Undergraduate Research Restart
Beginning October 14, 2020, undergraduate students may resume on-campus research with the approval of their supervising principal investigator (PI). Under Research Level 3 guidelines, undergraduates can only return to 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). Like all on-campus researchers, undergraduate students must be assigned to a shift (or cohort) schedule, following the schedules in place for the spaces where they will work, to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
All undergraduate researchers will also be required to consent to regular proactive community testing at UT, both before resuming in-person research and at least once every 14 days thereafter. Each college, school, or unit (CSU) retains ultimate decision-making authority over whether to allow undergraduate students to resume on-campus research this fall and how to prioritize requests.
Please note: Not all CSUs will be resuming on-campus research for undergraduates this fall. PIs in the Cockrell School of Engineering, the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, and the School of Architecture are not accepting undergraduate student researchers for Fall 2020. Additionally, PIs from any other CSU may decide for themselves whether to admit undergraduates into their research spaces this month.
I am an undergraduate student, and I’d like to resume in-person research on campus. What do I need to do next?
First, please know that resuming on-campus research is not mandatory. Second, if you have concerns or questions about your research or degree plan, begin by speaking with your academic advisor. If you and your advisor determine that beginning in-person research is right for you at this time, please do the following:
- Talk to your supervising faculty member/principal investigator (PI). If you are unsure who that is, you should contact the associate dean for research in your college or school. Let the PI know you’re ready and able to return to campus research and find out whether they are able to accommodate undergraduate researchers this semester.
- Next, you’ll need to get a proactive community test on campus.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 returning to on-campus research will need to sign all three forms. These remain valid for six (6) months from the date signed.
- Get your proactive community test on campus.
If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last two weeks 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.
- During this time, you also will need to be assigned to a weekly shift or cohort to access campus research spaces and labs. (Note that the shifts/cohorts regulate access to research spaces and labs and do not apply to classroom access including lab-based classes.)
You may not work in campus research spaces at any time outside of your scheduled shift. For example, if you are assigned to a shift that works M-F, 6 a.m. – 12 p.m., you cannot enter campus research spaces on other days at any other time. You do not necessarily have to work the entire shift, but your hours in research spaces cannot cross shifts. Be clear with your PI about your availability, as schedule flexibility for research spaces is greatly reduced at this time.
- 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 campus at this time.
- For additional guidance about working in on-campus lab and research spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to the Research Restart Toolkit.
- If you have additional questions, please refer to our FAQs or speak with your academic advisor or PI.
I am a PI, and I’d like to allow undergraduate students to resume in-person research in my lab or research space. What do I need to do next?
First, both you and the student must agree to in-person research arrangements. Second, if an undergraduate student who would normally conduct research on campus is not comfortable doing so at this time, alternate arrangements must be offered.
- All decisions will be made through your college/school/unit (CSU), and each CSU will have discretion when choosing to permit undergraduates into campus research spaces. October 14 is the first possible date when students may be approved to resume in-person research, but a CSU may choose to extend this date depending on its own needs and priorities.
- Each CSU will determine which student populations will be given priority for on-campus research. Examples may include undergraduates who are close to graduation or work-study students who depend on their research experience for financial support.
- All undergraduates who have been approved to conduct research on campus will need to be assigned to a team’s rotating shift/cohort. Please work with your student researcher to select a shift/cohort that works with their availability given their course schedule. Just like other researchers on campus, they must adhere to that shift and all other Research Level 3 guidelines and policies.
- 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.
Undergraduate research is not typically a degree requirement. Therefore, if an undergraduate student does not consent to participating in regular proactive community testing, they will not be required or permitted to conduct research on campus this fall.
- All undergraduate students who wish to conduct on-campus research this semester 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.
- Because it won’t be possible to accommodate all undergraduate students who’d like to resume on-campus research, we continue to encourage PIs to think creatively about ways to design meaningful, remote research opportunities. Please consult with your associate dean for research (ADR) or associate dean for undergraduate education to find out what options may already be available in your college.
- Please continue to consult the PI Research Restart Toolkit for on-campus guidelines, policies, and best practices.