recipient, should contact the OPA.  

●      For Postdoctoral Scholar, Research (9145 VU) and Research Fellow (9132 VUMC), a  two-week paid parental leave for eligible parents/spouses is available which must be used before the child is 12 weeks old. Postdocs should contact their respective human resources department who can assist you with determining your eligibility and completing required paperwork: VU Human Resources or VUMC Human Resources.   

●      Postdoctoral Scholar, Trainee (9146 VU) and Research Fellow Trainee (9134 VUMC)  do not accrue paid leave from Vanderbilt but are subject to the terms of the funding agency.

○      If you are a NRSA NIH recipient, see NIH Grant Policy, Sec.11.2.13.1 Parental Leave.

○      If you are not an NRSA NIH recipient contact the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (opa@vanderbilt.edu).  

●      Departmental staff and postdocs who have postdoc leave-related questions may contact the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (opa@vanderbilt.edu).

●      Effective March 2018, NIH posted a Summary of Leave, Part-Time, and Extension Policies available to Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) Trainees and Fellows. The notice includes details on part-time training, vacations and holidays, sick leave, parental leave, unpaid leave of absence, and extension of an award or appointment for interruptions in training. The details of NRSA policies can be found in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Yes, but leaves are determined by your postdoc classification. Information is located about specific leave policies (e.g., FMLA, parental leave, unpaid leave) in the HR Leave Policies for Postdocs.

 

Child and Family Care

Yes, all postdocs are eligible for resources and programs for child and family care within their respective institution by contacting:

VU:  https://www.vanderbilt.edu/child-family-center/child-care-center/.

VUMC: https://hr.vumc.org/cfc.

Yes, children are placed on a waitlist according to the date of the application. Opening are filled from the waiting list as soon as they become available.

To be placed on the waiting list, contact the Vanderbilt Child and Family center.

 

Submitting Grant Proposals

Yes. Postdocs should review the Guidelines for Postdocs Submitting Grants before beginning to prepare an application.

All postdocs (VU and VUMC) applying for external funding must submit their proposal for review and approval. VU postdocs submit to the Sponsored Program Administration (SPA). VUMC postdocs submit to the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP).   The departmental grants administrator will assist with the application process and will be the liaison between the applicant and the SPA or OSP office. The departmental grants administrator should be contacted by the postdoctoral fellows as soon as they decide to submit a grant application.

Regardless of the funding mechanism, all postdocs are required to submit the Fellowship/Grant Submission Form before submitting any grant application (including direct-to-individual funding).

Yes, except for visiting postdocs, a postdoc may serve as a PI. Postdocs should review the Guidelines for Postdocs Submitting Grants before preparing a grant proposal.

 

Travel Funds

Currently, the OPA does not offer travel funds for postdocs. Postdocs should check with their PI/mentor, department and/or school to see if funds for travel are available.     

 

Grievances

Yes, postdocs who believe they have been discriminated against, harassed or retaliated against on the basis of a protected class status as defined by VU or VUMC nondiscrimination policies, should contact:

VU postdocs: Vanderbilt University Equal Employment Office.

VUMC postdocs:  VUMC Human Resources.

 

All other grievances should follow the process outlined in the OPA Concerns and Complaint Resolution Policy.

 

Terminations

Mentors/PI’s must discuss proposed terminations in advance with the postdoc, department chair and/or respective school dean. At least two months in advance, written notice should be given to the postdoc. For more information, see the OPA Postdoc Termination Policy.

 

Visiting Postdocs

No, Visiting Research Fellows (9136 VU or VUMC) are not eligible for health insurance. Visiting postdocs must independently explore insurance options outside of Vanderbilt.

 

No, Visiting Research Fellows (9136 VU or VUMC) are not eligible for Vanderbilt-sponsored benefits. Visiting postdocs can independently explore insurance options outside of Vanderbilt.

 

While Visiting Research Fellows (9136 VU or VUMC) are not eligible for paid time off under Vanderbilt policy, this can be discussed with your PI/mentor.    

Yes, visiting postdocs are invited to attend all the programs and events promoted by the OPA.

 

For Prospective Postdocs

The candidate must have a graduate degree (i.e., Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate degree such as Sc.D., M.D., PharmD, J.D.). Additional information is located in the Appointment and Reappointment Guide for Faculty and Staff Administrators.

No, the OPA only appoints postdocs who will primarily be engaged in research activities for the purpose of becoming an independent researcher. Individuals engaged in clinical training are not considered research postdocs. Clinical residencies/fellowships are considered house staff and are appointed by the Office of Graduate Medical Education at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). For additional information, contact the Office of Graduate Medical Education.

Vanderbilt does not currently utilize an online, centralized application system for postdocs.

Applicants apply directly to the hiring PI/mentor. See Vanderbilt’s Postdoc Job Opportunities for additional information. 

Most mentors require a cover letter and a current curriculum vitae. However, postdocs are advised to review specific job application details at Vanderbilt’s Postdoc Job Opportunities or by contacting the mentor directly.

Several factors impact how long it can take the first time a postdoc is appointed at Vanderbilt. For example, if the postdoc has not successfully completed all the requirements for a doctorate degree (i.e., defended) or if the postdoc’s degree has not been conferred (link to FAQ degree verification section). Other factors that impact the process are how long it takes for a department to complete and submit the required forms or if the appointee requires a visa or employment authorization (link to FAQ visa section).  

If the appointee has completed all the requirements for a terminal degree from a USA institution, the process takes approximately 4-6 weeks. Appointees with a terminal degree from outside the USA can take a minimum of 8 weeks.

Vanderbilt Human Resources (VU and VUMC) requires degree verification as part of the background check for all initial, first-time appointed postdocs.      

Terminal Degree Verification Process:

Domestic Appointees: When a doctorate degree from a US institution has not been conferred yet, the background check will not be able to verify a terminal degree. When this occurs, a form and letter from the awarding institution certifying the postdoc appointee successfully completed all the requirements of a doctorate/terminal degree along with the expected conferral date is required. The OPA and hiring department will send you additional instructions as part of the hiring process.  

International Degree Holding Appointees: Since both VU and VUMC background check vendors cannot verify international degrees, verification must be obtained from a source such as the World Education Services, Center for Educational Documentation, or Global Credential Evaluators, Inc. The postdoc appointee receives instructions for ordering a degree verification report when they receive the background check from OPA. Original reports must be sent directly to OPA. The World Education Services (WES) is recommended as the preferred service for degree verifications reports as Vanderbilt has access to real-time applicant evaluation updates and online delivery of completed evaluations.