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Converting to Postdoctoral Studies (GAP 5.10)

Document 5.10

Converting to Postdoctoral Studies

Current version

April 8, 2009

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To graduating Stanford doctoral students and to the programs in which they are appointed as Postdoctoral Scholars

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This handbook is a reference for Stanford faculty, staff and students. Where the current Stanford University Bulletin includes coverage of these topics, the current Bulletin is the governing policy. Stanford University reserves the right to make changes to its applicable policies, procedures and other materials contained here at any time and without prior notice.


Defines postdoctoral scholars as advanced trainees, classified by Stanford as nonmatriculated graduate students in residence at Stanford for a period of time beyond the completion of the doctoral degree. Describes the process for appointing graduating Stanford doctoral students as postdoctoral scholars.


Stanford’s academic and research community is enriched by the presence of postdoctoral researchers appointed for a period of time both to advance their own professional development and to contribute to ongoing research at Stanford. Postdoctoral scholars (postdocs) are appointed to a role that is defined at Stanford within the category of advanced nonmatriculated graduate students. 

Policies and procedures related to the appointment of postdoctoral scholars at Stanford University are available from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs web site. The purpose of this policy is to describe particular aspects of those policies as they relate to the postdoctoral appointment of graduating Stanford doctoral students.


1.1 Definition

Postdoctoral scholars are trainees in residence at Stanford University pursuing advanced studies beyond the doctoral level in preparation for an independent career. Postdoctoral scholars are appointed for a limited period of time and may participate in Stanford research projects and/or may be supported by external awards or fellowships. In all cases, their appointment at Stanford is for the purpose of advanced studies and training under the sponsorship of a Stanford faculty member.

1.2 Eligibility for Appointment

Postdoctoral appointments require initial full-time engagement in the designated research or study and are generally restricted to those who have earned a terminal degree such as Ph.D. or J.D. within the last three years or a medical degree such as M.D., M.B.B.S., or D.D.S. within the last six years.

Stanford University doctoral students are eligible for potential appointment as postdoctoral scholars upon the conferral of their Ph.D. degree, or with a letter from the Stanford Office of the Registrar verifying completion of all requirements and confirming the date of degree conferral.

1.2.1 Postdoctoral Appointments after Degree Conferral

As evidence of degree conferral, a copy of the scholar's diploma is required. If the scholar has more than one doctoral degree (i.e., M.D. and Ph.D.), the diploma pertinent to research study is necessary for admission as a scholar; copies of both are preferred.

1.2.2. Postdoctoral Appointments prior to Degree Conferral

In some instances, a scholar may not yet have their final degree conferred, but has completed all the requirements for a doctoral degree. In these cases, a letter may be accepted from the scholar's institution (Registrar's Office or equivalent is required) stating the date the scholar completed ALL the requirements, including submission and acceptance, defense of thesis, and the date the degree is to be conferred. The Office of Postdoctoral Services must receive a copy of the diploma when it is available.

In the case of doctoral students at Stanford University who have completed all requirements for conferral of the doctoral degree, this letter of completion must be from the Office of the Registrar.

Sample letters for this purpose are provided on the Postdoctoral Affairs web site.

1.3 Length of Appointment

The initial appointment of postdoctoral scholars is expected to be for one year on a full-time (100% FTE) basis.  An exception to permit less than a one-year appointment may be permitted for a Stanford graduate who is transitioning to another appointment or position. Although such transitional appointments may be made for less than one year, the appointment must be full-time during the duration of the appointment. 


2.1 Appointment Processing

All forms described below, with the exception of visa forms, are available from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) web site. Visa request forms are available from the Bechtel International Center web site.

See also the checklist for the appointment of Postdoctoral Scholars.

1. Provides postdoc information sheet to the intended postdoctoral scholar. Department
2. Prepares offer letter (see template on Postdoc web site) for signature by both faculty sponsor and postdoc. Department
3. Completes Department Recommendation Form for signature by faculty sponsor and department chair. Department
4. Gathers from the intended Postdoctoral Scholar a copy of the diploma, CV or resume, and proof of support. Department
5. For international postdocs, completes the necessary visa request (DS-2019 form) available from the Bechtal International Center web site. Department
6. If initially appointed in F-1/OPT status, converts to another status (preferably J-1) upon expiration of F-1. This is done either by US Mail (6 months) or by return to home country and US reentry for visa stamp. Postdoc
7. If appointed in the School of Medicine with M.D. or certain Psychology degrees, gathers the following:
  • Patient Care Contact Form
  • Immunization Record
  • CA Medical License for those who will have patient contact
  • Agreement form for physicial services to be provided outside of the terms of this appointment (See Postdoc web site for language).
8. Provides a complete appointment package, including all of the above, to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at least three months before the anticipated start date and advises trainee of required training, if any. Department
9. Reviews package for completeness. Postdoc Office
10. For international postdocs, approves the visa request and forwards to the Bechtel International Center. Postdoc Office
11. Upon arrival on campus, registers the postdoc for a Postdoc Orientation briefing conducted by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Department
12. After registration and prior to initial orientation briefing, enters the postdoc appointment in PeopleSoft SA for the term dates indicated. Postdoc Office
13. After the PeopleSoft SA record is entered, Term Activates the postdoc to establish the appropriate tuition billing. Postdoc Office
14. In the case of the appointment of a graduating Stanford doctoral student, terminates the doctoral program upon degree completion. University Registrar


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