Virginia Tech™home

Virginia Tech Plan for Reinstating Undergraduate Research for 2020-2021

August 5, 2020

Contacts
Keri Swaby, Director, Office of Undergraduate Research
Jill Sible, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Context
Individual and community health and safety remain the highest priority as the university prepares for fall instruction. Among possible face-to-face learning opportunities, undergraduate research has the potential for students to participate in hands-on learning in environments that have always required compliance with state, federal, and institutional safety regulations. This plan establishes the conditions under which undergraduates could return to conduct research during the fall 2020 semester.

Process
The Student and Supervisor 2020-2021 UR Agreement referenced below is under development as an on-line form that will be available mid-August.
The link to the form will be posed on the UR website.

Students will initiate and sign the form, which will then forward to the research supervisor for signature. The form will populate a 2020-2021 Undergraduate Research Registry maintained by the Office of Undergraduate Research as described below. Registry information will be available to academic departments and colleges.

Requirements
These requirements apply to ALL Virginia Tech undergraduate students who will be conducting research, whether for credit, for pay, or as volunteers. If in doubt, please submit the form.

These requirements align with the existing requirements that were approved for Fall teaching labs as well as the research requirements established by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation (OVPRI).

  1. Virtual research opportunities should be offered as much as possible.
  2. The highest priority for face-to-face research should be given to students in the following order:
    a. graduate students who are paid assistants or who need lab access for degree progress
    b. undergraduates paid on grants
    c. undergraduates working for course credit.
  3. Most face-to-face undergraduate research experiences for Fall 2020 should be restricted to students enrolled as undergraduates at Virginia Tech. Any exceptions must be approved at the departmental and college level.
  4. All students requesting to participate in undergraduate research with any face-to-face time must sign the Student and Supervisor 2020-2021 UR Agreement in which they agree to abide by all university public health requirements and regulations  including wearing a mask; maintaining 6 ft physical distancing; following approved transportation protocols; abiding by approved cleaning protocols; notifying the research supervisor of positive COVID-19 testing, symptoms, or suspected contact with positive individuals; and participating in contact tracing should they or another research team member test positive for COVID-19.
  5. All faculty and staff supervising undergraduate research experiences with any face-to-face time must sign the Student and Supervisor 2020-2021 UR Agreement, in which they agree to implement all university public health requirements and regulations in their research programs including wearing a mask; maintaining 6 ft physical distancing; following approved transportation protocols; abiding by approved cleaning protocols; notifying undergraduate researchers of a team member with positive COVID-19 testing, symptoms, or suspected contact with positive individuals; and participating in contact tracing should they or another research team member test positive for COVID-19.  While graduate students may supervise and mentor undergraduate researchers, the responsibility for signing and enforcing the terms of the agreement resides with the head of that research group (faculty or staff member).
  6. In addition, undergraduate research supervisors will agree to provide a virtual alternative experience for any student taking research for credit who cannot continue in-person research at any point in the semester due to personal or community safety concerns or changes in the university’s status of operation. These students will be given the opportunity to complete the semester and earn the credit they registered for and a grade, without penalty for transitioning to a remote research project.
  7. The Student and Supervisor UR agreements will feed into a 2020-2021 Undergraduate Research Registry maintained by the Office of Undergraduate Research. The registry will be updated regularly and access provided as appropriate to departments and colleges. Departments will indicate on the registry whether they approve of the research experience and will be responsible for ensuring that only students and supervisors who have completed these forms and have been approved by the department will be permitted to conduct research.

    Registry information will be shared with the academic departments and colleges, Undergraduate Education, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), Academy of Experiential Learning, and other relevant university officials. Registry information may be used for reporting purposes regarding participation in undergraduate research. Individual names of students and research supervisors will not be disseminated publicly.
  8. Students who are participating only in remote research experiences with no associated face-to-face time (at VT or elsewhere) are not required to sign the agreement. However, it is strongly encouraged that departments add these students to the registry so that VT can gather valuable data about undergraduate research participation during the fall semester.
  9. The status of undergraduate research may change at any time at the direction of the university. At that time, all students and research supervisors must comply with the changes, which could include cessation of all in-person research activities. The Undergraduate Research Registry will be used as a source of contacts to inform undergraduate researchers and their supervisors of the change.
  10. Departments and colleges may add additional requirements and restrictions related to undergraduate research.