Please read below for answers to commonly asked questions regarding changes to undergraduate research policies and procedures due to COVID-19. We will be updating this page in response to our monitoring of the situation. (Page last updated August 31, 2021).
Can WashU undergraduates conduct research this fall as an enrolled student?
All undergraduates are permitted to participate in research if they are working remotely.
Faculty who have decided to allow WashU undergrads to conduct in-person research activities within their research group should carefully consider and plan for how to reduce time in close proximity with the students but still provide outstanding training, mentorship, and oversight of their research experience. All undergraduate students engaging in in-person research must be added to the research ramp-up plans and have these reviewed by the entity that is reviewing and approving the plans (in some schools, this is done at the school level and at others, it is done at the department level).
University housing will not be available to students for the purposes of participating in research prior to the planned opening of the university housing for the fall semester.
What types of opportunities are currently available for undergraduate researchers?
As before, all undergraduates are permitted to participate in research if they are working remotely. These activities might include reading papers, preparing reports, analyzing data, participating in lab meeting, writing code, developing algorithms, filling out surveys, etc.
In-person research activities that all undergraduates can engage include:
- Laboratory based research for credit or pay, as long as their hours are factored into the laboratory schedule and plan approved by the Department or School where the research is occurring.
- Clinical research for credit or pay, as long as their hours in the clinical areas are factored into the plan approved by the Department or School where the research is occurring. Undergraduates should not be engaging in activities that require close proximity to (within 6 ft.) the research participants.
- Non-clinical human subjects research for credit or pay, as long as their hours are factored into the schedule and plan approved by the Department or School where the research is occurring. Undergraduates should not be engaging in activities that require close proximity (within 6 ft) to the research participants.
- Community based research if the undergraduate is included in the plan approved by the Department/School.
- Field studies as long as the undergraduate is factored into the plan approved by the Department/School.
How should an undergraduate go about securing a remote research opportunity?
You can work directly with a faculty mentor to develop a remote research plan that could involve working with previously collected data sets, literature-based research, remote interviewing of research subjects, to name a few examples. This is new territory for everyone so work creatively with your faculty mentor to convert research questions to remote opportunities.
In order to search for possible mentors, see the "Getting Started" part of the Office of Undergraduate Research website for a step by step process of finding and reaching out to individual faculty to explore possible research opportunities.
What types of on-campus resources are available to undergraduates doing research?
With respect to research that requires access to libraries and collections, the policy remains unchanged; curbside pick-up service to anyone with a valid WashU ID of materials can be arranged, but libraries remain closed to visitors. John M. Olin Library will be accessible to the Washington University community for specific services outlined below. The Law Library will be accessible on a limited basis to persons directly affiliated with the School of Law. In addition, University Libraries will provide the following:
University Libraries will expand capacity to support access to digital materials, including scanning of print materials, special collections, and e-resources for course reserves.
Interlibrary loan services will resume, including the ability to request materials from ILLiad and MOBIUS.
Patrons will be able to utilize the Bookeye scanner and microfilm by appointment.
Access to printing services and some of the University’s “Zoom-Study-Dine” pods will be established in designated portions of John M. Olin Library.
The Julian Edison Department of Special Collections will be open on a limited basis to researchers by appointment, and offer virtual instruction.
The Data Services team will continue to provide virtual Help Desk sessions, as well as remote access to the Research Studio.
The timing of these services is still being determined, but they will be available by the start of the fall semester. Please see the University Libraries' COVID-19 Updates and Resources page for further details.
What is “literature-based research?”
Literature-based research involves reviewing recent (and possibly older) publications related to your research project, for example through key word searches in Google Scholar, Web of Science, PubMed and similar online resources. This can be especially useful in identifying unanswered questions related to you or your lab’s research (i.e., questions that could be pursued experimentally in subsequent semesters) and for developing strategies for analyzing your data. Depending on your project and how far you’ve progressed, your online work this semester may also involve data analysis, creation of figures/tables from your results, and writing up text for your findings to date.