I’m a student who has been invited to join an MIT faculty or research staff member’s existing company or organization, or serve on its board.
Your expertise makes you an asset! Before you accept the invitation to join or serve in this capacity, please keep in mind that there are some rules that guide your interaction with the company or organization and any overlap with your MIT research. MIT’s policy states that students who have full time research assistantships should not generally be employed in outside professional activities of faculty, both to avoid conflicts of interest and to honor the obligations of the full time research assistant. A part time research assistant may engage in such employment if the outside work is not thesis-related and if the faculty member is not the research assistant’s supervisor.
If you wish to have an active role in the company or organization or maintain a significant financial interest in the company, there are important questions to consider first:
- Does the MIT faculty or research staff member have a supervisory role over your research, thesis, student teaching, hourly paid work, or other area?
|No, there is no supervisory role||Explain to your academic or research advisor the nature of the company or organization’s work and determine if your entrepreneurship and research activities are separate and distinct in terms of technical scope (i.e., any potential overlap). |
If the entrepreneurship activity is clearly separate and distinct from your existing or planned research obligation, then you may join the company or serve on the advisory board following department guidance.
If the entrepreneurship activity is not clearly separate and distinct in scope from your existing or planned research obligation, this is an area of serious concern and you should not accept the invitation.
|Yes, there is a supervisory role||If the faculty or research staff member has a supervisory role over your research, thesis, student teaching, hourly paid work, or other area, then joining their company or serving on the advisory board creates an academic conflict of interest. |
MIT policy requires faculty and research staff members to avoid conflicts of interest and infringement of students’ academic duties and rights. Generally, if a faculty or research staff member has a role in supervising a student’s thesis or in supervising the work of a student as a graduate teaching assistant or Instructor-G, such outside work should not be undertaken, thus avoiding potential conflicts of interest in the evaluation of the student’s performance.
Faculty and research staff members who are already associated with students in outside employment should disqualify themselves from becoming research supervisors, academic program advisors, or examiners of those students. Within an MIT research laboratory or academic unit, faculty and research staff members should take care not to give the impression of favoritism to those students with whom they are associated in outside employment.
Conflicts of interest can occasionally be mitigated or resolved with a well-thought-out conflict management plan. You must disclose any conflict of interest to your graduate officer, who may involve your department head or other personnel to determine how to move forward.
2. How will you balance time spent on the company or organization with your research and academic obligations? Discuss with your academic or research advisor and make plans to avoid a conflict of commitment.
See related MIT policies: