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As a mentor, you are the foundation of a successful research participation program, and you are commended for undertaking this important role. By hosting participants at your facility, you are contributing to the education and training of the next generation of scientists, as well as advancing the mission of USDA APHIS. It is essential that you review all sections below.

Mentor Required Training

All mentors are required to complete ORISE Mentor 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

  • 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 spelled out in the appointment project description.

    An ORISE research participant at USDA APHIS is not an employee of ORISE, ORAU, USDA APHIS, the host facility, or any other office or agency. Instead, the participant has a guest appointment at the USDA APHIS-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 program under your mentorship, the program is designed primarily to serve the participant. The 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 USDA APHIS 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 your sponsoring agency, 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
  • 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, the on-line 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:

    • Complete the Zintellect Opportunity Request Form and send it to ORISE
    • ORISE will draft the opportunity posting and send a link for you to review.
    • Once you have approved the posting, ORISE will make it live 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.

  • Selection Process

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

    The USDA APHIS mentor must approve all candidates for ORISE appointments. The mentor is responsible for any other necessary internal USDA APHIS approvals. Candidates may not begin ORISE appointments earlier than the start date approved by the mentor. The USDA APHIS mentor will notify ORISE of the approved start date, end date, and stipend rate for approved candidates, and which funds will cover the cost of the appointment, by submitting the Selection Form in Zintellect. Note that the participant may not continue past the approved end date without an appointment extension (see renewal of appointmentapproved by the mentor.

    Follow the steps below.

    Selection process through Zintellect

    • Check with the USDA APHIS security for any additional internal processes that will be required prior to allowing the participant to start (such as security access to the facility and other resources that they may need).
    • Once ORISE receives and reviews the authorized selection and confirms the funding availability, ORISE will initiate the official appointment letter offer and other necessary forms for the participant to complete.
    • All candidates must receive their appointment letter from ORISE before their first day of participation to ensure that they will be eligible to receive a stipend. The Appointment Letter will outline any contingencies that must be met prior to the selected candidate starting their appointment.
    • All participants are required to have health insurance in place no later than the first day of the appointment and maintain health insurance throughout the duration of the appointment.
    • Selected candidates who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents must also consult with ORISE immigration staff upon acceptance of the appointment to ensure they have the authorizations necessary for participation before beginning their appointments. Selected candidates cannot start their appointment until the ORISE immigration staff have notified they are cleared to start. Also, see Guidelines for Non-U.S. Citizens for clarification on the types of authorizations acceptable for the program.
  • 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
    • At least one reference 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 USDA APHIS mentor

During Appointment

  • Time Schedules and Handling Absences

    A full-time participant should be on-site at the facility and should avoid obligations that will interrupt the appointment. The participant with a full-time appointment should be assigned a research project that demands full-time attention (40 hours per week).

    Participants do not earn annual or medical leave, since they are guests at USDA APHIS and not employees. However, the mentor may approve up to 10 personal days 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., may be unpaid and will require approval by the USDA APHIS mentor. You must notify ORISE in advance of any unpaid absences.

    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 ORISE of the early termination immediately.

  • How to Renew a Participant

    The appointment extension request is initiated by ORISE at least two months prior to the participant’s current end date to allow enough processing time. A mentor who wishes to extend a participant’s appointment can also contact ORISE directly.

    Once ORISE has received approval of the appointment extension specifying the funding, extension end date, and any stipend or other changes, ORISE will send the participant an extension letter to sign and return. Appointment extension is based on the recommendations of the mentor and is contingent upon project needs and funding availability.

    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 an undergraduate or graduate 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.

  • 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 USDA APHIS and ORISE. 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 USDA APHIS mentor. 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.

Mentor Resources

  • Mentor Responsibilities

    Guidelines for establishing a successful relationship with the participant.

    Mentors should:

    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Immediately involve ORISE if any concerning incidents occur or if the participant registers a serious concern.

    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 appointment as a commitment to future employment by USDA APHIS 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 USDA APHIS.

    How to get into Zintellect


  • Suggestions for a Successful Relationship

    Some tips for a great appointment.

    • 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 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.
  • Additional Resources for Mentors

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

    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).

    Because we believe that good mentoring is the cornerstone of quality educational programs, ORISE staff have developed an online mentor orientation module. 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.