Postdoctoral Fellows

Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) are key contributors to SFU’s research mission. As valued members of the University community, their primary objectives include broadening their research-related expertise, building associations with established researchers, and strengthening their publication record. As researchers, PDFs have the opportunity to make significant contributions to their chosen fields, to the University, and to the University’s faculty researchers and graduate students.

Postdoctoral Fellows who are currently part of the SFU community, or who are considering choosing SFU to further their research expertise can find additional information at Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.


Postdoctoral Fellows (PDFs) are individuals who have completed a doctoral degree and who have been appointed by the University for a limited period of time to undertake advanced research and further their professional development in association with one or more of the University’s faculty members.

A PDF’s initial appointment must be made within the five years after the PDF’s completion of a doctoral degree. PDFs who are funded through grants held by the faculty supervisor are designated as Internal PDFs and are employees of the University.

PDFs who have been awarded a fellowship directly from an external granting agency which may or may not be administered by SFU are designated as External PDFs and work under the general guidance of faculty researchers. External PDFs are not employees of SFU.

Policy R50.03, the Postdoctoral Fellow Policy governs the relationship between PDFs, SFU and the faculty supervisors. PDFs and the faculty and staff who support them should familiarize themselves with Policy 50.03.   

Responsibility for the policy resides with the Office of the Vice-President Research, while Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) retains responsibility for advocacy, academic and cultural support.

The Supervisor maintains responsibility for the recruiting, appointing, and supervising a PDF during their time at SFU. 

Individuals who do not qualify for appointment as Postdoctoral Fellows may be considered for appointment as Research Associates.

All PDF appointments, renewals and conclusion of appointments are processed through Faculty Relations.

Internal and External PDFs

Internal PDFs

  • salaries are paid by funds held by a University faculty member, from the University’s financial resources or a combination of the two
  • employee of the University
  • eligible for benefits

External PDFs

  • secured funding directly from an external funding organization or fellowship program external to the University
  • not employees of the University
  • are not eligible for benefits

It is vital that staff and faculty members who hire and administer PDFs understand these distinctions, as the administrative processes and procedures for these two types of PDFs vary.

Refer to Policy R50.03 section 4.0 for a complete definition.

A PDF Appointment Form is required for both Internal and External PDFs. Upon receiving the completed form, Faculty Relations will begin the administrative set-up of the PDF, which includes sending the Offer of Employment letter (Internal PDFs) or Invitation letter (External PDFs).

The letter outlines the PDFs’ relationship with the University and where applicable, benefits eligibility. 

Once the offer has been accepted and signed by the PDF, Faculty Relations will process the employment record and initiate payroll.

Please refer to Postdoctoral Fellows Policy R50.03 and processes for further information, or contact for assistance.