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Interns and Observers in University Central Schools

The breadth of research at Vanderbilt University creates an array of opportunities for individuals to participate in enriching educational experiences. These opportunities, whether paid or unpaid, are intended to be enriching educational or research experiences with a defined educational purpose. This site provides policy information and guidance to those within University Central schools who wish to allow someone who is not a student or employee of Vanderbilt to serve as an intern or observer.  Because of the educational nature of these experiences, these positions are not employment positions, and those in them are not considered Vanderbilt employees.

Faculty interested in serving as faculty sponsors for interns or observers should first contact their department chair to discuss plans for the experience. They should then complete the necessary forms and submit them prior to having the intern or observer arrive on campus. After forms have been submitted to and reviewed by the appropriate department chair and dean’s office and applicable safety training has been fulfilled, the intern or observer is eligible to begin an intern or observer experience.

Policy Scope

These guidelines govern all areas in University Central schools, both on and off campus study sites. For an intern or observer to participate, the laboratory, studio, or facility must be in full compliance with all applicable Vanderbilt safety programs and regulations. If the intern or observer is a minor, the minor must be directly supervised by the faculty sponsor or designated supervisor at all times while in the laboratory, studio, or facility.

Information and guidelines about opportunities through Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Center for Science Outreach are available on their websites.

Forms & FAQs

  • Registration Form: Describes the educational objective of the experience to be completed.
  • Statement of Agreement: To be signed by the faculty sponsor, department chair, intern or observer, and the student’s parent or legal guardian (if the student is under 18 years of age).
  • Transcript/Letter of Support: Current undergraduate or graduate students must provide a copy of their transcript demonstrating their status as a currently enrolled student; high school students must provide a letter from their guidance counselor or principal confirming enrollment at their home institution; and visiting K-12 teachers must provide a letter from their principal or superintendent.
  • Emergency Contact and Medical Information Form: All interns and observers must provide emergency contact information and proof of insurance before they can begin their experience.
  • Library Privileges for Interns and Observers: Describes the process for obtaining borrowing privileges and other library services; to be signed by the faculty sponsor
  • FAQs: To help clarify questions about interns and observers that might arise.


These opportunities, whether paid or unpaid, share the following characteristics:

  • They are intended to be enriching educational or research experiences with a defined educational purpose;
  • They are designed to inform an individual about the nature of endeavors at the university and potential career paths;
  • They are time-limited and generally do not exceed one academic term;
  • They are not applicable to students currently enrolled at Vanderbilt, current Vanderbilt employees (temporary or permanent), or subjects in studies approved by the Vanderbilt Human Research Protection Program; and
  • They are not to exclude a qualified employee from his or her employment.


  • Intern: When someone engaged in such an experience is paid, either by Vanderbilt University or another organization.
  • Observer: When someone engaged in such an experience is not paid.
  • Minor: Any individual under 18 years of age.
  • Faculty Sponsor: A Vanderbilt faculty member who oversees the activity and involvement of the intern or observer while at Vanderbilt.
  • Designated Supervisor: A Vanderbilt employee who is directly responsible for overseeing the activities and involvement of the intern or observer while at Vanderbilt. The designated supervisor must be thoroughly familiar with the activities in which the person will be involved and the policies that govern that involvement. The Faculty Sponsor may also serve as the Designated Supervisor.

Hiring Procedures

  • These procedures should be followed, regardless of whether the intern is paid through the Vanderbilt payroll or stipend system. In general, interns are paid via stipend if permitted by the sponsor. If hiring an intern, the department will also fill out the necessary forms to ensure payment.
  • When paying via stipend, use Stipend Request Form 60-002-551, available from the Standard Register Catalog on eProcurement. Generally stipend payments do not have taxes withheld (this can vary for international recipients). By January 31 of each year, HR Processing will send every stipend recipient a letter regarding taxability and what forms if any to expect from Vanderbilt.
  • If paid via the HR system, one of the following job codes is used: 9247 – Visiting Research Intern Monthly (for those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher), 9246 – Visiting Research Intern Hourly (for pre-baccalaureate interns), or 9270 – J-1 Visa Intern (for foreign nationals). A New Hire PAF will need to be completed.
  • Interns and observers who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents may face different requirements, depending on their visa status.  It is important to consult with International Tax before bringing someone to campus, to be sure they are eligible for payment.  For additional information, contact the International Tax Office at (615) 343-7102.
  • Please note, these are temporary positions and as such neither salaried positions nor those paid a stipend come with benefits.

Safety and Compliance Requirements

Interns and observers are expected to complete whatever safety training is normally required for faculty and students working in the laboratory, studio, or facility. Furthermore, Tennessee law prohibits minors from having access to certain hazardous workplace settings. If the faculty sponsor or designated supervisor has any questions concerning potential hazards, proper personal protection equipment, or training, they should contact Vanderbilt Environmental Health and Safety (VEHS) directly at (32)2.2057.

Anyone interacting with minors must also comply with relevant department, school, and institutional policies regarding background checks.  This includes having a background check completed and accepted by Vanderbilt prior to beginning work with minors. Complete information about working with minors can be found at the Protection of Minors website (vunetid and password required).  For additional information, contact the office directly at (93)6.0660 or

Faculty sponsors and designated supervisors must also ensure appropriate training in the following circumstances: