Undergraduate Research Guidelines

Guidelines for the Participation of Undergraduates in Research at Indiana University

Undergraduates play a critical role in research at Indiana University and research, in turn, plays a vital role in the professional lives of many undergraduates. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges to conducting on-campus research generally and to the inclusion of undergraduates in on-campus research.

In the Research Restart Guidelines issued in June 2020, the Laboratory Research Restart Committee announced two principles concerning undergraduates in on-campus research:

  1. No student—graduate or undergraduate—should be required or pressured to participate in on-campus research during the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  2. During the summer, undergraduates generally will not be permitted to participate in on-campus research. Exceptions may be approved by campus research leadership or the Vice President for Research in the unusual case in which an undergraduate’s participation is critical to the success of the research or the research is critical to their progress towards their degree, the student’s home is in the vicinity of the research facility, and the student wishes to continue participating in research and can do so in compliance with these guidelines.

With the summer now ending and the fall semester nearing its start, the Committee has adopted these guidelines for all undergraduates participating in on-campus research, whether paid, for credit, or on a volunteer basis.


  1. No student—graduate or undergraduate—should be required or pressured to participate in on-campus research during the COVID-19 pandemic. 2.
  2. Undergraduate research that can be conducted remotely should be.
    • Undergraduate research that can be conducted remotely, should continue to be for the foreseeable future. Similarly, parts of research that can be conducted remotely (including orientation, training, mentoring, writing proposals and reports, etc.) should be conducted remotely when possible. •
    • Undergraduate research that requires special facilities, equipment, in-person contact with research subjects, access to protected data, or otherwise cannot be conducted remotely should be conducted on campus, provided that it may be conducted consistent with these guidelines.
  3. Undergraduates may participate in on-campus research only if they understand and follow the requirements applicable to all on-campus researchers. These are described in the Research Restart Guidelines and are likely to be updated or changed as we gain more experience with COVID-19, but at present include:
    • Maintain 6-foot physical separation between all individuals. In the rare cases in which this is not possible, those situations should be kept to the shortest time possible and medical—as opposed to cloth—face masks should be worn. •
    • Comply with efforts to dedensify research facilities to no more than one person per every 60 square feet. Sometimes a density of no more than one person per every 60 square feet cannot be maintained. Those situations should be kept to the shortest time possible and medical—as opposed to cloth—face masks should be used. Incidental encounters with other people (e.g., passing in a hallway) are unavoidable, but should be reduced whenever possible.
    • Wear a cloth or similar face mask whenever the researcher is inside a university building or other research facility, except when alone in the individual’s own private office; outside in situations in which maintaining 6-foot physical separation is not possible; and when on public transit.
    • Use appropriate PPE whenever required by the nature of the research activity.
    • Clean research equipment and “high-touch” surfaces in shared spaces. Shared equipment should be cleaned by each user, using appropriate disinfecting cleaning material provided by the university, both before use begins and after it is completed. Similarly, researchers should frequently clean “high-touch” surfaces (e.g., door handles, drawer handles, faucets, etc.) in shared spaces.
    • Maintain good personal hygiene. This includes washing hands for at least 20 seconds with antibacterial soap (which the university will provide) regularly throughout the day and upon entering and before exiting all buildings, using hand sanitizer (which the university will provide) when hand-washing facilities are unavailable, and covering coughs and sneezes.
    • Stay or return home if COVID-like symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing) develop.
    • Comply with the university’s policy on checking for symptoms of COVID-19, testing for COVID-19, tracing people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, and quarantining people who test positive for COVID-19 or who are likely to have been exposed to it. Additional information is available online at: https://coronavirus.iu.edu/medical-guidance/index.html; information on testing sites is available online at: https://coronavirus.iu.edu/testing-sites/index.html
    • Participate in a “buddy” safety system so that any researcher working alone in a research facility in which hazardous chemicals, equipment, or other material are used has an identified “buddy” working elsewhere in the building or who is in contact electronically and is aware of the researcher’s presence in the facility.
    • For research in patient care areas, researchers must also adhere to all requirements in effect for those areas.
    • Complete a Student Commitment Form, available online at https://one.iu.edu/task/iu/student-commitment-form.
    • For field work and other research conducted in facilities under the control of an entity other than IU, researchers must comply with the policies of that third party and with applicable law in that jurisdiction, in addition to these Guidelines.
  4. Undergraduates with conditions identified by the CDC as posing special health risks are strongly advised not to participate in on-campus research at this time. For further information see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html.
  5. Permissions
    • Undergraduates must have the permission of their PI or facilities manager to conduct on-campus research.
    • Undergraduates pursuing independent on-campus research must have the permission of their faculty supervisor to conduct on-campus research.
    • Undergraduates participating in on-campus research as part of a course must have the permission of their instructor.
    • No campus- or university-level approval is required.
  6. All researchers should comply with the travel requirements in the Research Restart Guidelines. In addition, neither undergraduate nor graduate students should travel to field sites in shared privately owned or university-provided cars or vans, unless the only people sharing the transportation otherwise quarantine together or a specific exception has been granted by campus research leadership.
  7. These guidelines are limited to undergraduates enrolled at Indiana University campuses. Undergraduates from other universities and high-school or younger students are not permitted to conduct on-campus research during the pandemic without special permission of campus research leadership.


Before an undergraduate may participate in on-campus research, the student’s PI or facilities manager, faculty supervisor, or instructor must determine that:

  • The student has not been required or pressured to participate in on-campus research;
  • The research cannot reasonably be conducted remotely;
  • The student understands these guidelines, is prepared to follow them, and appears to have the maturity and judgment necessary to do so;
  • The student is appropriately trained in the research activities to be carried out on campus;
  • The student will be properly supervised;
  • The student and the person making the determination are prepared to report noncompliance; and
  • The student understands that noncompliance can lead to suspension of on-campus research privileges, suspension, or, in severe cases, expulsion.

After PIs, managers, supervisors, or instructors determine that these requirements have been met, no additional approval is required from campus research leadership. However, PIs and research facilities managers should consider whether the addition of undergraduates in their labs or other research facilities require any updates to their plans for operating during the pandemic that have been submitted to campus research leadership.

Access to on-campus research facilities may be denied to any undergraduate or other researcher at any time by campus research leadership or the Vice President for Research.

Revision of Guidelines

These guidelines will be reviewed regularly to respond to changing conditions and new information. Researchers will be advised of any significant changes. These guidelines will be suspended or terminated as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic permits. Suggestions for revisions and questions may be sent to vpr@iu.edu.

Members of the Laboratory Research Restart Committee

  • Fred H. Cate, co-chair, Vice President for Research, Distinguished Professor, and C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law
  • James Wimbush, co-chair, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, Dean of the University Graduate School, Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership
  • John Baumann, Associate Vice President for Research Compliance
  • Janice Blum, Interim Associate Vice President for Research and Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, IUPUI, Chancellor's Professor of Microbiology & Immunology
  • Dakota Coats, President, Graduate and Professional Student Government, and third-year JD student, IU Maurer School of Law
  • David Daleke, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Health Sciences, Associate Dean of the University Graduate School, and Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Carmel Egan, Associate Dean of Research Affairs, IUSM, Operations Director of the Precision Health Initiative, and Chief Operating Officer, Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute
  • Steve Martin, Associate Vice President for Research Administration
  • Mary Waldron, Chair, Graduate Faculty Council, and Associate Professor of Counseling & Educational Psychology
  • Jeff Zaleski, Interim Associate Vice President for Research and Vice Provost for Research, IUB, and Provost Professor of Chemistry