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Postdoc-Specific COVID-19 FAQs

The Graduate School's (TGS) Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) is closely monitoring the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation and the challenges it presents to our University and postdoctoral communities. Our top priority is to support your health and well-being and to continue furthering your personal and professional development. 

Below are postdoctoral trainee-specific FAQs. This webpage will be updated regularly in the days and weeks ahead. University-wide updates and information can be found on the University's COVID-19 website. If you have questions that are not addressed in the University's FAQs, please email or call 847.467.4111.   

Remote Operations for the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs: Please note, in light of recent developments to COVID-19, The Graduate School has switched to remote operations in our Evanston (Rebecca Crown Center) and Chicago (Abbott Hall) offices. Although the OPA is now working remotely, our office is offering a remote version of its usual services during this time. Please email Liz Stein, The Graduate School’s director of graduate and postdoctoral training and development, with any questions, concerns, or appointment requests.  

Research Operations

What should I do if I have concerns about returning to campus as the phased return proceeds and laboratory-based research resumes?

June 3, 2020

As outlined in the University’s Return to Research Policy, “Principal investigators and managers must not pressure or expect students, postdocs or staff members to come to work if they have concerns about being on campus, if they are ill, if they need to stay at home to care for ill or homebound dependents, if they have an underlying condition that places them at risk, or for other reasonable concerns.” If you have concerns about compliance with this policy, please contact your program’s director of graduate studies or department chair. You may also contact The Graduate School at or call the Evanston campus hotline (847.467.8840) or Chicago campus hotline (312.503.3437) to report concerns.

Can a postdoctoral trainee be designated as essential personnel?

March 20, 2020 (Updated May 4, 2020)

The University has announced that only individuals who are essential to operations be onsite through Sunday, May 31, 2020. Essential research may continue during this time. Postdoctoral trainees can be classified as essential personnel but they should not feel pressure (intentional or not) to work on campus or in a manner they feel compromises their health and safety. If you have questions about whether the work in your research lab is considered essential, please contact your lab’s principal investigator. Additional information may be found in the Office for Research Guidance for Transition to Essential-Only On-Campus Work and its April 29 update. Those onsite must observe these best practices to prevent the spread of illness and minimize risk to self and others. 

I have been designated as essential personnel, but I cannot come to campus to conduct research because of my health and/or the health or care needs of my family. What are my options?

March 20, 2020 (Updated March 25, 2020)

You should not feel pressure to work on campus or in a manner you feel compromises your health and safety. You are encouraged to email Liz Stein if such a situation arises. If you have additional questions, please contact the Office for Research or The Graduate School. If you have any questions about your health, please call your appropriate medical provider.  Please use this webpage to identify your medical provider based on your postdoc category.

Office of Postdoctoral Affairs Grants

What is the status of OPA grants for postdoctoral trainees?

March 25, 2020

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 (Coronavirus) global health concern, all OPA grants are currently on hold.

The University is closely monitoring the situation. All University-related travel and events are restricted, and the OPA and The Graduate School (TGS) are not reviewing applications for the Graduate Research Grant and Professional Travel Grant in historically undefended disciplines at this time.

Due to ongoing travel restrictions, the OPA and TGS are not reviewing applications for Dependent Care Professional Development Grants at this time.

This information will be updated pending revised guidance from the University regarding COVID-19 and University operations. Please contact with any questions.  

If I completed travel that was funded by a travel grant or family grant prior to the OPA’s pause on grants, will I still be reimbursed?

March 27, 2020

If you were approved for a travel grant or family grant and have already used the funding as of Sunday, March 15, your reimbursement will be processed as normal. Please reach out to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs with your receipts and confirmation documents.

What happens if my grant application was approved for travel that is now cancelled?

March 27, 2020

If you were approved for travel that was canceled due to the University ban on travel, then you will need to reapply at a later date.  We encourage postdocs to reapply for funds once our grants are reopened and your travel is rescheduled. Funds cannot be used for other research expenses.

Global and Domestic Travel

What travel is still permissible by the University?

March 20, 2020

Effective immediately and until further notice, Northwestern is prohibiting all University-related travel. This includes both outbound domestic and international travel, as well as restricting all campus visitors. Please leverage technology solutions like phone calls, email, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams to engage with those outside of our campus. Additional information about University guidelines on travel and visitors is available on the University’s coronavirus/COVID-19 website.

Event Planning

My department/postdoctoral group was planning programming for Spring or Summer Quarter 2020. What should I do?

March 20, 2020 (Updated April 1, 2020)

Effective Friday, March 13, the University is halting all group gatherings of 50 people or more that occur in small spaces that do not allow for appropriate social distancing. Additionally, staff are asked to ensure that there are at least six feet between all participants in any event.  The latest government recommendation is to halt gatherings of 10 or more individuals. 
The University has announced that in-person programs and activities scheduled to begin on or before July 12 will now be offered remotely for the duration of the summer, and the OPA is urging all associated groups to postpone all events scheduled for the Spring and Summer Quarters, or consider moving them online. We are striving to provide support to postdoctoral trainees with previously scheduled events that have now been impacted by the University's guidelines.   
If you have questions about impacted events that are sponsored or hosted by The Graduate School, please email Victoria Williams, TGS events & outreach manager. 

What opportunities are there to remain connected with the postdoc community?

March 20, 2020

The OPA and Northwestern Postdoctoral Association (NUPA) are looking for innovative ways to help postdoctoral traineess connect while practicing social distancing. We encourage you to join the NUPA Slack Channel, where you can share pictures of pets, join community lunches and coffee breaks, and suggestions for your remote social plans.  

Financial Considerations

Will I continue to be paid during this time? What if I am on a fellowship?

April 2, 2020 

Postdoctoral Scholars: According to direction from the Office for Research on March 19, postdoctoral scholars who are paid through the University payroll system will continue to be paid as normal.   

Postdoctoral Scholars – NRSA: As of April 1, 2020, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have indicated that National Research Service Award (NRSA) trainees and fellows may continue to receive their stipends even if they are unable to work as a result of COVID-19.

Bias and Discrimination

I have been the target of bias or a hate-related incident during the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic. What should I do?

April 16, 2020

You are encouraged to submit any bias or hate-related incidents that you observe through the University’s Hate and Bias Report Form.

If I witness or hear acts of discrimination or sexual misconduct, whom do I contact?

April 16, 2020

Please contact the Office of Equity for assistance.

Last Updated: June 3, 2020