Research Assistantships


A Research Assistant is a member of a research group in a Laboratory or Project. The position offers a close association with members of the Faculty and is a very effective arrangement for graduate study. Work on the thesis project is normally part of the Research Assistant’s assignment and most students welcome the opportunity to participate on a research project that frequently influences their choice of thesis topic.

A Research Assistant may register for up to 27 units of scheduled classroom and laboratory work; this limit is strictly observed for all Research Assistants. Exceptions are granted by the Committee on Graduate Students only in exceptional circumstances. In this Department, this usually means two 12-unit graduate subjects. For those who are not Research Assistants, academic credit may be received for participation in the research program by registering for subject 6.960 and/or for thesis.

Full-time Research Assistants receive a monthly stipend and their tuition is paid. Tuition will be prorated for part-time Research Assistants according to Department policy. Stipend rates which will become effective 6/1/13 will be $2,435 per month (SM level) and $2,664 per month (PhD level). Research Assistants will find the cost of an individual health insurance plan fully covered during the tenure of their appointment.

The U.S. government requires all graduate students hired for research, teaching, etc., to sign, under penalty of perjury, an "Employment Eligibility Verification" (I-9 Form). You must produce specified documents, which verify your identity and authorization to work and present them to the Graduate Office. Your appointment cannot be completed until the signed I-9 Form and the appropriate documents have been processed in the Student Financial Services Office, Room 11-120. In order to avoid delays in receiving your first month's salary, please complete the form immediately, or in the case of new graduate students, as soon as you arrive on campus.

Federal and State tax will be withheld from your pay. Tuition is not taxable.

Research Assistants appointed for a twelve-month period are entitled to two weeks of vacation with pay. This may be taken concurrently with the regular academic vacation periods or at another time provided the Assistant continues regular work during these school vacation periods. Vacations must be arranged with the Assistant's research supervisor. Vacation time is not cumulative and should be taken prior to the termination date of the Assistantship appointment.

Research Assistants will be asked to sign a form entitled "Invention and Copyright Agreement for M.I.T. Academic Staff and Students engaged in Sponsored Research or Using Special Facilities", when they start their employment with their project or Laboratory. The agreement is self-explanatory.

A Research Assistant's assigned duties together with the allowed classroom registration will normally demand full-time attention. As a result, students holding this appointment are discouraged from accepting additional employment. In rare cases where additional income is needed, the Research Assistant must obtain the approval of his/her research supervisor and the EECS Graduate Office. If the amount of additional compensation exceeds 10% of the Assistant’s stipend, then approval of the Dean for Graduate Education is also required. For details on the Department's policy on other employment see memorandum 3903.

If a student wins a fellowship or award that exceeds $2,700 tenable for the same nine-month academic year as the Research or Teaching Assistantship, then the compensation and time commitment will be reduced in accordance with Department policy for supplementing fellowships. For more information on supplementation, see Peggy Carney in the Graduate Office, 38-444 or check the Graduate Office homepage.