Outside professional activities

MIT’s graduate students occasionally engage in temporary part-time work to provide technical or subject matter expertise to industry, academic institutions, government agencies, and/or the public service sector. 

An MIT IPIA must be signed prior to engaging in outside professional activities, if one has not already been completed upon enrollment at MIT.

A student may engage in outside professional activities if the work is not thesis-related, and if their thesis advisor is not the supervisor for the outside work. However, the student must avoid any potential conflict of interest with the student’s commitments to MIT; limit outside professional activities to no more than eight (8) hours per week; and follow MIT’s requirements for reporting and compliance.

Graduate students considering outside professional activities, especially those with RA, TA, or IG appointments, should seek guidance about the proposed work in advance and gain approval from their academic advisor, research supervisor, and department head.

Here are some questions to address in those conversations about your proposed outside professional activities (OPA):

  • Describe in detail how your MIT research is separate and distinct from your OPA.
  • Please address whether or not your MIT research will affect the outcome of your OPA.
  • Please address whether or not your OPA will impact your MIT research and time to degree.
  • Will your ability to publish your thesis or any other academic publication you are planning be implicated or restricted in any way?
  • Will it build upon an existing patentable invention, copyrighted software, or other intellectual property rights owned by MIT or related to your MIT research?
  • Does your research supervisor/thesis advisor have any involvement or financial interest in your OPA? 
  • Will the OPA involve any use of MIT facilities, including your supervisor’s or department’s lab spaces or resources? If yes, describe.
  • Will any MIT faculty, postdocs, students, or staff be involved in carrying out your OPA? If yes, describe.
  • Is there a danger of inadvertent use of outside company confidential information in your thesis research or any publications (including your thesis itself)?
  • Is there a danger of inadvertent sharing of unpublished MIT intellectual property during the OPA?
  • If you have supervisors at other Institutions, have they been informed, and do they approve?
  • Are you working on federally-sponsored research? It may require special disclosures; please consult with your research supervisor to make sure you understand your obligations.

View these questions in an editable worksheet.

Consulting: Suggested best practices for all graduate students

The consulting rider is a tool developed for faculty and staff to use at their own discretion when entering into personal consulting agreements. The rider is not “required” by MIT but is strongly recommended. You can find a more detailed explanation of the rider and its provisions at the OGC website.

  • Note that no MIT office provides oversight or review of your consulting agreement. You will enter into any such agreements as an individual, rather than as an agent of MIT.  
  • Note that students, faculty members, researchers, or staff persons at MIT cannot ensure a third party that the individual or MIT will keep an outside engagement (or an outside contract) confidential.  For example, you may need to disclose the engagement to your department head or others at MIT. 
  • Note that if your research has federal sponsorship, there may be additional disclosure requirements. Please consult with your research advisor to make sure you understand your obligations.
  • If you have questions about your outside employment, please connect with your research advisor, the Office of Graduate Education, or the BU Law Clinic.

See related Institute-level policies: