COVID-19: Policy on undergraduate research for 2020-2021

Research Opportunities for Undergraduates During Academic Year 2020-2021

This is a Dartmouth College policy established by the COVID-19 task force.

Purpose: To provide guidance to undergraduate students interested in pursuing research projects during Academic Year 2020-2021. Many undergraduate research projects are well-suited to proceed via remote formats throughout the coming year, and all such projects can continue without additional restriction. However, some projects require intensive in-person, on-campus activity. Examples include experimental laboratory research projects and other projects that cannot be performed via teleconferencing, other remote-access strategies, or with routine access to the libraries or other facilities (e.g., Hood Museum, Hopkins Center, DHMC) according to their respective current policies for undergraduate students. On-campus research requests will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and this policy provides a framework for deciding whether such projects may proceed during approved on-campus terms.


Faculty who are willing to support on-campus research projects by undergraduate students are responsible for completing the permission process outlined below. Note the following restrictions: 

  • Only undergraduates already approved by the Dean of the College for on-campus enrollment are eligible to participate in research on campus in the given term. Verification of eligibility status may be obtained by emailing the Dean of the College with the subject "verification of on-campus enrollment approval." Students who access campus facilities but are not eligible to do so risk losing the privilege of on-campus enrollment permissions for the entire 2020-2021 academic year. 
  • Regardless of research permission status, no undergraduates may engage in on campus research during quarantine periods or between academic terms.
  • Research with Geisel and Tuck faculty is currently permitted only in remote formats.
  • Access to Geisel-affiliated buildings and facilities have additional restrictions to the conditions listed below.  See the Policy on Undergraduate Research Activities at Geisel.


Undergraduate students who are approved by the College for on-campus enrollment for a given term will be eligible to perform on-campus research during that term if:

  • They are continuing work with a previous faculty sponsor or research project in the Arts & Sciences and Thayer facilities, or if their faculty supervisors follow any departmental procedures that are required to permit new research projects (see next bullet point). Research with Geisel and Tuck faculty is currently permitted only in remote formats.
  • They receive the approval of the faculty sponsor to work in the lab/on campus and to monitor their compliance with the health-screening requirement. Please note that:
    • not all faculty members may have "slots" available in their laboratories for research work;
    • in-person library access may be limited or by prior appointment only during the term;
    • in-person human subjects research may also be restricted;
    • before agreeing to host an undergraduate student, faculty members should consult with their Chair (A&S) or Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education (Thayer) or the relevant center director, who may impose specific approval requirements to address concerns, e.g., regarding projects that would occur in shared spaces or projects that would require proximate training for new projects. In particular, requirements for new projects may specify the notification and approval of any lab members who would need to be involved in proximate training with the new undergraduate researcher. Participation in such training activities must be entirely voluntary.
  • They must ensure that any applicable EHS training is up to date.
  • They have watched the lab disinfection video (link) if working in a laboratory.
  • They have read and agree to follow the current research ramp-in requirements (link), including subsequent modifications (archived here). 
  • They have read and agree to follow the safety protocols of the department, the individual research laboratories, and other facilities involved.
  • In particular, they agree to follow campus-wide health and safety protocols. These currently include the requirements to:
    • Utilize the TSA health-screening app (link) to report on health status every day before accessing campus buildings.
    • Comply with Dartmouth's face-covering policy (link): face coverings are required in all on-campus buildings, except if one is alone in an office or enclosed lab or eating food in an approved space with appropriate physical distance.
    • Wash hands frequently, and always upon entering and leaving the work space.
    • Disinfect work surfaces before and after use, and disinfect frequently used surfaces every two hours, as specified in the lab or other facility protocol.
    • Maintain six feet of physical distance unless the laboratory or facility has developed a specific protocol for training or other physically proximate work.
    • If in a laboratory, utilize the individual lab scheduling tool as specified in the laboratory's safety protocol.
    • Comply with separate scheduling and access requirements for shared equipment, core resources, libraries, and other facilities.
  • The faculty member must certify acceptance and understanding of these requirements in an email to the relevant dean (see list below; cc to the Dean of the College and the Undergraduate Advising and Research office) before the student commences work. The dean's approval is not required, but the dean may restrict or limit access at their discretion, e.g., to manage research density or for any other reason.

Procedures: Undergraduate students interested in performing on-campus research during an approved on-campus term should first approach their proposed faculty sponsor (principal investigator; PI) to ascertain the feasibility of accommodating the project within institutional constraints and if relevant, the laboratory's research ramp-in protocols. If supportive, the PI should discuss scheduling considerations and safety requirements for the project with the student, bearing in mind the responsibility of each PI to protect the health and safety of all research team members. In most cases, the PI should discuss the plans to involve undergraduate researchers with any other members of the research team before agreeing to proceed, and work to address any concerns that may arise during those discussions. PIs sharing open-concept lab space will need to receive permission from their departmental chair (A&S), Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education (Thayer), or center director, potentially following consultation with other PIs sharing the space. The PI should then refer the undergraduate researcher to the facility's, laboratory's and/or department's safety protocols and the ramp-in requirements and review their contents in detail. If the PI is then comfortable that the undergraduate student understands and accepts the requirements for working on campus, the PI should provide a certification email to the relevant dean from the list below (cc in all cases to the Dean of the College and the Undergraduate Advising and Research office):

NB: The above links are configured to cc the Dean of the College and UGAR automatically.

These preparatory steps may occur before or during the term, but undergraduates may not commence work in the lab until all required steps are complete and until the term has begun. Once these requirements are met, the undergraduate researcher can schedule on-campus activity under the conditions that apply to the research team (for labs) or to students approved to be in residence for the term (for libraries or other facilities).

Enforcement: In agreeing to perform research on campus under all health and safety protocols specific to the research environment, in addition to those that apply campus-wide, undergraduate students assume full responsibility for compliance. Failure to comply can have serious health consequences, will be considered a violation of the Community Expectations Agreement, and will be adjudicated according to the terms of that Agreement.

Duration: Academic year 2020-2021, but subject to extension or early termination, and also to revision depending on campus, local, and national health conditions.