Princeton announces plan for phased reopening of on-campus laboratory research

Written by
Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research
June 2, 2020

Princeton University has created a plan for the phased resumption of on-campus research in a safe and orderly manner, and as promptly as circumstances permit.

The plan asks faculty and department leadership to create procedures to resume laboratory activities while ensuring compliance with University-wide policies and public health guidance.

The exact timing of the resumption of on-campus research will be determined by the University’s leadership, taking into account the relevant local, state, and national public health guidance regarding stay-at-home and social distancing directives.

“Our goal is to enable the smooth restart of Princeton’s extraordinary on-campus research enterprise, with the health and safety of the campus community as our paramount concern,” said Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and professor of chemical and biological engineering, and chair of the Committee on Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research, which led the development of the plan.

The plan establishes four levels of research operations during the COVID-19 pandemic: normal operations, phased resumption of research, essential operations only, and operations suspended.

The University is currently in the “essential operations only” stage, and the plan allows the University move to the next stage, the “phased resumption of research.”

While faculty and departments will begin developing their plans immediately, on-campus research will only resume after the plans are approved by the Office of the Dean for Research and after the decision is made by the University to resume on-campus research.

The faculty and department plans will outline how lab activities will be conducted while maintaining social distancing, personal protective equipment usage, lab occupancy standards, hygiene and cleaning requirements, and safe foot-traffic flows, among other guidelines established by Princeton Environmental Health & Safety.

For example, the plans may include staggered shifts for lab personnel, fewer work stations in a lab, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols for shared equipment.

All researchers who can work from home will continue to work from home even if their lab is resuming operations. For example, researchers will analyze data at home.  

The plan applies to faculty members, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, staff researchers and necessary support staff who are engaged in on-campus laboratory research. At this time, undergraduate researchers will continue to work remotely.

An appendix details the phased plan for the phased resumption of services at the Princeton University Library.

“It is our hope that this resource can help guide Princeton’s research community on the path to eventual resumption of normal research operations,” Debenedetti said.

The plan ensures that lab managers prepare both for the resumption of on-campus research and for the possibility of suspending research operations in response to a widespread resurgence in infection.

The phased resumption of on-campus research plan will be continuously updated as new information and guidance on COVID-19 and its treatment and prevention become available.

Research continues across all disciplines— sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities and arts — through remote activities.

Committee on Phased Resumption of On-Campus Research

  • Bonnie L. Bassler, Squibb Professor in Molecular Biology; Chair, Department of Molecular Biology
  • Pablo G. Debenedetti (Chair), Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science; Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Dean for Research
  • Karla L. Ewalt, Associate Dean for Research
  • Robin M. Izzo, Executive Director, Environmental Health and Safety
  • Tom Muir, Van Zandt Williams Jr. Class of 1965 Professor of Chemistry; Chair, Department of Chemistry