Structure of Postdoctoral Study
A postdoc is a person who has received a doctoral degree and who is pursuing additional research, training, or teaching in order to have better skills to pursue a career in academia, research, or any other field. Postdocs work closely with a faculty mentor for a temporary and defined period of time. Postdocs can be appointed up to five years. Postdocs play a crucial role in the university; they supplement the research expertise of faculty by sharing new techniques, collaborating with other institutions, and helping to manage the daily operations of a laboratory or research site. They also contribute teaching and advising support for undergraduate and graduate students.
At Cornell, postdocs who are funded by the university (funding coming from a faculty advisor or a prestigious fellowships) are appointed as postdoctoral associates. They are considered employees and are appointed as academic, non-professorial staff. They are appointed centrally as are all employees and are paid through the university payroll system. They receive the privileges that all employees receive including health benefits, retirement, and the ability to take credit courses.
Postdocs who are self-funded (grants from NIH, NSF, governmental grants, etc.) are appointed as postdoctoral fellows. Postdoctoral fellows are not considered Cornell employees as they are not paid by the university.