Career support

September 29, 2022
Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research, 2013–2024 | Ramona Allen, Vice President for Human Resources |

To all MIT research scientists, research engineers, and research associates:

As you may recall, Task Force 2021 and Beyond was charged by President Reif in May 2020 with “developing the blueprints for building a better MIT.” The task force’s final recommendations, issued in November 2021, included a call for the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), working with Human Resources (HR) and the schools and college, to strengthen the career support we provide to you.

The task force called upon us to take steps to create a greater sense of community connection across MIT research units, more structured performance review and feedback processes, and clearer MIT career paths for research scientists, research engineers, and research associates. As the task force noted, an earlier report from the School of Science offers a compelling model to follow in this Institute-wide effort. On that basis, a cross-functional team from the Office of the Provost, OVPR, and HR has begun to implement recommendations from both reports. We are writing now to provide an update on our progress.


To help foster a sense of community, we will be hosting a series of events tailored to your interests. We invite you to join us at the first of these, on Tuesday, October 25, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Zoom (register here). During this initial session, Colleen Leslie, Assistant Provost for Research Administration, will provide an overview of the Institute’s research funding portfolio and the administrative infrastructure supporting the research enterprise.

This first presentation will lay the groundwork for future events and networking opportunities. We welcome your suggestions and input on future programming at

Performance reviews

In the task force recommendations, we also heard your request for more structured performance review and feedback processes. A new Research Staff Review Form, piloted by researchers and supervisors in the School of Science in 2021, is now broadly available for use. The new form is a tool to promote dialogue between you and your supervisor. We are asking the deans of the schools and college to emphasize the importance of reviews and encourage the use of this new form with your supervisors.

Naturally, review conversations are a shared responsibility. To make the most of this important opportunity for feedback, please consider taking an MIT HR workshop called Performance Development: Employee’s Role. Sessions are currently scheduled on October 6 and 27 and November 17, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If these sessions fill, please join the waiting list, as more sessions will be added based on demand.

Career ladders

You are part of a cohort of approximately 600 employees classified as research scientists, research associates, or research engineers, defined collectively as appointees who “contribute significantly to the design and execution of experiments in research projects.” Yet, given the variation across MIT research groups, it is difficult to draw meaningful distinctions and comparisons among such employees’ expected contributions from the job titles alone. The task force called upon the Institute to clarify the responsibilities and privileges of job types within this group to create rewarding career paths that recognize growth and high performance.

To advance this important work, our analysis to date indicates the need for an Institute-wide effort to ensure that updated job descriptions are available at the local level for every research scientist, research engineer, and research associate. This is a necessary first step in clarifying the distinctions in current duties among such a large group, and it will require that direct supervisors provide input to HR as to the scope and responsibilities of each position. In mid-October, the deans of the schools and the college will meet to discuss how best to advance this effort as well as how we might adapt the proposals from the School of Science on career ladders to all schools at MIT. We look forward to providing further updates as this work evolves.

Tuition assistance benefits

Lastly, we’d like to remind you of a resource to assist your career development. If you are interested in continuing your scientific and professional education during your employment, you may be eligible to have some or all continuing education expenses reimbursed through MIT’s Tuition Assistance Plan. We encourage you to take advantage of this benefit.

As research scientists, research associates, and research engineers, you are absolutely vital to the strength and success of MIT’s research enterprise. We are grateful to you for the excellent work you do every day, and we are committed to doing our part to make your professional experience as rewarding as possible.

We welcome all your suggestions and questions at


Maria T. Zuber
Vice President for Research

Ramona Allen
Vice President for Human Resources