Definition of "Postdoc" at UVa

At the University of Virginia we define a postdoctoral traineeship as an appointment that is temporary and conferred upon an individual who has recently been awarded a Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate in the appropriate field and who will be involved in full-time research and scholarship. The appointment is viewed as preparatory for a range of careers, including full-time academic or research careers, and is supervised by a senior scholar. The appointee has the freedom, and is expected, to publish the results of his/her research and scholarship during the period of the appointment. The postdoctoral appointment is renewed annually with a target length of appointment of three years.

At UVa a postdoc generally falls into one of two classifications, depending on the source of her or his funding.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Postdoctoral Fellow is the title given to postdocs who are funded through sources such as training grants, external foundations, foreign governments, or a different primary employer (e.g. foreign hospital), and who choose to carry out their training and research at the University of Virginia. In many such cases due to the requirements of the funding source (e.g. NIH training grant) as well as University regulations, fellows cannot be considered UVa employees, but are fully affiliated with the university and the postdoctoral community.

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Research Associate is the title given to postdocs who are affiliated with the university as employees. In these cases the source of funds does not restrict direct payment/employment from the university. Postdoctoral research associates are part of the University's Professional Research Staff (PRS). Other categories of the Professional Research Staff include Research Scientists, Senior Scientists, and Principal Scientists.  

Policy on Professional Research Staff

Research Associates at the University of Virginia are governed by the Policy on Professional Research Staff and are encouraged to become familiar with the policy. Common questions regarding the policy for Research Associates include PI status for grants and teaching. The relevant passages regarding these questions from the Policy document are as follows: 

In certain circumstances, members of the Professional Research Staff may serve as principal investigator (PI) on grants and contracts. While service as PI is generally limited to elected members of the faculty, exceptions may be made in accordance with established policies and procedures. (Refer to the policy on Grants and Contracts – Definition, Solicitation, Clearance, and Acceptance and Procedure 8-8: Request for an Individual Not Meeting Policy Criteria to Serve as a Principal Investigator).

It is not uncommon for members of the Professional Research Staff, particularly Postdoctoral Research Associates, to accept a relevant University teaching assignment during the term of employment. To be eligible for such an assignment, the individual must receive a concurrent non-tenure-track faculty appointment – as a lecturer – for the duration of the teaching assignment. The faculty appointment shall be terminated at the conclusion of the teaching assignment. (Refer to the policy on Appointment of Unpaid Faculty.)  


Postdoctoral Extension Policy and Procedures

In accordance with the Policy on Professional Research Staff, postdoctoral appointments are limited to a maximum, inclusive of all postdoctoral service at the University, of three one-year terms. With appropriate approvals, an extension may be granted. Documentation must be provided to justify that the nature of employment continues to be training-related and that an extension is beneficial to the postdoctoral research associate, the faculty mentor (principal investigator/supervisor), and the University. If the extension is approved, the maximum duration of the extension is two additional one-year terms. In unique circumstances (e.g., illness, family leave, discipline-specific factors contributing to career development, etc.), extensions may be granted beyond five years. Prior to submission of this form, it is expected that the faculty mentor and the postdoctoral research associate will have met to discuss training- and career-related goals. The faculty mentor and the postdoctoral research associate also are encouraged to complete an individual development plan (IDP), though it is not required as part of an extension request. A sample IDP may be found at  http://postdoc.virginia.edu/postdoc-resources/idp. Upon completion of this form, it should be submitted by the appropriate dean/vice president (or designee) to Postdoctoral Programs, in the Office of the Vice President for Research. The form can be submitted by messenger mail to P.O. Box 400882; by fax to (434)-243-2140; or by e-mail to postdoc@virginia.edu. Requests should be submitted no later than two months prior to the expiration of the current appointment. Decisions may be expected within 10 working days from the initial date of receipt. The form is available here.