Graduate Student Orientation Fall 2020


Welcome to the Biochemistry and Biophysics Graduate Programs at Iowa State University!

Molecular Biology Building
Molecular Biology Building Atrium

. . .And welcome to Ames!

The biochemistry and biophysics graduate program looks forward to your arrival this fall. Please plan to arrive on campus for orientation week, which begins on Monday, August 10 this fall.  If you have any questions, please email Connie Garnett, the Graduate Program Coordinator.

COVID-19 Updates

August 5, 2020. A message to campus from President Wintersteen highlighted ISU's revised cloth face covering policy.

August 3, 2020. President Wendy Wintersteen Introduces Cyclones Care Initiative

Orientation Plans and Major Dates for Fall 2020

Fall orientation week starts on Monday, August 10.  Following are dates and plans for BBMB graduate student orientation.  Information updates will be posted here.

Monday, August 10:

11:00 am Welcome 2020 Incoming Students to BBMB Community via WebEx.

1:00 pm Final Rotation Faculty Presentations via WebEx.

Tuesday, August 11:  Schedule for BBMB program orientation, including biochemistry and biophysics program orientation and presentations by ISU programs and services.

Wednesday, August 12: Schedule for interdepartmental graduate programs orientation (IGP). Combined orientation program with students in similar majors (BCB, MCDB, Genetics, Plant Biology, etc.) in interdepartmental graduate programs. Some students in these majors join BBMB research groups.

Thursday and Friday, August 13 and 14: Faculty Research Talks Schedule.  Organized by IGP graduate coordinators.  This is your opportunity to learn about research being done by faculty outside BBMB.  As a biochemistry or biophysics graduate student, you can do a rotation and join a faculty research group outside BBMB as long as that faculty has the funding to support your research.

Major dates for fall 2020

August 10 – Mandatory orientation week
August 17 – Classwork begins
September 7 (Labor Day) - Classes will be held
November 25 - Fall semester ends; fall rotations continue until a date in December to be determined. Students on fall assistantships continue working through December 31
December 24-25 – University holidays
January 1 – University holiday for New Year
January 2 - Rotation students join a research group
January 11 – Spring Fall Rotations

Fall Rotations

Fall rotations usually begin the day after Labor Day in the fall semester, but this fall the start date is yet to be determined.  The biochemistry and biophysics rotation program is for one semester, in the fall, only.  There are three laboratory rotations lasting about 5 weeks each.  Rotation students select their rotation laboratory and are expected to join a research group in the spring semester.  More information about the rotation program will be provided during the program orientation.  Following is the list of faculty who have confirmed they will participate in the fall 2020 rotation program.  Virtual meetings with faculty will be scheduled for incoming rotation students during July and August and information will be sent via email.

List of Faculty Available for Rotations (Final)

Before arriving at Iowa State

Complete your Tech-list now to allow us to start the onboarding (hiring) process in Workday

1 Register (set up) your Net-ID
2 Test your Net-ID
3 Set up your Okta Dashboard
4 Log in to your AccessPlus account through Okta.
5 Log in to other services through Okta

Submit required health documents by July 31

Visit Thielen Student Health Center 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.

COVID-19 Student Testing

Thielen Student Health Center is providing testing for students, faculty and staff with symptoms of COVID-19, and the public health team is conducting contact tracing and case management. More information and resources are available on the Fall 2020 website on the personal health page.

Testing for those who are symptomatic, along with daily symptom tracking to encourage students, faculty and staff to say home if they are sick, will help reduce the spread of infection. Kristen Obbink, Iowa State’s COVID-19 public health coordinator, says the university continues to evaluate other testing strategies for the fall semester and may modify the approach based on advances in testing technology and availability of testing supplies.

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.

Laboratory Safety Orientation Goes Virtual For 2020

Laboratory Safety Orientation and training courses are offered by Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S). The Laboratory Safety Orientation scheduled for August 2020 will be held virtually. Dates for the sessions are August 6, 11, 12, or 13. Participants are required to complete three EH&S online safety training courses prior to registration. Upon successful completion of the online training courses, participants may register for a virtual session. During the virtual session, students will participate in a live discussion with EH&S safety professionals, engage in group activities, and test their knowledge of skills learned during the virtual session.   

Classes to complete prior to registration (Okta login required):

Laboratory Safety: Core Concepts
Emergency Response Guide Video
Fire Safety and Fire Extinguisher Training

Register for a virtual session upon completing the three classes listed above:

Virtual Session Registration 

All new students must complete this virtual session orientation.  Prior to working in a laboratory, you must complete, sign and have on file a Lab Check In Form for each laboratory rotation.  A new form will be required 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.


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

Once you arrive in Ames

University Library Computer Loan Program

Students are expected to use personal computing for remote access to ISU services and computer programs.  If you do not have a personal computer, the University Library has a computer loan program for current students.

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 2020 Online Parking Purchase for permits to Lot 29 to new students with a half-time or above assistantship with a signed contract beginning in July. 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. 

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.  Visit Human Resources Service Center, 3810 Beardshear Hall to complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility process.  Note, international students will sign the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form with the ISSO office.

As of August 10th, appointments are not required.  Please visit the UHR Service Center at 3810 Beardshear Hall. Office hours are: Monday-Friday 8:00-5:00 except Wednesday 9:15-5:00.  Closed everyday 12:00-1:00.  You must present acceptable documents to complete your Form I-9.

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.

Pick up your University ID Card

New - due to COVID-19! The University ID card (UID) office in 0530 Beardshear Hall is open at the following times for ID Card pickup. They will provide more information about how to pick up your card once you arrive on campus.  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).The ISUCard Office will be open to walk in traffic the following days:

8/6: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
8/7: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
8/10: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm 
8/12: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
8/13: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
8/14: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

*A face mask is required to enter the office. Only one individual will be allowed in at a time. Please respect social distancing while waiting and do not come in if you are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 for the safety of our staff and the ISU community. Please visit their website for information and future updates.

New - due to COVID-19! The University ID card (UID) office in 0530 Beardshear Hall will provide you with a link to submit your photo so they can print your ID card before you arrive on August 10.  They will provide more information about how to pick up your card once you arrive on campus.  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.