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Trainee Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the CEO Internship Program?

The CEO program is a unique opportunity and platform for students and postdocs to gain practical experience outside their academic research through an internship experience. The program provides curriculum and support to help trainees explore and pursue careers of their choice.

Who is eligible to participate in the program?

The CEO program is open to students and postdocs across all bioscience programs at Stanford who: (a) are in good academic standing and (b) plan to return to Stanford to complete their training.

Population specific eligibility:
Graduate students — after passing their qualifying exams
MD students and postdocs — after at least one year of training

When can I participate in an internship?

We suggest that the best time to participate in an internship would be during the third, fourth or fifth year of graduate school following the successful completion of your qualifying exams (graduate students), or after you have had enough time to fully adapt to the culture and demands of your program (usually after year 1 for MD students and postdocs). Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Trainees are advised to plan and complete their research requirements ahead of time bearing in mind that they are advised not to work in their academic labs during the internship. Planning this will help them focus fully on the internship and avoid unnecessary disruptions to the progress of their research. Students should discuss with their advisor a strategy for scheduling an internship so as not to impact time to graduation or any ongoing/upcoming projects in their lab. Such strategies will be discussed as part of the CEO program coursework.

What can I expect to gain from the CEO internship program?

The program aims to augment the training and education offered to Graduate/Medical Students and Postdocs in the Biosciences at Stanford, by providing the following:

  • An understanding and garnering of the skills necessary to succeed in a variety of fields
  • A formal means of gaining practical work experience in a setting outside academic research
  • An opportunity to explore and make connections in a new career path
  • An experience that can help trainees make an informed and intentional career decision

Will the CEO program guarantee an internship placement for me at a company/organization?

The program does not place trainees in an internship but offers the curriculum and support necessary for trainees to explore and define careers of their choice. The program provides a framework to help trainees determine the best in internship opportunities for them, and the resources to navigate specialized postings and/ or tailor their own experiences.

How long is an internship?

Internships are structured as full-time work experience (up to 12 weeks), during which time host organizations, or "sponsors" typically offer a stipend to cover the equivalent cost of the quarterly tuition and living expenses, and trainees usually take a temporary leave of absence from Stanford.

Internships may be secured through formal or independent employer postings available through the program, or be individually tailored to fit employer and trainee interests.

What are the program policies for part-time internships and leaves of absence?

Many internships are full-time and include salary or stipend support for the intern. Trainees who pursue full-time internships, especially those including a paid stipend or salary, are encouraged to take a leave of absence from their academic program during their internship. A leave of absence for an internship opportunity is typically no longer than 10-12 weeks, or one quarter. During summer terms, petitioning for a leave is not always required although trainees should still review plans with their adviser/PI and make sure their funding is not affected. This may also vary by program.

A leave of absence will help trainees focus completely on their internship projects and goals, maximize their learning outcomes and gain a thoroughly immersive and first-hand experience of roles and functions in careers of their choice. Trainees on a leave of absence can explore a wider range of companies and sectors, and avoid potential funding conflicts as well as avoid having to juggle dual responsibilities in their lab and at the internship. For these reasons, we strongly recommend that trainees pursue full-time internships by taking a leave of absence, especially when the internship's pay structure provides full stipend support.

A leave of absence does not count toward a student's time to complete their degree, or postdocs' overall training time.

However, postdocs must be aware of potential issues regarding career transition award eligibility and may not be eligible for the institutional portion of their benefits, which they would need to pay themselves.

In some cases, an internship may involve work at a non-profit organization or other career context that does not provide full stipend support. In such special cases, trainees may consider internships without a leave of absence, or on a part-time basis; this includes International students, or students with fellowship or grant restrictions, for example, who need to remain enrolled per their visa/financial requirements.

Part-time or un-paid internships may give trainees the flexibility of maintaining their access to Stanford facilities and their lab projects. But they may impact trainee dedication to and efficiency in both internship and lab work, and may not provide the most useful introduction and mentoring at the internship site. In previous surveys, trainees who have pursued short-term or undefined internships have reported receiving skills development, but not the mentoring/supervision and networking experiences necessary to fully understand the company, sector or the job. We believe that part-time internships may also have the same impact on trainees.

Before pursing these part-time initiatives, trainees must also be aware of potential funding issues that may arise related to their graduate program or other funding sources.

We currently do not have funding to support unpaid or nonprofit internships, though we hope to obtain it in the future.

Regardless of the type of internship trainees are pursuing, they are encouraged to discuss their research goals and requirements with their advisors/PIs beforehand and plan their time accordingly.

What if I need to be enrolled in a course in order to maintain my visa/financial status?

An Internship Practicum course is offered during the quarter in which you are doing your internship; all trainees in internship are expected to attend at least one session for check-in purposes. International students and trainees with funding restrictions have the option of enrolling in this course for credit, if their visa/funding status does not permit them to take a leave of absence.

Are there any restrictions based on the source of a trainee's funding?

When considering a leave, trainees should always consult with their program administrator regarding the source of their funding, whether a sponsoring organization or a Stanford department, to find out whether a leave will affect their continued funding status.

What about my housing and health insurance?


If the internship takes place during summer, trainees can take a leave of absence and still be eligible to remain in housing. If the internship takes place during the autumn, winter or spring, trainees may request a "vacation quarter" if they have enrolled the previous 3 terms, including summer, and plan to enroll the following term. More information regarding housing and eligibility can be found at the Student Housing website.

Health Insurance

Students: Cardinal Care is an annual plan - trainees who enter Stanford in autumn and who do not opt out of Cardinal Care by September 15 are charged for the entire year and covered for the entire year academic year (9/1 through 8/31). Students who enter Stanford in other quarters and who do not opt out of Cardinal Care by the applicable deadline are charged for the remainder of the academic year and covered for the remainder of the academic year (8/31). A student who ends his/her relationship with the University (such as by conferral of terminal degree) at the end of autumn or winter quarter may drop the plan at the end of the corresponding Cardinal Care coverage period. Graduating students who request to opt out following autumn or winter graduation will not be billed (or covered) for future quarters. Opt out requests should be sent to or submitting a HELPSU ticket. Students who graduate at the end of spring do not have the option to leave the plan and remain covered through August 31.

A trainee who takes a leave of absence prior to attending class in the autumn base term will not be eligible to enroll in Cardinal Care for autumn, or any continuous quarters in which s/he is on leave. Upon return from leave, the student will be automatically enrolled in Cardinal Care for the remainder of the academic year unless enrollment is waived by the applicable deadline.

A trainee who is enrolled in Cardinal Care and takes a leave of absence after the first day of class in any given quarter will remain enrolled in Cardinal Care through the remainder of the academic year (8/31). Furthermore, trainees cannot opt-out of Cardinal Care if they have already enrolled in the program for the year.

Please contact Vaden's Insurance and Referral Office for more information at (650) 723-2135 or submit a HELPSU ticket.

Postdocs: Though customary, faculty mentors are not required to pay for the Stanford medical insurance coverage for their postdocs while the postdocs are on an approved unpaid leave of absence. A postdoc in this instance may elect to either:

  • Waive the Stanford medical plan after showing proof of other coverage to the Postdoc Benefits Coordinator in accordance with University Policy, and where applicable, visa regulations, or
  • Continue on the Stanford medical plan and arrange with the department that s/he will pay for it during the leave period. If neither of the above options is pursued, faculty mentors/PIs are required to pay for the full cost of the University contribution to the postdoc's medical coverage, typically from unrestricted sources. Notwithstanding the above, faculty mentors/PIs are required to pay for life/accidental death and disability coverage for their postdocs while on an unpaid leave of absence.

More information can be found at the Stanford Benefits website

As a potential alternative, internships typically offer a stipend that covers general living expenses, including health insurance; however, the stipend amount varies greatly by sector and internship employer.

What are the areas and sectors where internships are offered?

There is a wide range of companies and non-profit organizations that offer internships. Choosing the right location and role that best suits your interests can help you pursue the careers and paths of your choice. Depending on career interests, trainees can conduct internships in many different settings, including but not limited to:

  • Schools and universities
  • Biotechnology/pharmaceutical organizations
  • Government agencies or affiliates
  • Healthcare practices and organizations
  • Legal practices
  • Management consulting firms
  • Media firms
  • Nonprofit foundations
  • Venture capital and investment groups

Can I pursue an unpaid internship or short-term project?

At this time, we do not have supplemental funding for these types of projects. Should these funds become available, we hope to use them for projects that meet the criteria for an internship because we want to provide the best possible internship experiences for our trainees. Often, shorter projects are not overseen by a qualified supervisor so the quality of the experience cannot be verified and may not benefit trainees. Further, trainees deserve to be paid for their labor, and we believe that such a short experience is typically not enough time to create the connections in, or understand the breadth of, options in the field.

Among trainees who responded to our surveys previously, those who pursued short-term or undefined internships have reported that they received skills development, but not the mentoring/supervision and networking experiences necessary to fully understand the sector or the job.

Can I pursue a more formalized training program, such as "Bridge to BCG" or "McKinsey Insight"?

Unfortunately, these do not count as internships due to length and scope. We would be happy to provide more information and help you prepare for these projects in a separate setting, through appointments with one of our SoMCC advisors.

What are the requirements for companies or organizations that host internships?

Participating organizations are expected to provide a clearly defined project, payment for work completed, direct supervision from a host-company mentor, and opportunities for interns to gain exposure to multiple facets of the organization and its operations.

What are the requirements and steps for a student to participate in the CEO program?

The basic sequence of events and requirements for trainees to participate in the CEO internship program is as follows:

  1. Completion of the CEO Internship Development curriculum, encompassing career planning and exploration, resume/CV construction, communicating interests to sponsors and advisors, interview practice, and preparation for on-the-job success.
  2. Consultation with/signature from a trainee's advisor/PI regarding their internship plans and timing (part of CIDR)
  3. Completion of all forms for leave of absence and internship planning purposes
  4. Enrollment and participation in Practicum class while doing your internship
  5. Internship Site Evaluation Form — submitted after internship is completed

What is covered in the CEO Internship Development curriculum?

Curriculum highlights include:
Identifying and planning for career of choice

  • Assessing which sectors fit your values, interests and skills
  • Understanding how your academic training translates into myriad sectors and organizations

Communicating your plans

  • Professional network development and strategy
  • Tactics for discussing professional opportunities with your Advisor/PI and other stakeholders

Securing an offer & Transitioning to the Job

  • Tailoring and vetting application materials
  • Improvisation strategies to help you navigate and cope with the stress of interviews and prepare for on the job success

Can I participate in the program after I've already graduated?

Unfortunately, the CEO program is structured expressly for currently enrolled students. We encourage students wishing to take part in an internship after graduation to contact companies directly.

Do I have to tell my advisor I'm in the program?

Yes, participation in the program requires approval from your advisor because you are likely to be taking some time away from your academic work, even if your project is part-time. Trainees do not require permission from their advisor to enroll in the program, but will need to get it before starting an internship.

We encourage you to discuss your internship intent and plans with your advisor and explain what you will be doing, how it will help you and the lab, and your plan for accomplishing your academic goals once you return to the lab. Such a discussion will be mutually beneficial for you and your advisor: you can set expectations, and get guidance from your advisor on how to pursue your academic goals.

During the CEO Internship Development course, we will help you prepare for this discussion and consider these questions more thoroughly.

Further, the Committee on Graduate Admissions and Policy (CGAP) supports this program in light of NIH requirements for such training programs and the benefits to trainees. Please contact a SoMCC advisor about any complications.

Do I need to know what field or sector I want to go into to join the program?

No, career development is a lifelong process, subject to change, which is why the course is centered on a progressive decision-making framework to allow you to better define your interests, values, and skills and then decide which career and internship experiences make the most sense for your goals.

What is the average salary for an internship for trainees?

Salaries for internships varies by sector and type of duties performed. The average salary for graduate student interns overall is $25/hour. We recommend that trainees accept no less than their current graduate stipend in order to maintain their current standard of living. There is no additional funding available for unpaid internships at this time, though we hope to obtain such funding for those interested in non-profit and start-up internships in the future.

What are Stanford's requirements for non-disclosure and conflicts of interest?

Stanford's Conflict of Interest Review Program seeks to assist Stanford personnel in translating their discoveries and developments so that we can fulfill our mission to benefit the public. They also seek to minimize the adverse effects of conflicts of interest, and to advise faculty and staff on how to avoid, mitigate, or, if necessary, how to manage those conflicts. The purposes of this policy are to educate faculty about disclosure requirements, and to provide information about how conflicts of interest are assessed.

While most disclosures of financial interests will probably be deemed de minimus or not significant conflicts of interest, financial interests above certain thresholds will automatically be deemed significant conflicts of interest and will require closer scrutiny and possible elimination, mitigation, and/or management.

Conflicts that are deemed to have the potential, or are likely to be perceived as having the potential to have a direct and significant effect on the research, must be eliminated, mitigated, or managed.

Such strategies for eliminating, mitigating, or managing conflicts can include:

  • public disclosure of significant financial interests;
  • training on conflicts of interest and commitment for all personnel involved in the research;
  • monitoring of research by independent reviewers;
  • modification of the research plan;
  • disqualification from participation in all or a portion of the research;
  • divestiture of significant financial interests; and/or
  • severance of relationships that create actual or potential conflicts.


Barbara Flynn
Manager, Conflict of Interest Review Program

Stanford University School of Medicine,
MSOB Suite 100, Room X 114
Stanford, California, 94305-5460
phone 650-723-7226
fax 650-736-9516

What are the requirements for international trainees in the program?

International trainees may take the Practicum course for credit. Those on F and J visas have restrictions as to off campus internships as well as requirements, for F and J students, to maintain certain enrollment levels. F and J visa holders should consult with Bechtel International Center as to whether they are eligible to participate in these internships. Off campus internships, whether paid or unpaid, will need off campus work permission if the student is in F and J status.

H-1b visa holders are permitted only to work at the position for which the H-1b was filed. Any changes to this must be discussed with the Bechtel International Center.

What are the leave of absence policies/procedures?


The Leave of Absence policy clearly defines the parameters for leaving your training at Stanford for a set period of time, and outlines other administrative considerations (e.g., housing, library or gym access, etc.) that you may need to fulfill prior to the internship.

To participate in an internship opportunity on a full-time basis, the CEO Internship Program recommends that trainees take a "Leave of Absence." A leave of absence for an internship opportunity is typically no longer than 10-12 weeks, or one quarter. However, "Leaves" will not be granted for more than one year at a time, and a leave of absence from a graduate student's program may not exceed a cumulative total of two years, per Stanford University policy.

Graduate students may not take a leave of absence during their first quarter of enrollment. Leaves do not delay candidacy or master's program expiration dates. Failure to return as scheduled or to secure an extension of a prior leave will result in cancellation of registration privileges and a substantial reinstatement fee. Official department or University requirements cannot be fulfilled during the leave period.

Graduate students on a leave of absence are not registered and, therefore, do not have the rights and privileges of registered students. They cannot fulfill any official department or University requirements during the leave period. Degree programs and candidacy for graduate students must be valid in the term of re-enrollment.

During summer terms, petitioning for a leave is not always required although trainees should still review plans with their adviser/PI and make sure their funding is not affected. This may also vary by program.


Postdoctoral Scholars may request unpaid leave for personal or professional reasons other than sick, maternity or vacation leave. A period of unpaid leave may not exceed 90 days. An unpaid Leave of Absence may be granted after review in accordance with funding agency guidelines, programmatic need and visa regulations for international scholars. Prior to the start of the leave, the request must be approved by the Department and the faculty sponsor, and by Bechtel International Center in the case of international scholars. Final review and approval is given by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. Arrangement regarding the payment of medical insurance must be made at the time the request is made.

An unpaid leave period may not extend beyond the Scholar's current appointment or visa end date. International Scholars must have current visa status throughout the unpaid leave period. Requests for an unpaid leave that extends beyond the Scholar's appointment or visa end dates must be accompanied by a reappointment and, in the case of international scholars, a visa extension. All Postdoctoral Scholars maintain their appointment affiliation with the university, privileges, and benefits eligibility while on approved unpaid leaves of absence. A terminal leave unpaid period is not permitted.

The complete Stanford University policy and forms for on Leave of Absences are available from the Student Affairs office.

For MD Students

Students in medical school must request a leave of absence one quarter before they plan to leave. They may request time off for up to one year. For forms and more information, see the MD Handbook.

Where can I find out more about the program?

For more details, or to set up an initial consultation with an Internship advisor, please contact the Career Center.

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