Titles and Terms of Appointment

The following information is excerpted from the Academic Staff Handbook; please see the handbook for official policies.


Postdoctoral Associate in (Department). This title is used for individuals performing postgraduate work in research as a result of which they increase their knowledge and experience. Although they hold a doctoral degree, such individuals work primarily under the direction of a faculty member and are not considered independent researchers. Postdoctoral Associates often participate in the research training of graduate students and sometimes teach informally. They do not hold permanent positions. All Postdoctoral Associates are considered postdoctoral trainees as defined in the Introduction, and therefore, these trainees would be subject to the postdoctoral trainee policies and procedures described under Terms of Appointment.

Candidates for degrees administered by Cornell University may not be appointed as Postdoctoral Associates until all the requirements of the degree have been completed. In some cases, Cornell doctoral candidates who have passed their thesis examination and whose submission of the thesis to the Graduate School is imminent, may be appointed as Postdoctoral Associates. However, such appointments are limited to a 30-day period. After the thesis is accepted by the Graduate School, a regular appointment can be made.

Fellow in (Department). This title is used for individuals who have completed or interrupted their residency training or have an earned doctorate, and who are obtaining additional training through specialized study or research. Fellows do not hold permanent positions. Some Fellows may be considered postdoctoral trainees as defined in the Introduction, and therefore, these Fellows would be subject to the postdoctoral trainee policies and procedures described under Terms of Appointment.

Visiting Fellow in (Department). This title is used for individuals joining the academic staff for a limited period in order to obtain further training in their field but retaining their positions at another institution. Normally such individuals will have an earned doctorate. Their support may be obtained from the Medical College and/or another source.

Terms of Appointment

Appointments to the positions of Postdoctoral Associate and Teaching Associate may be recommended for terms not to exceed one year. In a majority of cases, postdoctoral trainees are appointed to terminal appointments. Postdoctoral Associates may be appointed by the President to training positions for terms of up to one year with limited renewals, normally no more than five years in all in the same field at the Medical College, with the option to extend for a sixth year to complete research. Based upon adequate justification, an extension for a sixth year may be granted at the Dean's discretion upon written request by the postdoctoral trainee and the Department Chair.

Postdoctoral trainee appointments will be subject to a three-month probationary period at the initiation of each new postdoctoral training position at the Medical College. During the probationary period, the Department Chair may recommend to the Dean termination of the postdoctoral trainee's appointment prior to the end of the appointment term. However, in such cases the postdoctoral trainee is entitled to three months' notice of termination. Once a postdoctoral trainee's appointment has passed the end of the probationary period, the appointment will normally end on the approved appointment end date. The Department Chair may recommend termination of an appointment prior to the approved end date, consistent with Medical College policies on dismissal.

If after five years, or six if an extension is granted, the individual is to continue in a research capacity, any further appointment should be at the level of Research Associate or to other academic titles that are not training positions. The position of Postdoctoral Associate does not normally lead to a research career at Cornell. Three months prior to the end date of postdoctoral trainee appointments, Departments should give all postdoctoral trainees, regardless of the total duration of appointment, a written reminder of their appointment's end date.