Moving to KIPAC 101
Before you arrive do check out the Stanford postdoc and graduate student web pages, and, for international students and postdocs, the Bechtel International Center web pages. These sites have lots of information about what to do before you move, what is included in the Stanford benefits packages, information about the visa process, how to get a social security number and what to expect on arrival.
Where to live
Most graduate students live on campus. The university guarantees graduate students accommodation for the first year of their graduate career, provided the application deadlines are met, as well as guaranteed renewing an existing housing contract for five additional years. Most KIPAC graduate students stay on campus in Stanford student housing for the duration of their degrees. Students interested in living on site should follow the instructions on the Student Housing Office web pages to ensure they don't miss out.
Many postdocs live in the surrounding cities, typically Palo Alto or Menlo Park, a short bike ride (~10-15 mins) from the Stanford and SLAC Campuses. Both are safe, relatively quiet cities but well connected with amenities. If you would rather not buy a car then an apartment in one of these cities is probably for you. Rents in the bay area are generally high. If you have questions about your options, do contact current KIPAC postdocs for advice before you commit.
If you prefer the hustle and bustle of a big city, as many KIPAC postdocs do, San Francisco is only a ~40 min drive up the relatively picturesque 280, or 45-60 min journey on the Caltrain.
SLAC and Campus
KIPAC is fortunate to have two sites, one located in the Physics-Astrophysics Building (PAB) at the heart of the Stanford Campus and the Fred Kavli Building (FKB, SLAC Building number 51) located right near the main entrance to SLAC. Talks oscillate between the two sites and regardless of where your main office is you will likely spend one or two days a week visiting the other site. SLAC is located west of Stanford Campus up Sand Hill Road, which lives up to part of its name. Biking between departments will take ~20 mins up the hill and less than half that time down. However, if you are not feeling energetic, Stanford also operates a free shuttle service between the two sites (map). Some KIPACers opt to drive between the two sites but, do be warned, parking can be challenging especially on campus.
Sports facilities at both SLAC and campus are excellent as are Stanford library resources. Places to eat or grab a coffee on campus are plentiful with food being served up to 2am in some locations during term time.
Computer, multimedia and printing resources
KIPAC has access to a number of supercomputers through the KIPAC computing network at SLAC, and has access to additional resources through the Stanford-run Sherlock supercomputer. Many details about KIPAC computing resources which may be useful to you once you arrive are here.
KIPAC has good printing resources both at SLAC and on campus with an A1 poster printer available in PAB. Stanford University also offers poster printing at the Meyer Library which can be ordered online. Equipment such as camcorders, projectors, laptops, and a variety of other multimedia equipment is also available for free checkout, from the Meyer Library, with your valid SUID card.
Information about benefits
For graduate students benefits are through the Vaden Heath Centers Cardinal Care Program and more information can be found about that here. Information about Stanford Cardinal Care subsidies for graduate students can be found here.
The Stanford postdoctoral scholar web pages contain important information about the benefits packages available to postdocs. Stanford also runs courses roughly once a term explaining the benefits package and we highly recommended to attend this at your first opportunity after you arrive.
Information about taxes
Before April you will probably be sent 1 or more tax forms such as a W-2 or 1042 form - keep these safe they are required tax documents that may need to be filed with your tax returns. A record of the dates on which you have entered and left the US will probably also be required so to avoid a lot of tedium and frustration best to keep your own records up-to-date of all these occasions as you travel.
Federal tax returns in the US must be filed in early April (see IRS websites for deadlines). Tax advice cannot be given by the University, however, there are many resources and links on the University webpages to help you out (and for postdocs specifically these pages). For those who are in the US on visas as non-resident aliens check to see if you should be filing the 'NR' versions of the tax forms (e.g. perhaps you need 1040NR-EZ rather than 1040-EZ). If you are not confident but don't want to visit a tax lawyer then there are many online form fillers which can help you out but be aware not all of these are suitable for non-residents. One that may be suitable for non-resident aliens and that Stanford currently subscribes to is the Glacier tax prep. While some can file their taxes online, typically non-residents must post their forms - so make sure to fill them out a little before the deadline! Tax forms usually come with an additional instruction sheet - these sheets also contain information about how to file and how to contact the IRS so if you need help these instruction sheets are a good starting point.
CA state tax forms must be filed for the same April deadline. Again, watch out for the resident and non-resident versions of the forms (e.g. 540 or 540NR) and make sure to include all relevant forms and, if needed, also their supporting schedules (these are other forms with supporting information).
Resources for postdocs and graduate students with dependents
Many of our postdocs and graduate students have families or a significant other in the bay area. Stanford has some on-campus children programs for children of benefits-eligible Stanford University employees. More information about child care resources at Stanford can be found on the postdoctoral scholar web pages. The National Postdoctoral Association also has lots of information to help postdocs manage family life whilst simultaneously furthering their research careers. Resources for graduate students with families can be found on the Graduate Life Office's web pages. Stanford also offers Child Care Subsidy Grants to provide financial support to eligible Stanford Members and has some 'Student with Children housing available on campus.
Support groups, clubs and societies
Stanford University and the greater bay area are diverse environments, however, many groups for minorities within academia and within the sciences are active in Stanford and can offer valuable support and advice. Stanford also boosts a large range of clubs, activities and courses that can be taken by graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Some courses require prospective students and postdocs to register at the beginning of a term, so best not to leave it too late to check out all the opportunities (....some are listed here....)! Of course there are also plenty of opportunities to get involved with outreach; such as showing off our great 3D viz lab, inspiring the next generation at local schools or giving public talks at SLAC, teaching; such as summer lecturing, TA-ing courses and developing online education resources and contribute to the community right here at KIPAC!