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Laboratory Operations During COVID Pandemic

Please visit the Office of Research and Engagement for the latest information about research operations and health safety during the pandemic.

What can I do to keep my lab safe?

In your research lab:

  • wear a face mask;
  • maintain social distancing through limited occupancy and use the virtual check-in partner system when working alone; and
  • clean and sanitize your area when you start and before leaving

Know when to self-isolate and be sure to fill out the self-isolation form.

Proactively Update your Lab’s Health Safety Plan for new personnel (undergrads, graduate students, postdocs, etc.) and/or new laboratory activities.

Check in with your research group’s students, faculty, and staff members to encourage responsible, compassionate behavior—both on and off campus–regarding social distancing, wearing masks, and knowing when to self-isolate.

Research activity could well continue, even if all instruction moves completely online. Ensure your lab is ready to continue operation at the appropriate level and that you have a remote plan for any undergraduate researchers.

Prepare a Hibernation Plan for if/when your lab group’s members are all unable to come to the lab or if there is a change in campus research activity level. Ensure your plan is up-to-date. Use the safety checklist for safe hibernation to safely close. Be sure to go over it with your research group. Does everyone understand what to do in the event of hibernation? Check with your department for a plan for implementation and checking of lab hibernations. Departments must verify the safe (temporary) closure of labs.

Keep health and safety in labs (and other) spaces a top priority. Department/Center leadership should use the opportunities of faculty meetings and occasional emails to discuss and remind one another about consistent health safety behavior and planning.

How should I go about reporting a potential safety issue?

When there are potential safety issues in the laboratory, graduate students have options to discuss them through various channels. As a recommended and typical first step, graduate students can discuss the situation with the laboratory director or supervising faculty member. If the issue is not resolved, bring the issue to your department head or leader of the unit involved for discussion. As an alternative approach, graduate students can discuss the situation with the University Ombudsperson as a neutral party outside of the laboratory reporting structure. The Ombudsperson is available as an independent and confidential resource who can help graduate students decide how to approach the situation, including how to discuss the matter with the supervisor.

The Ombudsperson can be reached at 865-974-6273 and Please note that email is not a confidential form of communication, so it is best to limit email content to a meeting request. Because the university is currently implementing social distancing measures, the Ombudsperson is holding meetings on Zoom and on the phone.  Zoom- and phone-based conversations are confidential.

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