New Postdoc Arrival Checklist

New Postdoc Arrival Checklist

Welcome, We are so pleased you're joining the University of Pennsylvania as a new Postdoctoral Trainee (PDT). The information below will be help serve as a general guide to help you complete the tasks needed to make sure that you get off to a successful start. Please note that your appointment by your department or school administrator may have more specific instructions that you should follow. Some items on this list will not apply to everyone.

Important steps upon arriving at Penn:

  1. Contact your faculty mentor and departmental business office before your first day and find out if you need to do anything before your start date.
  2. Get your PennCard at the PennCard Center, located on the second floor of the Penn Bookstore (corner of 36th St. and Walnut St.).
  3. Activate your PennKey
  4. On your first day of work, you must complete your I-9 form in Workday@Penn, then bring your required documentation to the Onboard@Penn Center.
  5. Enroll in your health benefits within the Penn enrollment period. Review the available plan charts in the Postdoctoral Researchers and Fellows Benefits Enrollment Guide.
  6. International postdoctoral trainees (PDTs) must visit Penn International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) within 14 days of arrival.
  7. If offered attend an orientation held by your specific school, center, department, lab, etc.
  8. Go to Workday Learning @ Penn, to self-identify most of your required research- and financial-related training needs.
  9. Review the Office of the Vice Provost for Research Training and Compliance website to complete a training assessment. 
  10. Apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or U.S. Social Security number (if eligible). See the Penn ISSS Tax information website for more information.



The PennCard is the official University of Pennsylvania identification card for members of the Penn community. New PDTs are eligible for a PennCard when their payroll record has been processed and approved by the University, which will typically occur within a few days of the start date. Once eligible, new PDTs should visit the PennCard Center (located inside the Barnes and Noble Bookstore, 36th and Walnut St., second floor) with a valid form of photo ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.), where their photograph will be taken and a PennCard issued. There is no charge for the initial card. Visit the PennCard website for more information


PennKey is the University of Pennsylvania’s system for securing critical online services. The PennKey system is required to authenticate an individual’s identity to many of Penn’s networked systems and services.

New PDTs are eligible for a PennKey when their Workday record has been established by the school. Once eligible, visit the PennKey website to register your PennKey and set a PennKey password.

PennKey Two-Step Verification

All PennKey holders are required to enroll in Two-Step Verification to protect their personal data and improve the University’s overall security. Two-Step Verification provides an added layer of protection when accessing PennKey-protected websites and applications. With Two-Step, after logging in with your PennKey and password you’ll be prompted to verify your identity – the second step – using a device in your possession, such as a mobile phone.

Two-Step is easy to use and provides numerous verification options, so you’ll always be able to access your data, even if you’re not connected to a cellular data or WiFi network. With Two-Step, your data is protected, even if your PennKey password is compromised.

To enroll in Two-Step, visit:

For more information about how to enroll in and use Two-Step, and how to manage your Two-Step settings, consult the Two-Step Overview and FAQ.


New PDTs will receive information via emails from the Business Administrator in their school, center, department, lab, etc. once their appointment has been confirmed.

Once the new PDT has completed the necessary paperwork and submitted it to their Business Administrator, the new PDT will receive information via emails generated by Workday, Penn’s human resources and financial processes platform. These emails will provide on-boarding instructions, including instructions on how to make an appointment at Onboard@Penn, which will facilitate the process of payroll form completion.

When visiting the Onboard@Penn Center, new PDTs should bring all personal identification documents (passport, etc.), as well as a copy of their offer letter. Non-Resident Aliens should refer to the Onboard@Penn site for a list of required documents. Please note that new regulations require that all new employees must present a social security card for photocopying and submission to the Penn records office. Please consult with the Onboard@Penn Center if a social security card/number is not available.

PDTs are paid monthly, on the last weekday of each month.


Workday@Penn is a single platform for human capital management related processes such as compensation and payroll. 

As a postdoctoral trainee, you have the self-service tools and capabilities of all University community members to view/change your personal information, compensation, and direct deposit information (known as pay elections in Workday).

Building Access

Entry into Penn buildings require activation of your Penn ID Card. Each school, department or building has designated Penn employees who can approve requests for an individual’s access to a particular door or location. These persons are Building Managers.  

To locate the appropriate individual listed for your building, please visit the Facilities Contacts page. As a note, this site is only available with your PennKey.

Appointment and Resignation

Letter of Appointment

When a faculty member offers an appointment to a postdoctoral trainee (PDT) candidate, a letter should be written to the candidate prior to the commencement of training. This letter should set forth the period of appointment (dates of appointment), the stipend amount, any benefits, and a statement that the candidate’s appointment is subject to all University policies. The letter must be accompanied by a copy of the University Patent Policy and the corresponding Participation Agreement. If the appointment is renewed or extended, that action should be documented by a letter, which includes the aforementioned information. 

The candidate must return a countersigned copy of each letter of appointment or renewal indicating acceptance of the terms set forth, as well as a signed Patent Policy Participation Agreement. The letters (countersigned copies) and signed agreement or electronic record of the appointment/agreement should be maintained by the office of the appropriate department. If the faculty member is not affiliated with a specific department, the file may be kept in the office of the institute or center with which the faculty member is associated. The letters of appointment and renewal should indicate whether the mentor has available funding to fulfill the terms of the appointment; if not, the letter should indicate the duration of assured funding. When the appointment is to be coterminous with external funding, research grant, contract, training grant, etc., that fact should be included in the letter of appointment, including the end date of the funding even if renewal is expected.

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Proof of Doctoral Degree 

Eligibility for appointment as a postdoctoral trainee (PDT) requires a candidate to hold, or to have completed the requirements for, an advanced degree, e.g., Ph.D., MD, or equivalent. Candidates from non-U.S. universities must hold advanced degrees equivalent to those awarded in U.S. institutions in order to qualify for an appointment as a postdoctoral trainee. It is the candidate’s responsibility to provide transcripts and/or a diploma certifying that the postdoc has received their degree, and although this may be delegated, it is the mentor’s responsibility to review this documentation and ensure that it is satisfactory and included in the candidate’s file. Candidates who have completed the requirements for an advanced degree, but not yet been awarded such degree, must be able to demonstrate in a manner verifiable by the University that such requirements have been completed. In no event shall a postdoctoral trainee (PDT) be reappointed without the degree having been awarded.

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Duration of Appointment

Postdoctoral trainee (PDT) appointments are for one year and may be renewed annually based on satisfactory performance and availability of funding. Under current University policy, the cumulative PDT experience should not exceed five years in total. Under exceptional circumstances, such as a prolonged period of leave (e.g., extended medical leave) or other extraordinary situation (e.g., pandemic) during any of these five years, upon request of a faculty mentor, an extension may be granted by the appropriate Dean or Vice Provost for Research. 

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Notice of Resignation

Postdoctoral trainees (PDTs) are expected to provide at least 20 business days’ notice of resignation provided to both the mentor and the department or school business office. When appropriate to the discipline, it is the obligation of the PDT to ensure that all research materials and records/databases are left in a state to allow continuation of the project. Records include both hard copies and electronic materials, properly labeled and shared in secure servers as per laboratories/funding source protocols.

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Mentors may terminate a postdoctoral trainee (PDT) during an appointment period for any reason with three months’ written notice. The letter of termination must state the reason for termination using the PDT obligations as guidelines (see below). 

Under certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to terminate a PDT immediately. Such circumstances may include (but are not limited to) gross or willful misconduct, gross insubordination, prohibited harassment, unethical behavior (including disclosure or misuse of confidential information, misuse of University resources, or other violations of University policy). In such event, an appropriate administrative office (e.g., The Office of the Vice Provost for Research) must be consulted and approve the termination.

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Stipend Level 

Minimum stipend levels for postdoctoral trainees (PDTs) are set annually by the Vice Provost for Research, 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. 

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Obligations & Responsibilities

Obligations of Mentors

Effective mentoring is critically important to both the postdoctoral training experience and the faculty mentor. According to research, postdoctoral trainees (PDTs) reporting the greatest amount of structured oversight and formal training are much more likely to say they are satisfied, to give their advisors high ratings, to experience relatively few conflicts with their advisors, and to be more productive in terms of numbers of publications compared with those with the least oversight and training.

Penn encourages all faculty mentors to view their postdoctoral trainees (PDTs) as trainees, whom they are supporting their career development through adequate mentoring and not inexpensive lab workers. 

Mentors’ responsibilities include:

  • Developing in consultation with the PDTs a mutually satisfactory research project or scholarly program;
  • Encouraging PDTs to present their work and publish their results in a timely fashion
  • Encouraging PDTs to acquire and enhance their knowledge and technical skills as dictated by their current and future needs
  • Arrangement and oversight of teaching opportunities as appropriate to their discipline and program
  • Encouraging PDTs to apply for training and research support as appropriate
  • Meeting regularly with their PDTs to discuss progress in their research
  • Providing an annual review of performance that includes the creation and discussion of the individualized development plan (IDP) or equivalent performance document
  • Ensuring that PDTs are aware of University policies regarding postdoctoral training and are instructed about research policies of the University
  • Providing career counseling

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Obligations of Postdoctoral Fellows

Postdoctoral trainees (PDTs) have certain obligations to their mentor, the group in which they are working, the department with which they are associated, the sponsor whose funds support them, and the University. These obligations include but are not limited to:

  • The conscientious discharge of their research, scholarly, and teaching responsibilities, as applicable
  • Conformity with ethical standards in research and scholarship
  • Compliance with good scholarly practice, including the maintenance of adequate research records
  • Observation of appropriate guidelines regarding human subjects and due observation of University standards regarding use of isotopes, chemicals, infectious agents, animals, and the like, if applicable
  • Open and timely discussion with their mentor regarding possession or distribution of tangible property such as materials, reagents, and the like
  • Discussion of laboratory records or scholarly materials, if relevant
  • Prior disclosure of appropriate scholarly information, findings, or techniques proposed for dissemination privately, at scholarly meetings, or in publications
  • Collegial conduct toward all members of the University community
  • Compliance with all applicable University policies
  • Completing IDPs or equivalent performance appraisal with mentor yearly at the beginning of each appointment year starting year 2
  • Attending a minimum required contact hours of Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training per career stage.

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Extramural Activities

At times Postdoctoral trainees (PDTs) may wish to engage in activities outside of the University and/or beyond the scope of their appointment. Before undertaking such activity, the PDT 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 PDT. These activities may not give rise to a conflict of interest or divert or diminish the training of the PDT, and they should be reviewed regularly if approved. Approval may be withdrawn if the activity no longer is appropriate under the policy or interferes with the PDT’s appointment. It is the PDT’s responsibility to update this document and notify their mentor should there be any changes.

Research Records

Primary research records created by Postdoctoral trainees (PDTs) 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 PDT leaves. If a PDT obtains written permission from their mentor, they may retain a copy of such records as agreed upon by the mentor and the PDT. 

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 PDTs 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).

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Salaries & Taxes

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research, in consultation with the Provost Council on Research, is responsible for setting minimum stipend levels for postdoctoral trainees across the University.  The levels are informed by federal agency guidance, foundation requirements, and national trends. This annual process facilitates equal treatment of postdoctoral compensation across the University. The Tax and International Operations Office is the University-designated expert for all tax-related issues. Foreign Nationals are encouraged to contact them directly for questions related to tax laws and treaties.

Postdoctoral Classifications at Penn

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) at Penn fall into one of three categories. These categories are assigned to a postdoctoral position based on the source of funding. The category of postdoctoral trainee determines certain benefit eligibility and tax requirements. For questions about your postdoctoral classification, please contact your department or the school’s business administrator.

Postdoctoral Researcher

A Post-Doctoral Researcher is an individual who comes to the University for the principal purpose of furthering his/her personal development by engaging in research programs. A post-doctoral researcher holds a post-baccalaureate degree, normally the highest degree earned in the field. The normal source of funding is a research grant.

Postdoctoral Fellow (Non-NRSA)

A Non-NRSA Post-Doctoral Fellow is an individual who comes to the University for the principal purpose of furthering his/her personal development through participation in advanced training programs. The post-doctoral fellow holds a post-baccalaureate degree, normally the highest degree earned in the field. Funding is provided by a private foundation or non-profit charitable organization such as the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and similar types of organizations.

NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow

NRSA Post-Doctoral Fellows are individuals who come to the University for the principal purpose of furthering their personal development through participation in advanced training programs. They hold post-baccalaureate degrees, normally the highest degree earned in the field. The source of funding is an individual or institutional National Research Service Award from the federal government to support the individual’s training.

Stipend Levels

Stipends funded partly or wholly from the NIH must follow the current NIH NRSA minimum stipend guidelines. See:

The stipend levels starting July 1, 2022 (FY2023) are listed below.

Years of Experience Stipend Level
0 $54,840
1 $55,224
2 $55,632 
3 $57,852 
4 $59,784

Stipends should be adjusted upwards at the time of the annual postdoctoral reappointment.

Penn investigators are also expected to comply with any postdoctoral stipend guidelines promulgated by their sponsors if sponsor-specified guidelines exceed the Penn minimum stipend levels.

For stipend levels from previous fiscal years, please see below:

 Postdoctoral Stipend Levels for FY2022

 Postdoctoral Stipend Levels for FY2021

 Postdoctoral Stipend Levels for FY2020

Taxes & Withholdings

Stipends paid to postdoctoral researchers and non-NRSA post-doctoral fellows are compensatory in nature and are considered wages for Federal income and FICA tax withholding. Stipends paid to NRSA post-doctoral fellows continue to be considered non-compensatory and are therefore not considered wages for Federal income or FICA tax withholding purposes.  

All post-doctoral stipends are taxable for Pennsylvania personal income tax and subject to withholding. The stipends are also taxable for the Pennsylvania State Unemployment tax. 

In addition, all post-doctoral stipends are subject to City of Philadelphia wage taxes and withholding.  

Although no reporting or withholding is required for National Research Service Award (NRSA) postdoctoral appointments, NRSA Fellows must report and pay federal income tax on any payments in excess of tuition, fees, books, and certain other expenses. For additional information regarding an NRSA Fellow’s responsibility for reporting such payments, please consult IRS Publication 970: Tax Benefits for Education. Further, there are special rules for nonresident aliens. For more information on tax treatment for nonresident aliens, please consult the IRS Publication 519: U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens. 

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For general information regarding your postdoctoral classification and tax requirements, please contact your department or school’s business administrator or the Penn Employee Solution Center 

For local IRS Office information, click here 

Please consult a tax professional if you have any questions regarding your personal tax situation.  

Training & Research Compliance

Penn is committed to upholding the highest ethical and professional standards in research endeavors and ensures investigators are educated in "best practices." The Vice Provost for Research encourages all Penn constituents to take advantage of the University’s RCR training opportunities.

Responsible Conduct of Research

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training is mandated for undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and faculty funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH RCR Notice) training grants and career awards. RCR training is also required for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF RCR Notice).  See also our page on Research Related Training.

Additional References: 

Office of the Vice Provost for Research | NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy (2023)
Biomedical Graduate Studies RCR & SRR
Principles of Responsible Conduct
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
NIH Guidelines
NIH Annual Review of Ethics (Case Studies)
Office of Research Integrity
ORI Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research

School & Center Specific Training

Depending on your school affiliation, career stage and type of funding, you may be required to complete an on-line RCR course offered by Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI), as well as participate in other program-specific types of training. 

Human Subject Research Training: The Institutional Review Board mandates training for investigators, research staff, and students engaged in human research.

Animal Research Training: The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee requires that all personnel involved in animal use and research be appropriately trained and qualified. Personnel who will handle animals must complete hands-on training classes provided by University Laboratory Animal Resources.

Sponsored Research Training: The Office of Research Services sponsors mandatory and optional training programs for all individuals involved in sponsored research activities.

Safety: The Office of Environmental Health & Radiation Safety has training programs for all personnel who work in research laboratories, or work with hazardous substances, radioactive materials or radiation producing equipment

You should consult your mentor, school, center, department, etc. for specific training requirements.

For additional guidance:

Workday Learning

Workday Learning connects University faculty, postdocs, staff, students, and other workers and affiliates with their required job-related training and learning opportunities directly from Workday, the University’s human capital management platform.

Workday Learning replaced Knowledge Link as the University’s administrative learning management system (LMS).

Penn Knowledge Link for University and UPHS Dual Users

The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) will continue to use Knowledge Link. For those University and Health System faculty, staff, and others who work in both environments, “dual affiliates”, a new learning portal provides secure, one-stop access to both Workday Learning and Knowledge Link.  The new portal can be accessed via the Knowledge Link login page, which was updated on March 6. Read more about the changes on the UPHS website.

The University and the Health System have been working together to enable a seamless transition, enhanced user experience, and efficient training content and data sharing, including compliance reporting.