2021 Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Each summer, The University of Texas at Austin hosts cohorts of undergraduate students — both from UT and outside institutions — for multi-week, in-residence, organized summer research programs. Students are divided into small cohorts, and programs run 8-12 weeks.
Last year, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) at UT were paused, but we’re proud to announce that they will resume on campus and in person this summer. To participate, students must first apply and be accepted by an REU program. A list of UT REU programs can be found here.
Once accepted into an REU cohort, all participants, whether currently enrolled at UT or visiting from another university, must follow all COVID-19 guidelines and policies for on-campus student researchers. We are proud of how safely we’ve been able to maintain in-person research for the past year, and this is due in large part to adhering strictly to established university protocols. In welcoming REU students to campus again, protecting everyone’s health will remain our top priority.
This page is intended to give REU students and their supervising principal investigators (PIs) the information they need to prepare for a rewarding summer ahead on the Forty Acres.
I’m an undergraduate student who has been accepted into a summer REU at UT. What do I do next?
- All admitted REU students will be required to consent to regular proactive community testing (asymptomatic COVID-19 testing) at UT, both before beginning in-person research and at least once every 14 days thereafter. Additionally, REU directors may require a 7-day quarantine period at the beginning of the REU session, wherein REU students work 100% remotely after they arrive on site for the REU program. As a participating REU student, you should be tested for COVID-19 on day 4 or 5 of the 7-day quarantine period. To do that:
- First, make an appointment for a proactive community test at UT if you are currently asymptomatic. All proactive community testing must be completed through University Health Services (UHS).
- Download the Protect Texas Together app (if you haven't already) or update it through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store to ensure you're using the most recent version. Check which version you’re using by selecting the menu tab in the upper left-hand corner of the app’s screen, then scrolling all the way to the bottom. If you are not using version 2.1.3 or later, visit either the Google Play or Apple App Store and select “update.”
- Once you have a test scheduled, select "PCT" from the app's home screen, then select "Add Consent." This will take you through the general PCT consent form that gives UT permission to administer a COVID-19 test and provide you with the results.
The last question you will be asked is: "Are you an undergraduate researcher who will be performing in-person research on campus?" Answer "yes" to this question. The app will then walk you through two additional consent forms for undergraduate researchers only — a HIPAA Authorization and an Undergraduate Research Consent.
Undergraduate students beginning or returning to on-campus research will need to sign all three forms (the general consent form, the Undergraduate Research consent form, and the HIPAA Authorization form). These remain valid for six (6) months from the date signed.
- Get your proactive community test on campus. Testing is offered both at the UT Austin campus and the UT Marine Science Institute campus in Port Aransas.
If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the two weeks before coming to campus or have been experiencing COVID-19 symptoms yourself, make an appointment for a COVID-19 test through University Health Services right away instead of getting a proactive community test. You will not be given access to on-campus research spaces in either of these circumstances at this time until you follow UHS guidelines, which may include isolating for a specified period of time.
- Show (in person) or send (as a screenshot via email) your negative test result to your supervising faculty member/PI. You are now approved for on-campus research for up to 14 days from the date you were tested.
If your PCT result is positive, you cannot conduct research on campus at this time. Please isolate and follow UHS guidance.
- For the duration of your research assignment, you must take a proactive community test at UT at least once every 14 days (this can be as frequently as once a week). Send or show the results to your PI each time to remain authorized to conduct research in person.
If you do not consent to regular proactive community testing and/or do not consent to sharing your results with your supervising faculty member/PI, you will not be permitted to conduct research on the UT campus.
- For additional guidance about working in on-campus lab and research spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to the Research Restart Toolkit and read more about UT’s COVID-19 policies.
- REU students residing in university housing must follow all COVID-19 residence hall policies established by University Housing and Dining (UHD) and the Dean of Students. This includes coordinating with university staff to identify options to safely self-isolate outside of university housing should you test positive for COVID-19.
- If you have additional questions, please refer to our FAQs or speak with your academic advisor or PI.
I am a PI who will be supervising REU students this summer. What do I need to do next?
- Each college/school/unit (CSU) will have discretion when choosing to permit undergraduates into campus research spaces. Confirm with your Associate Dean for Research that your CSU is permitting undergraduate students to work on-site this summer.
- Just like other researchers on campus, undergraduates must adhere to all Research Level 3 policies, including the university’s masking guidelines. Under Research Level 3 guidelines, undergraduates can only occupy campus research spaces if adding additional people to a team does not exceed the 50% workforce density limit or social distancing policies (maintaining 6′ separation at all times and adhering to a density of 1 person per 125 sq ft of research space).
- REU directors should structure their in-person REU activities to allow for a 7-day quarantine period at the beginning of the REU session, wherein REU students work 100% remotely after they arrive on site for the REU program. REU students should be tested for COVID-19 on day 4 or 5 of the 7-day quarantine period.
- All REU groups requiring on-campus housing need to be placed into University Housing and Dining’s summer request system officially at https://housing.utexas.edu/conferences. Questions may be directed to UHD.
- Undergraduate students are required to get a proactive community test from UT before returning to in-person research and at least once every 14 days thereafter. It is your responsibility as supervising PI to require your undergraduates to show or send their test results after each test. Undergraduates must consent in writing to share these test results with you (as supervising PI) as a condition of conducting research in-person (they will sign an authorization form acknowledging this via the Protect Texas Together app). If a test is negative, the student is permitted to continue working on campus for 14 days from the date of testing. If a test is positive, the student should immediately isolate and seek guidance from UHS.
- All REU students agree to share their test results with their supervising PIs as a condition of their eligibility. As a supervising PI, you are permitted to view their PCT results.
- NSF’s 2020 REU guidance indicated that REU students were eligible to be supported by grant funds while doing remote work as part of their REU experience or while isolated/quarantined as part of mandatory public health orders (e.g., falling ill with COVID-19 or being identified through contact tracing as a close contact of an individual confirmed positive for COVID-19). We anticipate that NSF will issue similar guidance for 2021 REUs.
- REU PIs should communicate with their funders to confirm that any modifications they plan to make to their REU programs are acceptable per sponsor guidelines. This website may be shared with sponsors as evidence of UT’s institutional policies for in-residence undergraduate research experiences for summer 2021.
- Please continue to consult the PI Research Restart Toolkit for on-campus guidelines, policies, and best practices.