III-5 Postdoctoral Scholars and Fellows

III-5  Postdoctoral Scholars 

(President 3/79; amended 10/94; 10/04; 8/09; 5/15; 5/17; 11/5/21)

Effective November 5, 2021, this policy has been revised. For the most current version without redlining, return to III-5.

5.1 Employment Eligibility

  1. All newly appointed University employees must have their identity and their eligibility to work in the United States verified. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Form I-9 is used to verify the employee's identify and eligibility to work.
  2. The I-9 form must be completed by the third day of employment. Failure to complete the I-9 form in a timely manner or at all may subject the hiring department to penalties and fines from the federal government for failing to provide proof of work authorization. If a person is appointed who is not eligible to work, their employment must be terminated immediately upon learning they are not authorized to work. It is the hiring department's responsibility to ensure that a completed I-9 form is submitted to the Payroll Office.

5.2 Definitions and Classification

(Amended 11/5/21)

  1. Postdoctoral scholars and fellows at The University of Iowa are recognized as persons engaged primarily in research, as part of a continuum of post-Baccalaureate education and training, unique from either students or faculty members. The individual's classification, responsibilities, and benefits have been tailored to this unique status. As a postdoctoral scholar or fellow at The University of Iowa, they have access to many some of the opportunities and services we make available to students and have available several some of the benefits provided to faculty.

    "Postdoctoral scholar" and "postdoctoral fellow" is a general are terms used at The University of Iowa to designate temporary, doctoral-level researchers engaged in advanced education and training designed to prepare for an academic and/or research career. The University recognizes two classifications of postdoctoral scholars appointees, depending on the sources of their stipend and research funding, and the nature of their research activities.
    1. Postdoctoral research scholars are engaged in research supported by external grants or contracts or by University of Iowa General Education funds that may be made available to faculty members. This type of appointment is used for those not on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Research Service Award (NRSA) grant. Persons Individuals appointed under this classification (appointment code FP01) have specific responsibilities and research expectations directly related to the grant, contract, or University-funded program.
    2. Postdoctoral research fellows are supported by fellowships (generally awarded to them individually) that allow them to pursue research with a faculty member and a host institution of their choice NIH National Research Service Award (NRSA) grants. While the funding agency, department, or institution may expect some specific duties or research products, such expectations are usually incidental to the award.  The primary obligation to accomplish the aims of the fellowship rests with the fellow (appointed under code FP02). 
  2. Length of appointment. Postdoctoral Research scholars and postdoctoral Research fellows are temporary appointments at The University of Iowa. The postdoctoral experience at The University of Iowa will not extend past five years, unless there are unusual circumstances. The department would need to send justification of extending this appointment for approval to the Associate Provost for Graduate and Professional Education.

5.3 Registration and Certification

  1. University registration and records. Whatever the classification of the appointment, the individual has a special status of Postdoctoral Scholar within the Graduate College, which has the responsibility for administering postdoctoral education. A transcript will be created by the Office of the Registrar to record Postdoctoral appointment status. Following the postdoctoral appointment, some employers, including the federal government, may require or request such documentation as a condition of employment.

    The transcript record also includes any courses that the individual takes while at The University of Iowa. They may enroll in the following courses without tuition or fee assessment: 650:604 Principles of Scholarly Integrity, 650:605 Writing for Learned Journals, and 650:606 Research Skills. If the individual wishes to register for any other course work, they must be admitted to the University as a non-degree, graduate special student (G9). Enrollment under this classification will generate tuition and fees, for which the individual will be responsible.
  2. Certification of postdoctoral work. The University Registrar will, upon request, issue a certificate recognizing postdoctoral education, provided the appointment was for one semester or longer. The University transcript also will reflect the beginning and ending dates of the postdoctoral appointment.

5.4 Benefits, Social Security, and Retirement

(Amended 5/15; 5/17)

  1. Health and Dental Insurance: Postdoctoral Research Scholars/Fellows hired into these positions may enroll in UIGRADCare, the Student Health Insurance Program (SHIP), and Student Dental. The University contribution toward the cost of coverage will be as follows: 90 percent of the cost for a single health insurance plan, 70 percent for coverage of family members; 85 percent of the cost for a single dental plan, 70 percent for coverage of family members.

    The University Benefits Office will send a packet of materials at the time the appointment begins. This will include rates, information, and an enrollment form to complete and return. Information on the plans can also be reviewed at the insurance section of this website.

    Individuals who do not receive a salary with their fellowship are still eligible to purchase coverage at their own expense. They should contact the University Benefits Office for the necessary application forms once the appointment has been entered on the University's payroll system by their department.
  2. Health and Dependent Care Spending Accounts: Any Scholar or Fellow who has taxable income may participate in these accounts. For more information on them, along with the advantages of participating and the enrollment process, search for "Spending Accounts" on the Benefits website.
  3. Disability and Workers' Compensation: Postdoctoral Scholars are covered by Workers' Compensation. Postdoctoral Fellows, however, are not covered. Since this type of appointment is not classified as a University employee, Fellows are not entitled to disability insurance.
  4. Social Security and Retirement: All Postdoctoral Research Scholars (FP01) who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents are required to participate in one of the following retirement programs: either Iowa Public Employees Retirement Systems (IPERS) or the Funded Retirement Plan (TIAA). Postdoctoral Research Scholars (FP01) who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents are required to participate in the Funded Retirement Plan (TIAA). 

    Postdoctoral Research Scholars also have the option to participate in the Voluntary Retirement Savings Program (VRSP) if they have taxable income. Information on this program is available on the retirement section of the Benefits website under "Saving Extra for Retirement." Scholars or Fellows who receive salary may participate in the Roth 403b plan described on the Benefits website, even if they do not have taxable income.

    Postdoctoral Research Fellows (FP02) are exempt from payment of FICA (Social Security) and Medicare taxes; therefore, they are also exempt from the payroll deduction for retirement either with IPERS or TIAA. Federal and state tax deductions will not be withheld from paychecks; however, the individual may still be responsible for payment of taxes. Individuals in this category are not eligible to participate in a VRSP.
  5. Paid Leave: Postdoctoral Scholars at The University of Iowa are entitled to annual paid leave of 15 working days and annual sick leave of 18 working days but do not accrue vacation and are not entitled to vacation pay. The agency supporting a Postdoctoral Fellow may require different policies. The appointing department is responsible for arranging and accounting of leave for Postdoctoral Scholars.
  6. Access to University Facilities and Activities: The Postdoctoral Scholar's University identification card is their key to University services. This identification card provides access to library and information resources, recreational services, cultural and athletic events, as well as the ability to charge items to their University billing account.

5.5 5.4 Administration of Appointment

(Amended 11/5/21)

The Graduate College is responsible for administrative matters relating to postdoctoral education at The University of Iowa and is the primary contact regarding the postdoctoral educational experience. The Graduate College also provides or can arrange for counseling, mediation, or other services for postdoctoral scholars and fellows. Questions regarding the policies, benefits, and services applicable or available to postdoctoral scholars and fellows should be directed to the Graduate College. Questions particular to the appointment, its terms, requirements, or limitations should be directed to the faculty advisor or the appointing department.