Graduate Student Orientation Fall 2021


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 16.  If you have any questions, please email Allison Ringholz, the Graduate Student Services Specialist.

COVID-19 Resources and Vaccination Updates

Orientation Plans and Major Dates for Fall 2021

Fall orientation week starts on Monday, August 16.  Event details will be posted here as information becomes available.

Incoming Biochemistry and Biophysics students are invited to participate in an orientation being planned by my colleague, Carla Harris, for incoming students of several interdepartmental science majors.  The orientation will be held from Wednesday to Friday, August 18 to 20.  More details will follow.

Major dates for fall 2021

August 16 – Mandatory orientation week begins
August 16-27 - Two-week rotation exploration period
August 23 – Fall classes begin
September 6 - University Holiday - Labor Day
September 7 - First rotation begins (second and third rotation dates will follow.  Each rotation lasts 5-6 weeks)
November 25-26 – University holiday - Thanksgiving
December 17 – Fall semester ends
December 24-27 – University Winter holidays
December 31 – University holiday for New Year
January 3 - Rotation students are expected to officially join a research group
January 18 – Spring semester begins

Fall Rotations

List of Faculty Available for Rotations (DRAFT May 20, 2021). Virtual meetings with faculty will be scheduled for incoming rotation students during July and August and information will be sent via email.

The Biochemistry and Biophysics rotation program is for one semester in the fall and rotations start the day after Labor Day.  There are three laboratory rotations each lasting about 5 weeks.  Rotation students select their rotation laboratory and are expected to join a research group for spring semester.  More information about the rotation program process will be provided during the program orientation.

Before arriving at Iowa State

Once you receive your ISU admissions letter, complete the following two steps now:

Step 1. Complete your Tech-set up list.

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

Step 2. Enroll for 1 credit of 699 Research in AccessPlus which allows us to start your Hire and Onboarding process. Rotation students should enroll in BBMB 699 Section I, Reference 2038040.  Direct admit students will receive an email with information about their BBMB 699 research section/reference. Other fall credit enrollment requirements will be explained during fall orientation.

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 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

All graduate students are required to complete Laboratory Safety Orientation before working in a research laboratory.  This orientation and other lab safety training courses are offered by Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S). The Laboratory Safety Orientation is scheduled in August and information about registration for this orientation will be posted here.


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. Temporary housing and dining accommodations are available through the ISSO.  Required new student orientation is planned for August 20.  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. 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 Only

The International Student and Scholars Office (ISSO) has prepared a Next Steps packet for Fall 2021 entry International Graduate Students that includes important information about:

  • Traveling during COVID-19 and international travel guidelines
  • FREE shuttle service from the Des Moines Airport to Ames, Iowa
  • Temporary housing and dining accommodations 
  • Placement examinations
  • Health Safety, including how to schedule a COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment for the student and their spouse (if applicable) during the International Student Vaccine Clinic on August 9th
  • ISSO Orientation Activities sign up instructions
    • Immigration Processing – virtual, appointment based
    • New International Graduate Student Welcome Program – Virtual, Friday Aug 20th from 10AM-12PM
    • Sponsored Students Meeting (If Applicable) – Virtual, Thursday Aug 19th from 2-3PM
  • WhatsApp Group Chat link for International Graduate 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.

Hiring process

Students on assistantship are employees of the University and are hired using the Workday human resources and financial system called onboarding.  Students must be enrolled to be hired and to receive support.  Please refer to the University Human Resources Student Employment Guide for details.

International students will complete some forms for payroll sign-up in Workday, 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

The University ID card (UID) office is located in 0530 Beardshear Hall. Their office will provide more information about how to pick up your UID 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.

Other support services for students

Visit the Iowa State University Info for Students webpage for other useful information for students.

Banking: Iowa State has a partnership with U.S. Bank and their ATM's are located near and on campus.