REFS Programs

Resources for Easing Friction and Stress

What are REFS?

REFS is an umbrella term for peer support programs at the Institute. There are currently graduate student dREFS in departments, labs and centers across campus; and medREFS, staffpeople in MIT Medical who are resources to fellow staff. A new initiative, called iREFS (Institute-wide REFS), launched in February 2015 for graduate students to serve their peers regardless of affiliation or location. See for more information on the REFS programs. If you are a graduate student or postdoc interested in applying to be an iREFS, please

REFS provide low barrier, informal, confidential* services to their peers in conflict management. REFS are available to their fellows to support, informally mentor, and mediate during times of uncertainty, stress or conflict. REFS can provide information about appropriate resources and make informed referrals. Students talk to their REFS about anything from lab-partners disputes to uncertainty in communication with advisors to personal issues.

REFS Programs require that each REFS take a conflict management training presented by Conflict Management@MIT and go through an application process.

Often REFS are able to identify concerns at a very early stage, or identify trends and clusters of problems that they can then communicate to departmental leadership.

*REFS maintain confidentiality. REFS will not answer questions about people with whom they may have spoken, or disclose an individual.s name or specific issue unless during the course of discussions with a visitor, the REF is given permission to do so for the purpose of informal conflict resolution, and if the REF also agrees to attempt informal resolution. The only exception to this pledge of confidentiality is where the REF determines that there is an imminent risk of serious harm.
In March 2012, the MIT News Office published this feature on the REFS program.

Where can I find REFS?

Currently there are REFS Programs in the following departments:

Setting up REFS

If you would like to set up a REFS Program in your department, lab or center or are interested in becoming an iREFS or using the REFS services, please go to or and we can provide information, advice and support.