Student participation in on-site research


Dear Colleagues,

I remain encouraged by the COVID positivity rates across campus, and the latest data indicate that the positivity rate among our undergraduate population continues to decrease (0.23% positivity for the past week).  In addition, PSOM reports a 0.00% 7-day test positivity rate via COVID SAFE

Based on these numbers and overall trends, I’d like to share the following guidance for student participation in our labs at this time:

§  Penn Undergraduate Student Researchers: We will return to our prior policy regarding undergraduate researchers who participate in on-site research as part of academic progression: as per University guidelines, requests should be approved by your Department Chair, accompanied by full justification and a revised work plan in REDCap that describes how the work can be done safely.  These requests no longer need to be forwarded to my office for final review and approval.

§  Non-Penn Undergraduate Student Researchers: Non-Penn undergrads and co-op or student interns (paid or unpaid) who are cleared to work in our labs must use PennOpen Pass (as required of Penn employees) and enroll in testing through COVID SAFE if they are coming to campus more than 4+ hours a week.  Required testing through the home institution must also be followed.  These individuals should NOT be hired into Workday if they are not paid by Penn sources or if they meet the definition of independent contractors.  In the latter case, any payments should be made through the Marketplace as in past years.  If the individual is not paid, the department can sponsor them for Penncards or any other necessary access without putting them into Workday.

§  High School Students: High school student activities should be remote this summer.

§  Summer Pipeline Programs: Requests to hold summer programs on campus must be submitted to, and my office will coordinate with the University for review and approval.

Lastly, I highlight below some additional recommendations.  Thank you for helping to uphold a positive, supportive, and safe scientific environment for all.

Best regards,



  • Undergraduates should wear face shields in addition to masks as should others who might be close to the student(s) for teaching purposes (not required if appropriate physical distancing is maintained).  Wearing two masks (i.e. cloth mask over a surgical mask to help form a tighter seal) is also strongly recommended, though not required.
  • Try to schedule student work during the least dense times and avoid common areas as much as possible.
  • Come to the laboratory for active bench-work only, but not for studying or “hanging out.”
  • Test twice a week through Penn Cares (as is the protocol) if a Penn undergraduate, or through COVID SAFE and the testing protocol of one’s home institution if a non-Penn undergraduate, even if vaccinated.
  • Encourage your student to report to you (or my office) any untoward comments that might be received.  We want to make sure that undergrads who are allowed to work are welcomed by everyone.

Jon Epstein, MD | EVD/CSO

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