The purpose of postdoctoral positions is to train individuals to assume independent research roles, and thus they are inherently temporary. Postdoctoral training at Washington University is limited to five (5) years, including postdoctoral time at other institutions. Relevant postdoctoral experience may include research experience (including industrial), teaching assistantship, previous faculty career, or other time spent in an academic- and research-oriented field beyond that of the qualifying doctoral degree.

The OPA Faculty Advisory Committee may grant exceptions to the five-year term limit for justified, extenuating circumstances. This is a benefit provided only to current postdoctoral appointees. The OPA Faculty Advisory Committee is unable to review requests from incoming or recently hired postdoctoral appointees. Only one extension is allowed per postdoctoral appointment.

If the faculty advisor and the postdoctoral appointee discuss the possibility of staying beyond the end date provided by the extension, they should consider a staff or faculty appointment with full benefits after this date.

Requesting an Extension

A request for extending the postdoctoral appointment should be submitted to the OPA at least three (3) months in advance of the current end date. The following documents must be included in the request:

  • A postdoctoral appointment extension request, signed by the postdoctoral appointee, the faculty supervisor, and the department head (or division chief for Internal Medicine).
  • A letter written by the postdoctoral appointee explaining in detail the extenuating circumstances that require an extension of a postdoctoral appointment and the measures being taken to address them. The letter should be addressed to the Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
  • A letter written by the faculty supervisor indicating the reason for the extension, why additional training is necessary instead of a promotion, the type of training needed, a mentoring plan to achieve the goals of the training, and a commitment to fund the postdoctoral appointee for the entirety of the extended period. The letter should be addressed to the Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
  • A current copy of the postdoctoral appointee’s CV.

Justifying an Extension Request

The OPA Faculty Advisory Committee will base their decision on the information provided in the four documents required, so please provide as much detail as possible, especially in the letters. Include the following information, if applicable:

  • Specific reasons why the postdoctoral appointee needs to remain in a postdoctoral position instead of receiving a promotion. If the postdoctoral appointee has changed supervisors, please indicate the circumstances and timing.
  • Additional training that would be accomplished during the months of the extension and a description of the mentoring plan supporting the accomplishment of the training goals. If current scientific training is significantly different than previous experience, please explain.
  • Any applicable personal, family, or medical issues that may apply.
  • How the postdoctoral appointee’s future career plans will be impacted by this training.

Review Process

The OPA Faculty Advisory Committee will review the request for extension. Failure to detail the reasons for the request completely and accurately will delay the Committee’s review and possibly result in a denial of the request. The OPA Director will contact the postdoctoral appointee and their faculty supervisors if additional information is needed. 

A written response will be communicated to the postdoctoral appointee and their faculty supervisor within 30 days of the latest information submitted.

Direct any questions to Dr. Paola Cepeda, Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, at