Graduate Student Fall 2019 Orientation


cy mascotWelcome to Iowa State University!

. . .And welcome to Ames!

The biochemistry and biophysics graduate program looks forward to your arrival this fall. Please plan to arrive on campus by August 19, which is the start date of your assistantship, as orientation events and activities are being planned during that week, which is one week before fall classes start on Monday, August 26.  If you have any questions, please email Connie Garnett, the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Orientation Plans and Activities for Fall 2019

Attached is the final BBMB Final Orientation Program  summarized below.

Tuesday, August 20: Presentations, program orientation, fall registration, and half-hour meetings with faculty

Wednesday, August 21: EH&S Laboratory Safety Orientation, half-hour meetings with faculty, and BBMB Ice Cream Social and Poster Session

Thursday, August 22: Half-hour meetings with faculty

Thursday, August 29: BBMB Department Picnic

Here is the current list of faculty participating in fall rotations.  New PhD rotation students are expected to meet individually with, or attend the half-hour faculty meetings of, all faculty you plan to add to your fall rotation request list.

Orientation is meant to help ease the transition to graduate study, and events and activities being planned include, 

  • A program orientation to review expectations, curriculum, and the lab rotation and placement process
  • Fall course registration
  • Social events to interact with the department staff, including faculty and current graduate students
  • One-on-one meetings with faculty in whose lab you might like to do a rotation (you will schedule these appointments)
  • For international students only - check in with the International Student and Scholars Office to record your arrival on campus, a health screening appointment, and an English Placement Test, if required.
  • Complete payroll documents - called onboarding
  • Obtaining an ISU ID card
  • Lab safety training.  Note: this training, which will be done as a group and will be arranged by the program office.

Before arriving at Iowa State

Obtain your ISU NetID and email account

Set up your ISU email account (Net-ID) online.  Go to Net-ID Services and select Register for a Net-ID.  Think about your choice of the name for your Net-ID because it will become your email address for your tenure as a graduate student at ISU. Any questions or problems setting up your Net-ID, contact the IT Solution Center.

Sign up for AccessPlus

AccessPlus allows you to register for classes, view your university bill, and access other ISU services.  Create your AccessPlus account by using your University ID as your Login ID and as your initial password, use your birth month and day in a four digit format.  For example, if you were born May 10, your initial password would be 0510.  You can log on to AccessPlus using your UID, Social Security Number, or Confirmation Number and a password that you have established.

Through AccessPlus you can conduct many employee transactions or obtain personal information under the Student tab.  See Self Service Through AccessPlus for more information.

Any questions or problems with AccessPlus, contact the IT Solution Center. They can reset your password over the phone and grant you access.

Create Your Okta Dashboard

Okta is a two-step sign in process used by ISU.  One of the nice things about Okta is that it creates a nice dashboard with ISU services that you might commonly use, like AccessPlus, Canvas and CyBox, to name a few, or your free Wall Street Journal subscription (did you know you get a free subscription through ISU)?

To create your Okta account and dashboard.

1. Go to where you will see the new login screen.

2. Enter your ISU NetID and your password.

3. You should now arrive at your Okta Dashboard. From now on any time you go to you will end up at your Dashboard. Things are a little sparse right now because you haven't added any Apps yet. To add Apps, use the blue button on the top right menu bar.

4. Any questions, please contact the IT Solution Center.

Secure Housing

On-campus. The University offers housing options. You can register for University housing via your AccessPlus account.  Communicate with University housing officials by email at:

Off-campus. Available apartments or homes may be located through local realtors. We do not endorse any particular website, but other rental websites to check include Ames Craigslist and

International students, prior to and upon arrival on campus, visit the International Student and Scholars (ISSO) Fall Orientation website for information you will need to check in as a new student.  Orientation events are planned during the weeks of August 12 and 19.  Students who must arrive late due to circumstances beyond their control MUST contact ISU Admissions (, phone 515-294-5836, 800- 262-3810, Fax:  515-294-2592) for a letter permitting them to arrive late.  Please contact ISSO upon arrival to schedule a late check-in appointment.  The ISSO Office is located on the south side of campus in 3248 Memorial Union (Phone: 515-294-1120, Fax: 515

Traveling to Ames from Des Moines International Airport

If you plan to arrive at Des Moines International Airport, in Des Moines, Ames is about 40 miles from the airport, so you will need to arrange ground transportation.

Executive Express

ISU has partnered with Executive Express to provide low-cost shuttle service to Ames.  To find pricing information and make a reservation visit the Executive Express website. Watch this video about locating your Executive Express shuttle service once you arrive at Des Moines International airport.

Uber or Lyft

Uber and Lyft are popular modes of transportation for students. To use this service, download their mobile App to your phone and set-up payment with your credit card information. Once the App is set up on your phone, you can request pick-up from your current location to your destination in Ames. Prices vary depending on the day/time, but is typically around $90 USD (including tip).


You can find the queue for taxis directly outside of baggage claim. The price can vary, but anticipate around $100 USD (excluding tip).

International students special instructions for luggage: Please put your name and Iowa State University in English somewhere on your luggage. This will help to locate any luggage that may be lost or delayed.

CyRide Bus Service.

CyRide is the public bus system in Ames that you can ride for free by showing your ISU Card.  The cost is covered by your mandatory student fees.  As you search for a place to live in Ames, you may want to check Cy-Ride routes and schedules to make sure you can easily access CyRide from where you choose to live.

Parking Permit

If you plan to drive on campus and would like a parking permit to Lot 29, the parking lot directly behind the Molecular Biology Building, please note this Important Date:  The ISU Parking Division will open their 2019 Online Parking Purchase for permits to Lot 29 to new students with a half-time or above assistantship with a signed contract beginning Tuesday, July 16 at 9:00 AM. Go to the Parking Division link on your AccessPlus Student Tab to request a permit.  The permit costs $155 for the academic year (fall and spring semesters).  There is also free parking at the Iowa State Center south of campus, near Jack Trice Stadium, in designated areas (A3, A4, B4, B5, B6).  You would need to take the Cy-Ride from the commuter lot to travel to Molecular Biology. 

Thielen Student Health Center

Please visit the Thielen Student Health Center website for information about immunization requirements, as they differ for new domestic and international students.  Documentation of the required immunizations is due by July 31 for fall semester entries.  It is essential that all new students turn in required forms to avoid any delay in course enrollment.

A health screening is required for international students and you must schedule your appointment using CyStart at the ISSO website.

The Thielen Student Health Center is located on the northeast corner of Union Drive and Sheldon Avenue, just west of Beyer Hall.  Part of your mandatory student fees will be a health fee, which enables the availability of high quality and accessible health care to the ISU student community by helping support the overall costs of the health center.  The health fee is not health insurance - see Student Health Insurance below for details.

Upon arrival on campus

International Students – obtaining a Social Security Number. International students who do not yet have a Social Security (SS) number should wait at least two weeks after arrival in the United States before applying for an SS number. Applying too early will initiate paper processing of your Social Security number which can take up to five months, delaying your assistantship support.

Two weeks after arriving in the United States, go to the Ames Iowa Social Security Office, 2615 University Boulevard in Ames to apply for your SS number. The CyRide Brown Route stops in front of their building.  You will need to bring your passport, visa, I-20, and a copy of showing your support, like a letter of intent for an assistantship or documents for Fellowship support.

Your SS number and card will be sent to The Office of the Registrar and they will email you when it arrives so you can pick it up, by showing a photo ID like your ISU card, and bring it to the Human Resources Records Management Office in room 3810 Beardshear to record to complete your payroll process.  Once this number is in the system, your payroll action can be entered retroactive to your assistantship start date or first day of employment.

Payroll sign up

U.S. students and permanent residents should complete their payroll sign-up on or before the start of their appointment.  Bring required documents to Human Resources Service Center, 3810 Beardshear Hall. Note, international students will sign the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form with the ISSO office.

International students will also complete some forms for payroll sign-up with the Human Resources Service Center, but will fill out the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form in the ISSO office during check-in.  This form verifies your eligibility to be paid as a graduate student. The I-9 needs to be filed on or before the first day of employment listed on your letter of intent. Also, you may be eligible for a Tax Treaty exemption, which will lower the amount of U.S taxes you must pay. If eligible, you will fill out Form 8233 each year. The forms to claim Tax Treaty exemption may be completed in in the ISU Payroll office located on the first floor of the Administrative Services Building.

Graduate students on assistantship are appointed on a standard academic term (fall, spring = academic year) and during summer term and are paid monthly at the end of each month through direct deposit.  While every effort will be made to make sure you are paid on time, your support cannot be processed until the onboarding process is complete.  Please arrive with sufficient funds to live on until you receive your first paycheck, which could be the end of September if you are not paid at the end of August.  Your first check will be retroactive to your appointment term start date.

Obtain your ISU ID. Obtain your University ID card (UID) in 0530 Beardshear Hall.  Your UID is your student identification, library card, meal card (if you have a residence hall meal plan); access card to university services, CyRide card, and cash card (if you activate the cash stripe).

Student Health Insurance enrollment is automatic and coverage is provided at no cost to you as part of your assistantship. To learn more, visit the Students and Scholars Health Insurance (SSHIP) website.  Once your onboarding is complete, you will be automatically enrolled in self-coverage retroactive to your appointment start date.  Enrollment in dental and dependent coverage is available at an additional cost to you. The SSHIP office is located in the University Human Resources Service Center, 3810 Beardshear Hall.

Laboratory Safety Training

All new students are required to attend a hands-on four-hour Lab Safety Orientation during orientation week offered by Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S).  Connie will pre-register student attendance as a group.  If you can't attend on the date selected, students can register for this training by setting up an account on Learn@ISU and registering for this half-day training on any date available.  The Orientation includes the following topics: Fire Safety and Extinguisher Training; hands-on demonstrations of Safety Issues in the Lab; Biological and Radiation Safety Awareness; and handling laboratory waste. All new students must complete this orientation before they can work in a laboratory.

You must complete, sign and have on file a Lab Check In Form for each laboratory rotation before starting work in that laboratory.  You will also need to complete a new form once you formally join a laboratory or if you start working in another lab for your research. If you will work with hazardous materials or processes in the laboratory, you must be adequately trained before beginning work in the laboratory. See Laboratory Curriculum for more information.