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Mentors & Program Coordinators

As a mentor and/or program coordinator, you are the foundation of a successful research participation program, and you are commended for undertaking this important role. By hosting individuals at your facility, you are contributing to the education and training of the next generation of scientists, as well as advancing the mission of US DOT. It is essential that you read through all sections listed below.

Mentor and Program Coordinator Required Training

All mentors and program coordinators are required to complete the ORISE Training on Zintellect. Follow the steps below to register. (If you already have an account skip to item 3 below).  

  1. Register as a mentor at and wait for the approval message from ORISE.
  2. ORISE will approve your account (typically within 24 hours) and you will receive an approval message.
  3. Log into Zintellect and complete the mentor training (less than 30 minutes in total length).

Note: Additional training modules will be added to Zintellect throughout the year. You will be prompted to take the required training when you log in. For technical support in Zintellect contact

Before Start of Appointment

  1. Nature of the Appointment

    The ORISE Research Participation Program provides students, recent graduates, and university faculty opportunities to participate in project specific research and developmental activities that are detailed in the appointment project description. 

    An ORISE research participant at US DOT is not an employee of ORISE, ORAU, US DOT, the host facility, or any other office or agency. Instead, the participant has a guest appointment at the US DOT-designated facility and is affiliated with ORISE for the administration of the appointment through the ORISE appointment letter and Terms of Appointment.

    Although the research participant is involved in a project and participates in the ORISE program under your mentorship, the ORISE program is designed primarily to benefit the participant. The research project gives the participant an opportunity to receive hands-on experience that complements his or her academic course of study. Participants should be encouraged to attend seminars, professional meetings, staff meetings, and other functions that will provide insight into the ways in which professionals interact within your facility and with others.

    Because the primary purpose of the program is educational, the participant is not an employee performing a job. The participant’s project should not include activities that are reserved for federal employees, nor should the participant provide expert advice; supervise, mentor, hire or fire US DOT staff or other ORISE participants; have budget program management or signature authority; carry an official job title; or function in any way as a representative of the federal government.

    As a mentor you are responsible for the experience of a participant and for ensuring that the appointment is appropriate and does not include inherently government functions or staff augmentation activities.

    Inherently government functions (IGF) are those functions that are so intimately related to public interest as to require performance by federal government employees.

    Federal Law prohibits contractors from performing inherently governmental functions, and although your participant is not an employee of ORISE or US DOT, this principle still applies. Only federal employees should perform critical functions necessary for the agency to operate effectively and maintain control of its mission and operations.


    The following activities are defined in section 7.503 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation as IGF and ORISE participants should NOT partake in these:

    • Management and human resources
    • Policy formation
    • Procurement and disposition of federal property
    • Adjudication
    • Licensing and criminal prosecution functions
    • Freedom of Information Act request responses
    • Diplomatic, intelligence and military affairs involvement
    • Involvement in ethics-related responsibilities


    The following are activities that do not include IGF and are appropriate for ORISE participants:

    • Performing hands-on research
    • Developing briefing materials on research or agency leadership
    • Publishing the results of research
    • Participating in conferences
    • Obtaining other research-related experiences
    • Receiving mentoring and training
    • Receiving stipends
    • Receiving reimbursement of expenses


    Staff augmentation is defined as enhancing a federal workforce with non-federal employees. Mentors should verify the activities in the project description are not designed to augment the federal employee workforce, such as program management, clerical tasks, and administrative tasks. Also, the opportunity should not:

    • Be described like a job or a needed service
    • Require extensive prior experience
    • Require the participant to produce products or deliverables without training or mentoring
  2. Identifying a Project and Posting the Opportunity

    The first step in bringing a new participant on board is to identify a suitable research project.

    An appropriate project should provide hands-on experience that complements the participant’s academic studies in a STEM field. The project should require full-time attention (40 hours per week) unless a part-time appointment is requested.

    Once you have identified a research project for an ORISE participant, please contact ORISE to post the opportunity in Zintellect. Zintellect is the online catalogue and application system.

    All opportunities must be posted in Zintellect before a selection is made. Potential candidates identified through other means (such as word of mouth or at networking events) must still apply to a posted opportunity in Zintellect. It is important that there is a fair and competitive application process for each opportunity.

    Follow the steps below to request an opportunity posting through Zintellect:

    1.Complete the Zintellect Opportunity Request Form and send it to your US DOT Program Coordinator.

    2.The US DOT program coordinator will email the request to

    3.ORISE will draft the opportunity posting and send a link for you to review.

    4.Once you approve the posting, ORISE will make publish it in Zintellect and on our websites.


    ORISE can also offer additional assistance with targeted recruitment strategies for those hard to find candidates in less common STEM fields.

  3. Selection Process

    Once an US DOT mentor has selected a candidate for a project, there are a few steps to complete before the candidate can begin the appointment.

    1. The US DOT mentor makes a selection in Zintellect.
    2. The US DOT coordinator approves the selection in Zintellect.
    3. The ORISE team processes the selection and starts the ORISE onboarding process.
    4. After the applicant accepts the appointment, US DOT initiates the background check and security process at the facility.
    5. Once ORISE receives the certification of start from US DOT, we will begin stipend payments.


    See the Start of Appointment section on the Participant page for additional information.

  4. Activating stipend payments

    ORISE will need the following items before activating stipend payments. It is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure ORISE has received all items.

    • Signed appointment letter and terms of appointment
    • ORISE application through Zintellect
    • Current résumé
    • Official transcript showing most recent degree
    • Two references from persons who are familiar with the candidate’s educational qualifications (including a reference from a current or past faculty member if possible)
    • Verification of current health insurance
    • Verification of U.S. citizenship or appropriate VISA status for non-U.S. citizens received and verified by ORISE immigration
    • Certification of start from the US DOT program coordinator

    More stipend information is available on the Current Research Participants page.

During Appointment

  1. Time Schedules and Handling Absences

    All participants should be on-site at the facility and should avoid obligations that will interrupt the appointment. A participant with a full-time appointment should be assigned a research project that demands full-time attention (40 hours per week). Part-time appointments are also an option.

    Participants do not earn annual or medical leave, since they are guests at the US DOT and not employees. However, the mentor may approve up to 10 personal days during the appointment year (pro-rated for shorter or part-time appointments) without a reduction in stipend. All absences must be approved in advance by the mentor.

    Time off in excess of the allowed personal days may be permitted on a case-by-case basis as an unpaid absence. Extended time off for serious illness, emergencies, etc., will be unpaid and will require approval by the US DOT program coordinator. You must notify the US DOT program coordinator in advance of any unpaid absences. The US DOT program coordinator will notify ORISE of the unpaid absences which must be taken in one day increments.

    It is imperative that ORISE be quickly notified of any change in a participant’s schedule that will result in a different stipend payment than regularly received.

    Participants do not report on federal holidays and during emergency closings of the facility. The stipend is not impacted and these absences do not count as personal days.

    Should the participant choose to end the appointment early, it is essential that you notify the US DOT program coordinator of the early termination immediately. The US DOT program coordinator will notify ORISE of the change in appointment.

  2. How to Renew a Participant

    A mentor who wishes to extend a participant’s appointment should contact the US DOT program coordinator. It is preferred that a renewal request is received  at least two months prior to the participant’s current end date to allow enough processing time.

    Once ORISE has received approval of the renewal from the US DOT program coordinator specifying the funding, renewal end date, and any stipend or other changes, ORISE will send the participant a renewal letter to sign and return. Appointment renewal is based on the recommendations of the mentor and approval of US DOT program coordinator, and is contingent upon project needs and funding availability. 

    Participants are required to submit progress reports to ORISE and the mentor at the time of the renewal. The report should describe the educational experiences of the past year, and the research and learning goals that are expected during the renewal period.

    Postgraduate appointments are normally for one year and may be renewed for the equivalent of a total of five years of full-time participation. 

    Student appointments are normally for 10-12 weeks during the summer. Part-time appointments during the academic year are also possible. A student may be re-appointed with no time limit, while matriculating toward a degree. Students must provide ORISE with proof of enrollment each semester. Once a degree is earned, the student becomes eligible for a postgraduate appointment and may participate for up to five years in that category.

    University faculty appointments normally occur for 10-12 weeks during the summer. Sabbatical appointments are also possible. A university faculty member may be re-appointed, with no time limit, as long as he or she maintains status as full-time faculty at a U.S. College or University.



  3. Termination Process

    The duration of the appointment is specified in the appointment letter (and any subsequent renewal letters) from ORISE. Appointment end dates must be strictly observed and may not be changed without the appropriate communication from ORISE.

    As a participant’s scheduled end date approaches, ORISE will send a letter confirming the end date and outlining the procedures necessary to complete the appointment. The participant will need to submit a final report (one to two pages in length) describing the research and educational experiences during the appointment and evaluating the assistance provided by US DOT and ORISE. For some US DOT programs, a final survey is required instead of a final report. Any outstanding travel or other reimbursement forms must also be submitted. These items must be received by ORISE before the final stipend can be issued.

    Ending an Appointment Early

    Should a participant need to leave the program before the end of the appointment, the participant should directly inform ORISE by email and copy the US DOT mentor and the US DOT program coordinator. Non-U.S. citizens should also copy the ORISE immigration office. Two weeks’ advance notice is requested. Providing insufficient notice, or failure to communicate directly with ORISE, could result in unnecessary complications with final stipend payments.

    Extending an Appointment

    Continuing participation after the end of the appointment, even by a single day, is not permitted without first receiving an appointment extension. The mentor must follow the renewal process to extend the end date.

  4. Participant Information

    This information should help current research participants at US DOT with questions about their appointments. Each topic provides a broad overview for that process or area.

    Find out more


Mentor Resources

  • Mentor Responsibilities

    Guidelines for establishing a successful mentor relationship with the participant.

    Mentors should:

    • At the beginning of the appointment (before the participant arrives or on the first day), provide the participant with information and reading materials related to the specific project.
    • Work with your US DOT program coordinator to make necessary arrangements for the participant to gain access to the facility. Arrange for orientation to the facility and its procedures.
    • Be on site the first day of the participant’s appointment or designate a substitute to welcome the participant on your behalf. Introduce the participant to the appropriate staff members.
    • Provide a nurturing and stimulating intellectual atmosphere for the participant.
    • Encourage the participant to continue his or her education.
    • Encourage the participant to write a report on the research or technical project being conducted during the appointment period.
    • Leave instructions for the participant when you are unavailable, and designate a substitute mentor to serve in your absence.
    • Develop a training plan for the participant, including the areas of participation in the research project, attendance in meetings, conferences, special courses, etc.
    • Clearly define the activities in which the participant will be involved. Let the participant know your expectations for research progress, professional behavior, compliance, attendance, etc.
    • Assist the participant in getting settled into your facility and in becoming a productive member of your facility’s community.
    • Provide the appropriate materials, equipment, safety training, technical and clerical support, and office space for the participant to conduct the project.
    • Approve travel in a timely fashion. The participant fills out travel request, mentor has to sign off and forward to the US DOT program coordinator for approval.
    • Provide ongoing technical guidance and advice.
    • Be accessible.
    • Periodically review the status of the participant’s activities and give appropriate feedback.
    • Approve appropriate absences by the participant.
    • Make sure that ORISE is immediately informed if stipend payment needs to be adjusted due to an adjusted schedule, an unpaid absence, or an early termination.
    • Assist in preparation of participant’s renewal request or final reports and make recommendations on extension of appointment.
    • Immediately involve ORISE if a participant demonstrates an inability to function effectively within your research environment.

    Mentors should NOT:

    • Consider the participant an employee for any purpose. Participants receive no salary or fringe benefits. They receive a monthly stipend.
    • Consider the participant to be performing work.
    • Consider the participant as rendering advisory or personal services.
    • Consider the participant as providing expert advice.
    • Consider the appointment as a commitment to future employment by US DOT or others.
    • Consider the appointments as dependent upon the performance of any specific work or the delivery of a product.
    • Assign program management authority, signature authority, or official job titles to a participant
  • Zintellect

    Description of ORISE internship/research participation appointments at US DOT.

    How to get into Zintellect

  • Additional Resources for Mentors

    Whether you’re a first-time mentor or a seasoned mentor, there are resources that can help provide new insights to your mentoring process.

    Because we believe that good mentoring is the cornerstone of quality educational programs, ORISE staff have developed an online mentor orientation module. Please note this is different from the required mentor training in Zintellect. The purpose of this module is to provide mentors with information about how to make the most of their mentoring experience.

    The module addresses the following topics:

    • Deciding to Host a Research Participant
    • Identifying an Appropriate Project
    • Selecting the Best Person for Your Project
    • Preparing to Host Your Participant
    • Orienting Your Participant on the First Day
    • Providing a Quality Experience
    • Preventing and Solving Problems

    To access the orientation module, please visit ORISE Mentor Orientation.

    For more information visit the ORISE Mentoring page.

    For additional information on mentoring, please see Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering (developed by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine).


Program Coordinator Resources

  • How to Start a Program

    It is easy for a new customer to initiate a program through DOE’s Strategic Partnership Projects (SPP) office.

    The ORISE Internship/Research Participation Programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) are STEM-related educational and training programs designed to provide students, recent graduates, and university faculty opportunities to participate in project-specific US DOT research and developmental activities.

    US DOT ORISE participants do not perform work in place of federal employees; nor are they considered to be US DOT employees. Instead, the participant has a guest appointment at the US DOT-designated facility and is affiliated with ORISE for the administration of the appointment through the ORISE appointment letter and Terms of Appointment.

    Because ORAU manages the ORISE contract for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), it is easy for a new customer to initiate a program through DOE’s Strategic Partnership Projects (SPP) office. Simply contact the ORISE US DOT project manager to request a draft proposal. After you have an opportunity to review and discuss any needed changes, ORISE will then request that DOE send you a formal proposal.

    Funding for appointments is provided via interagency agreement with DOE. Funding must be approved by DOE and fully obligated before appointments can be offered.

  • How to Fund a Participant

    Steps for establishing funds for a participant.

    Initial Funding

    After you have received the Department of Energy (DOE)-approved ORISE proposal to sponsor one or more participants in the Internship/Research Participation Program, the next step is to submit a funding document (an Interagency Agreement or IA) to DOE. This indicates your formal acceptance of the proposal. You should allow approximately 4-5 weeks for the entire process to be completed. This time frame allows you to complete the internal US DOT approval process for the IA and up to 10 days for DOE to approve the IA. Send the funding document directly to DOE and a copy to ORISE. DOE will send the signed originals back to US DOT, following instructions provided by US DOT when the IA was submitted.

    After DOE approves the IA, you may appoint research participants to your program. For more information please read about the nature of the appointment, identifying a project, selection process, and activating stipend. The ORISE US DOT project manager can answer any additional questions.

    The Funding Process

    Complete IA

    Send IA to DOE

    IA is approved by ORISE and DOE

    DOE returns signed copy to US DOT

    Funding MUST be approved before participant can begin

    On-going Funding

    After the initial funding is approved, additional funds may be sent at any time by submitting an IA to DOE; a new proposal is not necessary.

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