Postdoctoral Trainees are defined by the National Institute of Health and National Science Foundation as: “An individual who has received a doctoral degree (or equivalent) and is engaged in a temporary and defined period of mentored advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue her or his chosen career path.” The Mentors overall responsibility to the post-doctoral trainee is to help advance their scientific abilities as well as their independent professional career.


Postdoctoral Scholar – Affiliate: An appointment is made to the title “postdoctoral scholar – affiliate” when the post-doctoral scholar has been awarded a fellowship or traineeship for postdoctoral study by an extramural/external agency/organization and the extramural/external agency/organization pays the fellowship or traineeship directly to the postdoctoral scholar, rather than through the university. Such appointments have a “without salary” status.

Postdoctoral Scholar – Fellow: An appointment is made to the title “postdoctoral scholar – fellow” when (1) the agency funding the salary requires or permits the postdoctoral scholar to be classified as an employee of the university, or (2) whenever general funds, or other university funds are used to support the position. Fellows are typically employed to work and train with faculty on the faculty member’s research projects. Fellows are deemed to split their time between training and education, and salaried work activities.

Postdoctoral Scholar – Trainee: An appointment is made to the title “postdoctoral scholar – trainee” when the postdoctoral scholar has been awarded a fellowship or traineeship for postdoctoral study by an extramural/external agency/organization and the fellowship or traineeship is paid through a university account, but not through the university Human Resources payroll system. Trainees receive a stipend to pursue an individually defined training program.

Mentor(s): Person who is supportive of the post-doctoral fellow’s career goals, shares similar research interests, and is capable, if the scholar does not have external funding, of supporting the scholar on a research project or training grant.

Mentee: In this case refers to the post-doctoral scholar

Department Specific Policy

Full VCU poliices can be found at: 

  1. The Vice Chair of Surgery’s Research and Innovation is the person responsible for ensuring that all mentors in the Dept. of Surgery provide the highest standard of mentorship for their mentee.

  2. Funding to cover a predetermined term of the mentees contract are expected to be in place at the time of hiring.

  3. When agreeing to mentor a mentee, mentors are expected to: 
    • Play a central role in helping the mentee plan and achieve their research goals 
    • Assist the mentee in establishing a visible presence in DOS and VCU as a whole by participation in meetings, seminars, and symposiums  
    • Encourage mentees to focus on the development of their research rather than other commitments such as teaching or outside employment  
    • Provide opportunities for mentees to publish and present papers and to participate in national and international research meetings 
    • Support the mentee in seeking opportunities to interview for faculty positions towards the end of their time

  4. Within 3 months of their start date in the laboratory, an Individual Development Plan (IDP) must be developed in discussions between the mentor and the mentee (e.g. FASEB Individual Development Plan). 
    • The IDP is a tool to help define the mentees training goals, professional development needs, and career objectives. 
    • IDPs should be reviewed yearly to facilitate communication between mentees and mentors when assessing research progress and concerns. 
    • The evaluation process should include the opportunity for the scholar to respond in writing to the evaluation. 
    • A copy of each completed IDPs and edits made based upon yearly assessments should be sent to the Vice Chair of Surgery.

  5. The average length of a Post-Doctoral fellowship is usually in the region of three to five years. To help in their career development, all post-doctoral fellows are expected to submit for an extramural Fellowship Award within 2 years of their start date. Potential submissions include: 
  6. All Post-Doctoral Fellows are expected to submit an abstract on their research for DOS Research Day when requested