Student Handbook

TAs, GRAs, Fellowships

Students making satisfactory progress in the Field of Genetics, Genomics and Development receive financial support, including tuition fellowships or waivers. Support beyond five years will be contingent on a review of progress by the DGS and Department Chair in consultation with the major professor and student. In your progress report each Spring semester you will indicate your desired form of financial support for the coming year. Your preferences will be met whenever possible. There are three main sources of financial support: teaching assistantships (TA), graduate research assistantships (GRA), and fellowships. TAs stipulate a time commitment of 15 hours/week (20 hours for some Intro. Biology TAs) and provide a stipend as well as tuition. The Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics is allocated 10 academic year TA positions and these are assigned each semester based on the teaching needs of our instructors and the financial needs of our graduate students. Teaching performance is evaluated by the students in the courses and reviewed by the teaching faculty of the Section. This review becomes a part of the graduate record and is included in consideration for subsequent support.

Funds for GRAs come from several sources including grants awarded to individual faculty members. Support from a faculty research grant must be arranged with the faculty member involved. Fellowships are awarded from the Genetics and Development Training Grant and the Plant Cell and Molecular Biology Training Grant, as well as from the Graduate School.

NIH Training Grant in Genetics and Development: Students who are US citizens or permanent residents are eligible for support by the NIH Training Grant in Genetics and Development. Appointments to the training grant are made competitively for one year periods. Decisions about the training grant are made by a committee composed of the Principal Investigator of the Training Grant, the Director of Graduate Studies, and an elected member of the faculty from the Field. The training grant is used to support students during their first year on a non-competitive basis, and during subsequent years (up to three total) on a competitive basis.

University-Wide and Other Fellowships: Fellowship money is available from Cornell University on a competitive basis for incoming students awarded by their Field (e.g. Sage fellowship, Genomics fellowship and Presidential fellowship).

Predoctoral fellowships (including some reserved for under-represented minority students) are awarded by The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to students in the early stages of graduate study. Please contact the DGS, GFA, or your faculty advisor to obtain more information about these fellowships.

Other private foundations that offer fellowships are listed in the "Fellowship Notebook", located on the Graduate School web site at

Summer Support

If your support does not continue through the summer (e.g. TAs), summer support is available from research grants, the Department's discretionary funds and Graduate School Summer Assistantships which are awarded by the Department on the basis of need. Discuss your situation with the Administrative Manager and your major professor.

Tax Status of Stipends

In general, stipends (assistantships and fellowships) are considered taxable income. State and Federal income taxes are automatically withheld from all assistantship paychecks that are processed through Cornell's payroll system (TAships). You should receive a W2 from the Payroll Office.

Taxes are not withheld on fellowship and training grant stipends for U.S. citizens and permanent residents or international students from nations with which the U.S. has a tax treaty exempting scholarships or fellowships. International students from nations that do not have a tax treaty with the U.S. exempting scholarships and fellowships will have 14 percent automatically deducted from their fellowship stipends. For details, students should refer to the University Tax Office's web site:

It is our understanding that Cornell does not report training grant or fellowship stipend support as income, but students are responsible for reporting it as such and for paying taxes. If proof of support is needed, students can print off bursar statements or go to the student service center and print out their account activity.

The following is a direct link to a FAQ section that may be of help The ISSO office also provides information about filing taxes for international students.

Tuition and health insurance are not considered taxable income unless provided directly for "services rendered." Books and supplies are deductible and receipts should be kept (consult your tax advisor!).


Research Grants

Numerous grants are available for students who take the time and effort to apply for them. Grantsmanship is an important skill in academia and one worth refining early. Some proposals must be submitted in the name of a faculty member, such as those awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Competitive Grants Program, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Geographic Society. The Office of Sponsored Programs (123 Day Hall, 5-5014) has a Federal Register of weekly listings of available money and has several compendia of agencies and industries that provide research grants. Other research grants are awarded directly to graduate students. Some of the more reliable sources include:

  1. Cornell Chapter of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society. This is an especially good source for new graduate students. Awards are in the $100 to $300 range. Application deadline is in February.
  2. Sigma Xi, National Headquarters (345 Whitney Avenue New Haven, CT 06511). Application deadlines for the Grants-in-Aid Program ($100 - $1,000) occur three times a year.
  3. American Association of University Women (Director, Programs Office, 2401 Virginia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037) offers Grants-in-aid, Dissertation Completion Grants, and Postdoctoral Fellowships for women. These are very competitive — available to women in all fields.
  4. Grants for Improving Doctoral Dissertation Research (National Science Foundation, Forms and Publications Unit, 1800 G Street, NW - Room 232, Washington, DC 20550). Funds are available for almost every facet of research except stipends and tuition. Proposals are written by students but submitted on behalf of the student by the major advisor through Cornell’s Office of Sponsored Programs. Call the Office of Sponsored Programs (5-5014) for current deadlines.
  5. Fulbright grants support graduate study or research abroad. Applications are available in the Fellowship Office, 155 Caldwell. Competitive, but well worth the effort if you plan to study overseas.
  6. Congressionally Directed Medical Research Grants. This program funds research for graduate students whose projects focus on a variety of human diseases. Information on the grants can be found at: Students at Cornell have won these awards!