Frequently Asked Questions for Postdocs
How many postdocs are on campus, and what can you tell me about them?
At any given time, there are between 250-290 postdocs at the University of Iowa. Nearly 60% of our postdocs are international. The vast majority are at the University to continue their training in the sciences. Approximately two-thirds are in the College of Medicine. About 17% are in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and nearly 5% are in the College of Engineering. All other postdocs are in colleges and administrative units with fewer than 10 in each area. Postdoc training at the University of Iowa is limited to five years, but not all postdocs need this length of training time to secure their professional positions. Postdocs in areas outside the sciences typically have durations of three years or less.
How are postdocs funded at the University of Iowa?
Nearly all postdocs are funded by faculty grants. Approximately 70% of postdocs are on grants funded by NIH. Approximately 40 postdoctoral fellows have been awarded their own funding through the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Service Award (NRSA) programs to broaden their background in specified health-related areas. Other postdocs are supported by grants from NSF (<3%), NASA (<2%), and other sources (<28%).
Where are postdocs affairs housed?
The Dean of the Graduate College oversees postdoctoral affairs for the University since postdocs are by definition “trainees”. The Graduate College serves as an administrative hub and helps connects postdocs to university resources and helps to set University policies regarding postdocs. Nearly all other Big10 universities also house their postdocs within their Graduate Colleges, but also work closely with other units on their campuses using a hub and spoke model.
Postdoc Human Relations
I’m a new postdoc. How do I get oriented?
Like many other groups on campus, new postdocs will be provided with a packet of materials needed to enroll in benefits and to learn about campus and Iowa City. In addition, new postdocs will be provided a link to watch a benefits overview video. You can also reach out to your local or collegiate HR person or the University Benefits office with questions. Also, make sure to check out the University of Iowa Postdoc Association and to participate in events offered by the Graduate College, the Vice President for Research Office, your department and college.
Why are some of the benefits that postdocs receive different depending on whether or not the individual is a postdoctoral fellow versus a postdoctoral scholar?
By definition, postdoctoral scholars are employees, and postdoctoral fellows are non-service fellows. This is based on a federal ruling. As a result, postdoctoral fellows are not eligible for some benefits offered to postdoctoral scholars who are employees (e.g., retirement).
Why are postdoc benefits a hybrid of graduate student and faculty/staff benefits and not just the same as one of those groups?
Each postdoc has funds provided for both their salary and benefits. This is also true for faculty, staff, and students. The fringe rate is the rate paid by employment category toward university benefits contributions. The fringe rate for postdocs is significantly lower than for faculty and Professional and Scientific staff. While the fridge rate is the same as grad assistants, grad students also pay student fees which give them access to other student benefits. HR has maximized postdoc benefits by including some student benefits (e.g., health insurance options, University Counseling Services) and some staff/faculty benefits (e.g., Employee Assistance Program). We realize this sometimes creates confusion. However, it ensures that you receive access to as many benefits as possible.
Why are postdoc salary increases set at the 0 years of experience minimum and not based on the number of years the individual has been a postdoc?
Each year, NIH sets the minimum stipend for National Research Service Award (NRSA) fellows. UI uses this NIH minimum to determine the base salary for all postdocs regardless of funding source. Resetting base salaries to the NIH minimum each year typically constitutes a 2-3% pay increase for all postdocs. By setting the minimum stipend at the NIH 0 years of experience, we strive to ensure that all postdocs get pay raises annually. PIs/departments may choose to provide raises beyond the year 0 NIH minimum if they have funds available and would like to do so based on performance. Most grant budgets, however, do not allow for additional increases. While we recognize that postdocs would like to be paid based on years of experience, the compressed pay scales are experienced by nearly all employment groups at UI due to available budgets.
I’m having HR issues. Who do I contact?
Ideally, you should start with your PI and/or local HR representative. Your department administrator can tell you the name of your local HR representative. Alternatively, you can contact your college’s Senior HR Director listed on the key contacts page of the Grad College postdoc website or the Graduate College’s Senior HR Director Tanesha Herman.
Why don’t I have better parking?
Parking eligibility is determined by work location, number of years of UI employment, and type of employment. Outside of commuter lots, more desirable parking at UI is difficult for most employees to gain access to and is not limited to postdocs.
Postdoc Professional Development
Where do I find professional development opportunities on campus?
Most professional development needed for postdocs is specialized and provided by the postdoc’s mentor, unit, and college. The Graduate College is happy to advertise training opportunities that units and colleges would like to open to all postdocs. At the University level postdocs can find opportunities though central services units such as the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and teacher an communication training through Center for Integrated Research, Teaching and Learning within the Graduate College. Opportunities can also be found through the University of Iowa Events calendar by filtering the audiences as “postdocs” or “everybody”.