Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs

Section 3: Postdoctoral Trainee Appointment Policies

Definition of a Postdoctoral Appointee

It is recommended that the postdoctoral title be reserved for individuals that have recently received their qualifying terminal degree. Individuals several years past this degree should already be in a permanent career track and not considered trainees. This appointment is, by nature, preparatory and therefore there is an obligation for the institution, school, department and faculty mentor to provide training. The following definition has been adopted for all postdoctoral fellows at the University of Pennsylvania:

A postdoctoral appointee is a person who has recently earned a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent doctoral degree, and who joins the University of Pennsylvania to perform research full-time under the supervision of a member of the faculty. The position can be held at the University of Pennsylvania for up to five years irrespective of prior experience at other institutions and is meant to provide additional research and/or scholarly training in preparation for a position in academe, industry, or government.

Stipend Levels

Minimum stipend levels are mandated for all postdoctoral appointees. BPP stipends are based on the current NRSA stipends. The minimum levels for the first year of post-doctoral experience at PENN is the current NRSA year 00 level; for each additional year of post-doctoral experience at PENN, the postdoctoral fellow’s stipend should increase according to the NRSA levels up to year 04. It is important to remember that recommended stipend levels represent minimums and increments for prior post-doctoral research experience should be awarded up to the NRSA maximum, which is attained in year 07. Penn investigators are also expected to comply with any postdoctoral stipend guidelines that are promulgated by their sponsors, if these sponsor-specified guidelines exceed the Penn minimum stipend levels.

Sick Leave Policy

Because postdoctoral appointments are considered training positions and are not traditional staff positions, postdocs are not eligible for full-time employment benefits. However, this does not mean that they should not receive adequate benefits. The following addition to the Postdoctoral Policy as it applies to BPP postdoctoral appointees has been adopted:

Postdoctoral appointees may continue to receive stipends for up to 15 University business days of sick leave per year. Postdoctoral appointees forfeit any unused sick leave at the end of the appointment year. Under exceptional circumstances, a period of leave due to illness or incapacity may be extended at the discretion of the mentor. Mentors may request medical documentation from a health care provider for any extended absence. Additional sick leave may be approved in the discretion of the mentor.

Vacation Policy

The following minimum vacation policy has been adopted:

Vacation and Mentor-Approved Flexibility of Observed Holidays and Winter Break

In any appointment year, a PDT may elect to take up to ten University business days as paid vacation days, on which days the PDT will continue to receive his or her stipend. PDTs are also entitled to the eight official holidays observed by the University and are eligible to take the University’s special winter vacation, during which time the University is typically closed. If a PDT wishes to work and/or perform research during an official holiday or special winter vacation, s/he can use the equivalent time as additional paid vacation days. PDTs forfeit any unused vacation days or holidays at the end of any appointment year.  All vacation must be approved in advance by the mentor; additional vacation may be approved at the mentor’s discretion. 

New Child Leave Policy

The following addition to the postdoctoral policy has been adopted:

Postdoctoral appointees may continue to receive stipends for no more than 60 calendar days of leave per appointment year for adoption or birth of a child. Either parent is eligible. Postdoctoral appointees must discuss the use of new child leave in advance with the mentor. A mentor may not deny a request to use new child leave without the authorization of the appropriate administrative office. Unused sick leave or vacation may, with approval, be used to extend the period of new child leave. Additional new child leave may be approved at the discretion of the mentor.

Unpaid Leave

Postdoctoral appointees requesting extended periods of time away from their training experience, including leave in excess of available sick and/or parental leave, must obtain approval for a leave of absence without stipend continuation. Approval for such leave must be requested and approved by the mentor in advance.

Terminal Leave

A period of terminal leave is not permitted.

Termination for Cause

The existing University-wide Postdoc Policy stipulates that the mentor can only terminate postdoctoral appointments with three months written notice. This protects the postdoc from unfair dismissal. However, rare circumstances may arise where immediate dismissal is appropriate. The following addition to the postdoctoral policy as it applies to BPP postdoctoral appointees has been adopted:

Gross violations of postdoctoral obligations as indicated in the Policy for Postdoctoral Fellows at the University of Pennsylvania (Almanac September 7, 2004) may be grounds for immediate dismissal. Such situations must be reviewed with BPP. Other University administrative offices will be consulted as necessary.

Recommended Postdoctoral Notice of Resignation

In the event that a postdoc resigns prior to the end of his or her appointment, it is appropriate and professional to provide as much notice as possible prior to leaving the laboratory. This time period should allow the postdoc to successfully complete or transition any ongoing projects. We strongly recommend that all BPP postdoctoral appointees follow the following guideline:

When a postdoctoral appointee chooses to resign from his or her position prior to the end of the appointment period as indicated in his or her postdoctoral appointment letter, it is expected that he or she will provide at least one month’s notice. Upon leaving the laboratory, a postdoc has an obligation to leave the original notebooks, data and reagents in a state that will allow continuation of the project and ensures compliance with the Intellectual Property Policy and other relevant policies of the University.

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