Stanford Biosciences students talking

Faculty Frequently Asked Questions

What is the CEO Internship Program?

The CEO program is a unique opportunity for graduate/medical students and postdocs to gain practical experience outside their academic research through participation in an internship experience.

Who is eligible to participate in the program?

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

Population specific eligibility:

Graduate students — having passed all their doctoral qualifying exams and making good progress toward their thesis goals MD students and postdocs — after their first year

How long do internships typically last?

Internships are structured as full-time work experience (up to 12 weeks). Trainees who pursue full-time internships that provide a full stipend or salary are encouraged to take a leave of absence from their academic program during the internship. Host organizations, or "sponsors" typically offer a stipend to cover the equivalent cost of the quarterly tuition and living expenses.

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 then explore a wider range of companies and sectors, and avoid potential funding conflicts as well as having to juggle dual responsibilities in their lab and at the internship.

In special cases, trainees may participate in internships without a leave of absence, or on a part-time basis — International students, or students with fellowship or grant restrictions, for example, who need to remain enrolled per their visa/financial requirements. Internships that advance the trainee's personal career development goals and are consistent with the terms of the trainees present funding may also qualify. For example, inclusion of an internship in the trainees Individual Development Plan (IDP) and a description of these components in the "opportunities for training" section of your NIH grant would enable trainees to actively participate in an internship while remaining supported by the NIH grant.

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 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 encourage you to work with your trainees to determine the best possible experience for them.

When can trainees participate in an internship?

We suggest that the optimal timing is during the third, fourth or fifth year of graduate school; exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Trainees are advised to plan their research and academic program requirements keeping in mind that they will not be able to work in their academic labs during the course of the internship. Trainees will need to receive permission from their advisors/PIs before taking up an internship.

Are there any restrictions based on the source of a trainees' 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.

Most of the time, a full-time internship with a leave of absence will be the most viable option as it prevents faculty and funding sources from having to pay for the trainee when they are not consistently in the lab. Exceptions are made on a case to case basis, as with international students. Trainees will need to get the necessary approval from mentors and funding sources.

What about funding for trainees on leave of absence?

Participating organizations/sponsors are expected to provide payment for work completed in the form of a stipend to trainees who take a leave of absence from their academic program to pursue full-time internships.

Salaries for internships vary 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. We will work with trainees to help them negotiate this as well as with our employers to make sure funding is set at a fair rate.

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 is the status of trainees during leaves of absence relative to housing and health insurance?


If the internship takes place during summer, students 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, students 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 eligibility can be found at the Student Housing website.

Health Insurance

Students: Cardinal Care is an annual plan - students 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 student 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 student 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). 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 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.

In what settings can internships take place?

There is a wide range of companies and non-profit organizations that offer internships. We encourage trainees to carefully consider the location and type of work involved in an internship as part of their broader career development. Depending on career interests, trainees can conduct internships in many different settings, including:

  • 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

What are the requirements and steps for a trainee to participate in an internship?

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, 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 Career and Internship Development Record)
  3. Completion of all forms for leave of absence, conflict of interest policies, and internship planning purposes
  4. Enrollment in Practicum class, while completing the internship. This meets for one session to ensure progress toward goals and ending with an evaluation of the candidate and internship site.
  5. Internship Site Evaluation Form – submitted after internship is completed

Will a student's participation in an internship lengthen their time to degree completion?

No. Internships are up to 12 weeks long and the CEO program itself provides the structure to help trainees plan for how this fits within their academic as well as professional goals. Students are required to get advisor permission before leaving for an internship and, at that time, it is expected that they will discuss these goals, as well as their plan for re-entry into the lab upon their return. You may be surprised at how much more efficient students become when they return, as they will have obtained new skill sets they can apply to their research and better clarity in their goals for the future, as well as an appreciation for the broader applications of their research.

A leave of absence does not count towards 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.

Isn't this aimed at sending our trainees outside of academic research?

Not necessarily. Internships are offered in many areas, including academic teaching and biotechnology research where skills garnered will translate nicely into academic research, as relevant. We have, in fact, had students complete internships in different sectors and decide to return to academic research as they learned to appreciate it while they were away. Finally, should students decide that academia is not for them, it is good for them to discover that early on so that they can effectively plan how to complete their academic goals in preparation for their career of choice. In the CEO program, we make it mandatory that trainees develop a plan for re-entry into the lab upon completion of the internship.

How does a trainees's participation in an internship help my lab's overall research goals?

Students and postdocs perform best when they understand how their research training prepares them for the next steps in their career, and when they feel supported by their advisors to pursue their goals. You may be surprised at how readily the new skills trainees garner from internships translate to the academic research environment. An internship at a biotechnology firm, for example, helps them understand the broad-reaching practical applications of their research. Consulting, for example, helps students develop the communication skills necessary to better present and explain their research to wider audiences, as well as clearly communicate their research, goals and plans to their peers and advisors.

Our trainees are very enthusiastic about this program which is based on the very successful model used by UCSF for the last 5 years. As a result, we can expect trainees to return from their internship experiences with skills that enrich the quality of their academic research, including a strong sense of direction and drive to complete their academic training, greater leadership and professionalism, reinforced passion for science and improved interpersonal skills.

What if my trainee is not a high performer and really needs to stay and finish his/her project?

We encourage you to have this discussion with your student before saying "no." Their performance may actually improve once s/he has set some professional goals and knows what s/he has to do to get there. Additionally, students are encouraged to not simply ask for permission to participate, but to also explain their rationale for participation and plan for integrating new skills and ideas back into the lab upon their return. This is an excellent time for you to give valuable feedback and to discuss plans for meeting both academic and professional goals.

I have some very high performing scientists in my lab; they will certainly have an academic job waiting for them after their postdoc. Should they be considering other options?

Maybe. According to the NIH Biomedical Workforce Report, the number of academic research positions in the biosciences is continuing to drop and, as a result, there is a bottleneck of postdocs waiting to find academic jobs. Some students may not succeed at finding an academic research job, some may not want to try and still others may simply find that their interests and values don't really match those in academia to begin with. Further, you may find that some of the skills gleaned from an internship transfer nicely into academic science. We encourage you to ask students why they want to pursue an internship in the first place. If they state that they don't think they can make it in academia, it will be wonderful for them to hear that you are confident in their abilities. If they do not want to pursue academia in the first place, this is a good time to discuss their academic goals and how these can help them succeed in their career of choice.

How do I discuss career development issues with my trainees?

You do not have to delve deeply into your student's professional needs and interests. However, allowing students to try new things is a way of showing support for such needs and interests. This support will go a long way, and will be helpful to both of you, if you can discuss how you see the student's professional and academic goals integrating and aligning with those of the lab. Finally, there are a lot of resources on campus, including the School of Medicine Career Center, to which you can refer your students.

Where can I find out more about the program?

For more details, or to discuss any concerns about your trainee or the program, please contact the Director of the SoMCC, Stephanie Eberle, at

Examples of links to forms and other relevant information, which will be incorporated and organized on the website, include the following:

Give us feedback