Postdoctoral fellows are individuals who have completed a doctoral degree and who are seeking the opportunity to train further in a particular area of research.
Postdoctoral fellows at UBC can be either employees or trainees (award recipients), depending on the job description, level of direction and nature of the research grant.
- A postdoctoral fellow is an employee where the individual plays a key role on a research team under the direction of and funded by the supervising faculty member.
- A postdoctoral fellow is an award recipient where the individual is awarded a competitive fellowship from an external granting agency, which may or may not be paid through UBC, or receives financial support from a sponsoring agency. Award recipients don't have an employment relationship with UBC. They independently work under the mentorship of a supervising faculty member at UBC.
Postdoctoral Fellows are researchers at UBC who are in training and work under the general supervision of a faculty member. Appointments as a Postdoctoral Fellow, according to Policy AP10 – Postdoctoral Fellows (pdf, formerly Policy #61), are intended to be temporary positions that begin within five years of being awarded the Ph.D. degree or 10 years of being awarded the MD or DDS degree.
Exceptions will be considered where the research career has been interrupted by circumstances such as parental responsibilities or illness. The objective of such an appointment is to contribute to UBC’s research and teaching mission, and to strengthen one’s publication record and CV in order to build a reputation and enhance one’s chances of securing a more permanent faculty position in both teaching and research. The ranks are as follows:
- A Postdoctoral Fellow is a member of a research group or an individual researcher working under the general supervision of a faculty member and may assist with the supervision of graduate students.
- A Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow is an additional appointment for those Postdoctoral Research Fellows who are given formal teaching assignments. Postdoctoral Fellows can be involved in both undergraduate and graduate lecturing, laboratory instruction, tutorials, and supervision of undergraduate projects.
Please note that individuals who do not qualify for appointment as Postdoctoral Fellows may be considered for appointment as Research Associates.
Recruitment information for supervising faculty members
Advertising is not required for Postdoctoral Fellows. If an advertisement is placed, please ensure that the UBC faculty advertising guidelines are followed. Please note there are no immigration restrictions regarding citizenship.
When recruiting Postdoctoral Fellows, faculty members should adhere to relevant legislation, such as the Human Rights Code of British Columbia and the Employments Standards Act. Information on human rights legislation is available from Faculty Relations. Faculty members will consider UBC’s employment equity goals when recruiting Postdoctoral Fellows.
Most often, a faculty member who has funding to support a Postdoctoral Fellow will conduct the selection process personally, or with other faculty members if there is joint funding for the position. Killam Fellowships and fellowships funded by external agencies are awarded by an adjudication process established by the external agency. In all cases, faculty members are encouraged to obtain letters of reference as well as following up with references either in person or by phone prior to offering an appointment.
Applying for positions
Interested individuals can check the faculties/departments of interest to them to see if there are any Postdoctoral Fellow positions available. Please visit the Faculty Career Opportunities page and apply as indicated.
Interested individuals may also directly contact a faculty member with related research interests (even if there are no current postings in that area). Each department has a list of faculty members and their research topics. Postdoctoral applications can be made directly to a specific faculty member(s).
Appointment to position of postdoctoral fellow – offer letter
Every postdoctoral fellow must receive an appointment letter, which must be signed by Academic Head of Unit and the postdoctoral fellow accepting the terms of the appointment. Appointment letters set out in writing the terms of the appointment, as well as detailing expectations and commitments of both the Postdoctoral Fellow and the supervising faculty member.
A Postdoctoral Fellow will be associated with one or more faculty colleagues for the purpose of research collaboration. The supervising faculty member provides whatever resources are needed to support the collaborative research activities.
All Postdoctoral Fellows must hold a formal appointment at UBC. Postdoctoral Fellow appointments are made one year at a time, and are renewable up to 5 years. With the approval of the Dean, appointments may be renewable up to 5 years - check with your Dean’s Office regarding approval for an appointment beyond three years. Please note that an appointment should be made regardless of funding source. The following documentation is required for all appointments:
- Faculty Appointment Form (doc) signed by Head/Director and Dean (or Dean only in non-Departmentalized Faculties).
- Current curriculum vitae – Education and Experience sections only
- Copy of the offer letter signed by the Postdoctoral Fellow
- Proof of legal entitlement to perform work for UBC
- For citizens or permanent residents of Canada, noting the Social Insurance Number (SIN) on the appointment form is sufficient
- For foreign nationals:
- Copy of a valid work permit
- Copy of Social Insurance Number application receipt (not required for unpaid appointments)
- For unpaid appointments of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, where a SIN is not provided, a copy of one of the following:
- a Canadian passport;
- birth certificate;
- CRA tax receipt showing SIN; or
- PR or citizenship card.
Please note that where an additional appointment is being made for a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, a copy of the offer letter signed by the Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow must be included with the appointment form. Refer to section 8 below for further information on Postdoctoral Teaching appointments.
The appointment file
The official documentation concerning the appointment with the University is retained by the office of Faculty Relations. Postdoctoral Fellows may have access to their own files, by contacting Faculty Relations. Please note that at least 24-hours notice is required to arrange an opportunity to view the file.
Postdoctoral Fellows receive earnings from either a supervisor’s grant or from a fellowship which may or may not be administered via UBC. In some cases earnings are paid from a combination of sources. Earnings from a supervisor’s grant are salary, and as such as subject to the BC Employment Standards Act (ESA), as well as the Canada Revenue Agency. Information on Income Tax is found on the Postdoctoral Fellows Employees page and on the Postdoctoral Fellow Award Recipients page.
There's no salary scale for Postdoctoral Fellows and the amount of earnings can vary, however, if paid a salary the amount must at a minimum adhere to the ESA.
Benefits and leaves
Health and welfare benefits are available to Postdoctoral Fellows as follows:
Medical Services Plan
All British Columbia (BC) residents are required to have basic medical coverage through the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP). Postdoctoral Fellows must apply for coverage directly from MSP upon arrival in B.C.
Please note that there is a three-calendar-month waiting period prior to enrolment with MSP. During the waiting period, we encourage Postdoctoral Fellows to have private coverage which can be purchased through David Cummings Insurance Services Ltd. (DCIS).
Foreign Postdoctoral Fellows holding work permits for one year or more are considered residents of B.C. by MSP. Postdoctoral Fellows with work permits for less than one year can also purchase private medical coverage through David Cummings Insurance Services Ltd. (DCIS).
Health and welfare benefits
i) Postdoctoral Fellows receiving earnings from UBC. Those who are in receipt of earnings paid by UBC (regular salary or fellowship) may be eligible for health benefits, which include Extended Health, Dental and the Employee and Family Assistance Program. The eligibility requirements for benefits are:
- an appointment of at least 1 year in length
- a minimum 50% appointment
- must meet the minimum salary requirements for that position
ii) Postdoctoral Fellows receiving earnings from outside of UBC. Postdoctoral Fellows who receive funding directly from an organization/agency other than UBC, may be eligible for benefits. Requirements for benefit eligibility are as above. Additionally the individual must have a valid Canadian Social Insurance Number.
Detailed information on benefits and Leaves can be found in the benefits section of the employee website.
The costs for benefits are primarily covered by the supervising faculty member. An Employer Benefit Cost Calculator is also available on the Payroll website for supervising faculty member to determine how much money to budget for salaries and benefits when applying for research grants (note that postdocs benefits fall under the Faculty umbrella). In the case of fellowship earnings, benefit expenses cannot be charged to the fellowship (PFL earnings) unless the award/grant agency specifically allows for benefit expenses to be changed to the fellowship – confirmation in writing is required. Where the fellowship does not allow benefit costs, the department administrator will need to set up a separate account for benefit charges. In the case of Non-University Funded (NUF) Postdoctoral Fellows, the department administrator will also need to set up a separate account for benefit charges. Prior to charging benefits to a research grant, units must ensure that benefit costs are an eligible expense under the grant.
Postdoctoral fellows who are ineligible for extended health benefits are encouraged to make private arrangements for benefit plans and insurance coverage.
Postdoctoral fellows careers at UBC
The postdoctoral fellow and the supervising faculty member
The supervising faculty member is one of the most important links between the Postdoctoral Fellow and the University. The University expects that the supervising faculty member/postdoctoral fellow relationship will be one of mutual respect and consideration. The policies and practices of the University are geared to equitable treatment of all appointees with a measure of consistency; however, written materials cannot cover every situation. The supervising faculty member has some latitude and discretion in handling individual situations as they arise.
Besides the Postdoctoral Fellow, the supervising faculty member is the person most responsible for the continuing development of the Postdoctoral Fellow. The University encourages individual growth and the supervising faculty member is in a good position to help determine what actions should be taken to ensure development within the University environment.
UBC's housing and relocations services team at UBC can assist with the orientation to Vancouver and to campus life.
The Postdoctoral Fellows Office in the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies provides a semi-annual PDF Orientation Day. Please refer to their website for further information.
The supervising faculty member, Department Head and Dean are responsible for orienting Postdoctoral Fellows to the Department and Faculty. Departmental or faculty administrators prepare written materials about services, procedures and standards in the department and faculty, and useful contacts at UBC. The supervising faculty member is responsible for orientation to the worksite, and for providing information about performance expectations, standards for hours of work, safety procedures and ethical/scholarly integrity issues.
Postdoctoral Fellows are generally regarded as advanced research trainees and are treated accordingly in such matters as departmental communications, social interaction and consultation about matters affecting them.
The experience of each Postdoctoral Fellow varies throughout the University and is influenced by such factors as the academic discipline, the needs and obligations of the supervising faculty member, and the culture of the assigned lab or research unit. Postdoctoral Fellows are encouraged to take ownership of their experience, within the bounds of common sense and University policy, much as one would with any postgraduate career.
Universally accepted standards of academic achievement typically include publication of research in peer-reviewed academic journals, and/or the advancement of intellectual property through patenting or licensing. Research outputs in the Fine Arts may include exhibitions, performances and media installations. It is expected that Postdoctoral Fellows will be appropriately recognized for their contributions to publications, patents and other products of research. It is the responsibility of the supervising faculty member to develop a clear understanding of rights and obligations under the policies on Research, Patents and Conflict of Interest with the Postdoctoral Fellow at the beginning of the Postdoctoral Fellow’s appointment. Postdoctoral Fellows themselves should become familiar with their obligations under UBC’s Scholarly Activity Policies.
Postdoctoral Fellows are frequently involved in the preparation of proposals for research grants and in other forms of acquiring research support. The degree of involvement in these processes by the Postdoctoral Fellow, and the level of supervision offered by the supervising faculty member, varies widely. Beyond the support offered by the supervising faculty member and academic unit, additional support and information about available research funding is available from the Office of Research Services.
Professional development courses and workshops are regularly offered through Centre for Teaching, Learning Technology (CTLT), including programs on leadership, supervising graduate students, and peer coaching. Professional development in grant proposal writing is offered periodically through the Office of Research Services and the Office of the Vice President Research & International.
It's recognized that Postdoctoral Fellows are an intellectual resource in the university and that both undergraduate and graduate programs benefit from their participation. Postdoctoral Fellows may be involved in undergraduate and graduate lecturing, laboratory instruction, tutorials, supervision of undergraduate projects, and assistance with the supervision of graduate students.
Postdoctoral Fellows should discuss their desire to participate in the teaching activities of the department with their supervising faculty member and with the Department Head. In cases of formal assignment of teaching duties, the Department Head will give the Postdoctoral Fellow an additional appointment as a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow. In advance of making this type of appointment, Heads should be aware of any granting agency restrictions on the amount of teaching that can be assigned to the Postdoctoral Fellow.
Respectful work environment
The university recognizes the right of staff to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination.
Policy SC7 – Discrimination (pdf, formerly Policy #3) addresses problems arising from grounds prohibited from discrimination under the Human Rights Code of British Columbia. The prohibited grounds of discrimination include: age, ancestry, colour, family status, marital status, physical or mental disability, place of origin, political belief, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and criminal conviction unrelated to employment. If there are any concerns related to discrimination or harassment, please bring them to the attention of the supervising faculty member or the Equity Office.
The University’s statement on Respectful Environment for Students, Faculty and Staff addresses concerns an employee may have about personal harassment that does not involve prohibited grounds of discrimination covered under the Human Rights Code of British Columbia. Again, these concerns should be brought to the attention of the supervising faculty member or Head of Academic Unit for investigation and resolution in a timely manner.
The best way to handle a problem between a postdoctoral fellow and his/her supervising faculty member is to identify it when it first arises, and collaborate on finding a solution. Unresolved problems may be brought to the attention of the Head of Academic Unit or the Equity Office. The Dean of the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies may act as an Ombudsperson in any dispute of a serious nature where a neutral third party may be required. Faculty Relations can also be contacted at any time for assistance.
Postdoctoral Fellow appointments at UBC can be renewed one year at a time, normally up to 3 years. With the Dean’s written approval, appointments may be extended for a further two one-year terms (i.e. up to a maximum of 5 years in total).
Supervising faculty members should give reasonable notice (usually 3 months) to a Postdoctoral Fellow on their intention to renew or not to renew an appointment. Renewals must be confirmed in writing and if terms and conditions have changed, a new offer letter should be signed. Please review the documentation checklist to ensure all requirements are met. Keep in mind that foreign postdoctoral fellows may require 4 months’ notice to renew their work permit.
Postdoctoral Fellows who wish to leave their position prior to the appointment end date should provide at least one months’ notice to their supervising faculty member in writing. The notice period may be waived by the supervising faculty member. The Departure Checklist (doc) should be reviewed to ensure a smooth transition for both the Postdoctoral Fellow and the supervising faculty member. The supervising faculty member must work with his/her departmental administrator to inform Faculty Relations using a Transfer & Severance Form (doc) accompanied by a copy of the resignation letter.
Postdoctoral Fellow Coordinators
The PDF Coordinator in each faculty can assist postdoctoral fellows and their supervisors with postdoctoral related issues. Please contact the Dean’s Office to find out who your PDF Coordinator is.
The Postdoctoral Fellows office is located in the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at UBC Vancouver. The office has a wealth of information for PDFs including professional development opportunities & workshops. Postdoctoral Fellows at UBC Okanagan should refer to the Postdoctoral Fellows Resource in the College of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies.
UBC policies and procedures
It's is important to be familiar with the UBC Policy and Procedures Handbook that may guide certain aspects of your work at the university. Listed below are some of the policies that may be applicable to a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC:
- Policy AP10 – Postdoctoral Fellows (pdf, formerly Policy #61)
- Policy HR10 – Employment Equity (pdf, formerly Policy #2)
- Policy SC7 – Discrimination (pdf, formerly Policy #3)
- Policy SC1 – Health and Safety (pdf, formerly Policy #7)
- Policy SC10 – Disaster Management (pdf, formerly Policy #8)
- Policy LR11 – Inventions (pdf, formerly Policy #88)
- Policy SC3 – COI (pdf, formerly Policy #97)
- Policy SC14 – Information Systems (pdf,formerly Policy #104)
Risk management and safety
Please see the Risk Management website for up-to-date information on laboratory safety, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), and mandatory and optional laboratory training courses. Each department also has an established Safety Committee. Please see the supervising faculty member or department administrator for information regarding department specific safety policies and procedures.
Foreign postdoctoral fellows are required to obtain a temporary work permit in order to be employed and perform work for UBC.
Get details at our immigration for employees page.