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Questions Frequently Asked by Graduate Students at NIH

What is a reliable source of information for graduate students?
Your Graduate Student Handbook (iPad/Nook version Kindle version) is a good place to start.  The complete rules and procedures that govern all programs and activities at the NIH are detailed in Manual Chapters.  If you are a Pre-doctoral IRTA, you can find a description of your program in the IRTA Manual Chapter.  (NOTE: If your appointment is in the NCI, the appropriate document is the CRTA Chapter - access limited to NIH only.)  If you are a Visiting Fellow (VF), your program is described in the Visiting Fellow Program Manual Chapter.

Am I a member of the GPP?
All graduate students performing PhD research in an NIH lab are a part of the GPP, regardless of the the mechanism by which you came to the NIH for your dissertation work.  If you are a graduate student on an NIH campus and have not already registered with the GPP, please register here so that we can notify you about upcoming graduate student events.  Also, please plan to attend one of our monthly graduate student and postdoctoral fellow orientations.

Where can I find a list of graduate student stipends?
Predoctoral IRTA/CRTA and Visiting Fellow stipends are established each March by the Scientific Directors and are published in an appendix to the IRTA Manual Chapter.

Where should I go if I need help getting my NIH ID badge or completing the other administrative tasks associated with starting work at the NIH?
Administrative details of your postdoc appointment are the responsibility of your Institute or Center (IC).  Your Administrative Officer (AO) is the person most likely to be able to assist you.  If you do not know who this is, ask your Principal Investigator (PI) to introduce you.  Another important resource is your IC Training Director.  Make it a point to get to know this person.

What if I encounter a serious problem while I am at the NIH?
We certainly hope that your graduate student experience will be satisfying and productive and that you will leave the NIH well-prepared for your next career step.  However, should you encounter difficulties while you are with us, there are people who can help.  You may want to go first to your principal investigator (PI) or Training Director.  If the problem involves harassment, your being treated badly, or something you suspect may be scientific misconduct, please come to the OITE.  Sharon Milgram and Pat Sokolove, the Director and Deputy Director of the OITE, will be willing to help you work through the problem or will assist you in obtaining the support/advice you need.

As a graduate student, what is my status here at the NIH?
If you are an IRTA/CRTA or VF, you are considered a trainee.

What visa status am I entitled to as a graduate student?
As with taxes (see below), visa issues are best discussed with an expert, in this case the staff in the NIH Division of International Services.  Generally, Pre-doctoral Visiting Fellows are brought to the NIH on J-1 visas or F-1 visas.  The H-1B visa is an employment visa; it is therefore inappropriate for trainees. 

What advice can you give me about taxes?
The OITE cannot advise you on tax liabilities; if you need assistance, please find a qualified tax expert.  We can share the following facts:

If you are appointed as an IRTA/CRTA, you are a trainee and not an employee.

  • Your stipend will be reported on a form 1099G.
  • No FICA (Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid) taxes will be deducted from your stipend.
  • No income taxes, Federal or state, will be withheld.
  • You will be responsible for filing Federal and state income tax returns.  This means you should (1) save some funds to pay your taxes and (2) file estimated tax returns.

If you are a Visiting Fellow, your tax status will depend on your citizenship.  Please consult with the NIH Division of International Services.

Can you help me with deferring my educational loans?
Educational loan deferment requests for NIH graduate students are addressed by their respective academic institutions.

As a graduate student, how much vacation do I get?
If you are an IRTA/CRTA or a Visiting Fellow, you are entitled to a minimum of two weeks of excused absence per year, in addition to sick leave and Federal holidays.  This leave does not accrue.  That is, you cannot accumulate leave and carry it over to the next year.

Am I entitled to maternity/paternity leave?

If you are an IRTA/CRTA or VF, your stipend may continue for up to 8 weeks of absence for the birth or adoption of a child.  Additional absence without stipend can be requested. The various types of leave are further discussed in the GPP Handbook.

My IRTA/CRTA/VF appointment is being renewed in my IC, do I need to re-register with the GPP?
No, you only need to register with the GPP one time while you are at the NIH as a graduate student.