Research Programs & Lab Operations

The following questions and answers are provided for the Harvard School of Engineering and FAS Division of Science communities.


Will undergraduate students be able to work in research labs this summer and if so, what are the policies and requirements that will apply?

Please review the “Mentored Research Policy for Summer 2021” by visiting:

"Harvard College undergraduates in good standing may participate in on-campus laboratory research. The laboratory PI (faculty host) should add the student to the lab re-occupancy form and ensure that all requirements for COVID safety are met (e.g., masking and distancing, sufficient fresh/highly filtered air flow, scheduling of common spaces and equipment). Students may be enrolled in a summer school independent study course for credit, paid by the faculty host, receiving a research fellowship stipend, in an undergraduate research program (such as PRISE or MSI), or volunteering for experience."


Have there been any updates as to when the university will reopen?

Yes, President Bacow, Provost Garber, and Executive Vice President Lapp sent a message to the Harvard Community on March 22nd, you can read it here:

The University is targeting Monday, August 2, as the date when staff, faculty, and researchers will all be authorized to return to campus. This means that Coronavirus Workplace Policies remain in place and the University will continue reviewing its policies heading into this transition period.


A vendor that is planning to come to the SEC in early April will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-March (> 2 weeks before coming). Can we accept vaccination documentation in lieu of COVID-19 testing documentation for individuals who have been fully vaccinated? And presumably we would still ask the vendor to wear a mask and maintain social distancing for everyone else's comfort, right?

No, the current plan is to retain our testing program, regardless of vaccination status. Moreover, all visitors to our buildings should continue to wear masks and social distance irrespective of their vaccination status.


Should we start advising our staff to wear 2 masks?

We are not mandating the use of 2 masks, but our procedure masks in conjunction with cloth masks can provide a better seal, so staff are welcome to wear both. The procedural mask should be worn underneath the cloth mask.


Should we start directing our lab users to wear double masks after the latest statements from Dr. Fauci and Prof Joe Allen at the School of Public Health. The latest shipment of masks that we received this past Monday are very loose with the masks constantly sliding down our faces.

Our procedure masks in conjunction with cloth masks can provide a better seal. The ear protectors (available at mask pick-up) can help to tighten the fit.


Not all students doing a thesis have access to a research lab, but instead rely on teaching labs to do their work. Are teaching labs still closed off to students in those instances?

Through June 30, 2021, our building occupancy management is built around research labs, any instances like this should be brought to the attention of the SEAS Dean or the Divisional Dean.



What is the University's perspective about faculty conducting in-person research off-campus with a private lab, at a time when on-campus research is either limited or not happening at all?

Harvard-related research must happen in our lab facilities. Any exceptions require decanal approval.



I am a faculty member and I work from home. I need to access my office one time to pick up some books. Is this possible?

Yes it is, with approval from your department/area chair.



For people who are on an alternating weekly schedule, it is ok if they are just getting tested only on the weeks that they are on campus (i.e. every other week)?

Yes, that is permitted.



A visiting scholar from another US state would still like to come to our department to do research this fall. Is this allowed, as long as it works within our re-occupancy planning and capacity, or is Harvard not supporting any new residential visiting scholar appointments?

Please contact the Assistant Dean for Faculty Affairs in the appropriate Division or School.



For College students, does the prohibition of research with faculty while on a leave of absence extend to other schools (such as HBS)?

For College students on a leave of absence, the prohibition of research with faculty extends to other schools (such as HBS). It is University-wide. For undergraduate students - to find more detailed information, please visit here:


Do you know what guidance has been communicated for anyone testing positive and notifying the PI / their manager? I would imagine that managers are advised not to share that information. Though are others then encouraged to be tested?

Individuals are to notify HUHS of positive test results. Contact tracing and notifications will come through HUHS and state authorities.


My glasses keep fogging up due to my mask, what can I do to prevent this?

There are also affordable products you can purchase:


We need to bring technicians into the building to service one of our instruments. When can we do this and who do we need to contact to get authorization?

Laboratories can schedule and bring service technicians into the lab as needed. Each technician/lab visitor must:


Can someone take another person’s place (in the same lab) in a different shift if they are not going in? Will this be tracked and accounted for via the keycard swipe address?

Yes, if you are substituting people who are both already listed on your laboratory’s re-occupancy plan. If the person coming in is not listed on the plan, they should be added before the schedule change is implemented. Building access is being monitored and compared against the roster of individuals listed on approved re-occupancy plans.



Can we clarify the exceptions (aside from eating/drinking) to the requirement of wearing a face mask ("single occupancy offices")? Is wearing a face mask required in rooms that are occupied by only a single person at any one time, but by different people at different times?

Sole-occupancy spaces are OK for taking off face coverings. If the office is shared, please wear your face covering and you will also need to carry the face covering with you as you move around campus; you must wear a face covering in all public spaces and common areas.



Is the inventory of lab coats increased? We would like to have one new coat per day, but this is only possible if the pick-up stations have adequate stock of new coats.

Lab coats inventory will be increased as needed to meet increased demand. Lab coats should not be shared. However, lab coats will not be increased to the level that allows each individual to get a new coat every day as it is not necessary to change your lab coat every day. EH&S recommends coats be exchanged once they are soiled or used for two weeks.



Is there any guidance on signage that should be displayed in labs? Either minimum requirements or recommendations? Or is signage to be hung at the discretion of the individual lab?

Signage for laboratories are available at EH&S does not have specific guidance, other than if a room has an occupancy limit, that limit should be posted.




Are we allowed to wear our own masks until we reach the lab and then switch to Harvard-distributed masks?

Yes, you will need a face covering prior to arriving on campus. The City of Cambridge has issued an order requiring that face coverings be worn in all public places, businesses and common areas of residential buildings. To learn more, visit here:


How do I find out more information about testing?

Each Harvard affiliate’s testing requirements vary based on whether you live on campus, work in residential housing, work elsewhere on campus, or have a regular presence (4 hours or more per week) on campus. Our testing plan is subject to modification if the public health situation indicates changes in community risk.

Please review the policies and frequencies for unobserved self-administered testing.


Does the University have a plan or checklist for a safe reopening?

Yes it does, you can find the steps that all Harvard personnel (who have been approved to return to campus) must take before they return and while they work on campus here:



Will HUIT support be available to assist labs with desktop or IT issues as they resume research on campus?

Yes, for support, please contact the HUIT Service Desk at 617-495-7777 or visit the IT Help Portal at to “browse knowledge”, chat with a technician, or submit a ticket. There will also be a limited onsite HUIT technician schedule for laboratory IT support. All HUIT support requests should be made by contacting the service desk.



Will Harvard be reaching out to Federal agencies to ask about exceptions around purchasing new desired PPE which many not be applicable to the research but will enable my lab to perform research in a safe manner?

In the event additional measures beyond masks are needed, we will evaluate those requirements in conjunction with occupational health experts and Harvard will procure items as needed.



What is being done to ensure equitable resources among the labs in terms of acquisition of PPE above and beyond what the university is providing? i.e. better resourced labs getting more PPE vs less resourced labs getting less.

Harvard is providing face coverings to all.



For staff that cannot sufficiently perform their job duties remotely and have moderate/severe asthma will a higher form of face protection be provided such as an N95 mask?

Instances like this will be referred to occupational health services.



How are wipes used for disinfecting surfaces to be disposed of?

They can go into the regular trash. They are not biohazardous waste.


Where are we receiving our funding for plexiglass? or other PPE related items?

Harvard is committed to providing and sustaining a workplace that meets our goal of virus suppression. If individuals or PIs have concerns about their workspace they should bring this to their supervisor or department chair and we will address it case-by-case.



Is it still okay for us to go to the shared space area where we switch out lab coats?

Yes, one at a time with appropriate attention to shared surfaces.


Can I conduct research that involves physical experimentation at home?

The Office for the Vice Provost of Research has provided the following guidance on physical experimentation at home:

  • With rare exception, the University cannot approve the use of private residence for research purposes. Such work at home raises a number of health and safety, and potential building and fire code related concerns that are subject to routine health and safety inspections and mitigation measure at the university laboratories and cannot be verified in a residential setting. These potential hazards include but are not limited to occupancy rating of the building (e.g. residential vs. research), electrical hazard associated with the use of the equipment (e.g. personnel safety, overload of circuitry, etc.), presence of untrained individuals in the research area, etc., none of which have been assessed by university.
  • Remote research using computers for data driven analytics, social behavior type studies that can be conducted by audio/video conferencing, etc. is allowable.
  • All lab-based experimental research must be conducted on campus now that laboratories have re-opened.  


With the slow ramp-up of laboratory research, will you ensure the presence of lab safety personnel on campus that can respond to laboratory accidents?

Yes, laboratory safety is of the utmost importance, and resources will be available to proactively support labs as well as reactively address any lab issues or accidents should they occur.



Are there any restrictions on paying undergraduate summer researchers who are working remotely (e.g. outside MA, or out of the country)?

The Office of the Controller has provided (revised) Payroll Processes During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, for more information visit:


I think my team can contribute on the research front, to COVID-19 diagnostics or therapeutics. What should I do? 

First, coordinate with the broader Boston-wide consortium. Contacts are:


Diagnostics team co-leads:

Pardis Sabeti:

David Walt:


Mark Namchuk:

Jonathan Abraham:

If your idea is embraced by them then fill out and submit this form:



My PI and I are not finding it easy to outline what researching remotely should look like for me. I am worried that they will penalize me later for not carrying out experiments now. Do you have tips for how we can navigate this? Does Harvard have intermediaries who can help?

We understand that working remotely poses a challenge. Restricted access is being imposed on the entire community. Please contact Seth Avakian at & Moriah Silver at about professional conduct issues and the concerns you’ve expressed. 



We were informed that 2-3 people could be designated to perform essential experiments and lab maintenance. Can this set of people change day-to-day or week-to-week, or does it have to be the same 2-3 individuals throughout the entire shutdown?

This will be coordinated at the department/SEAS Area level.


For those authorized to access the lab, do they have to be accompanied by another person for safety reasons?  

Yes, but this may be able to be accomplished virtually.  Please see the new **updated** virtual buddy system guidance:


What about the Operation Center's emergency contacts for specific instruments?  Do I need to submit access exception requests for them?

No.  Emergency contacts on file with the Operations Center for specific pieces of equipment (-80 freezers, -20 freezers, incubators, etc.) do not need an access exception.  If they are contacted by the Ops Center due to an equipment alarm/failure, they may access the lab to respond to the emergency.


Can research personnel take their office desktop computers home?

Yes, but please work with your supervisor to track serial numbers.


Do you have a template for laboratory research contingency planning? 

The Environmental Health and Safety guidelines, can be found here: 


Several SEAS labs have Start-up tech companies embedded in their Harvard Labs. Can we have non-Harvard employees of the lab/startups working in the Harvard lab spaces? 

Start-ups are not allowed in Harvard spaces. Harvard’s resources should not be used for outside work. Please consult your Divisional Dean or SEAS Dean for further information.  Visitors or workers external to the Harvard community are not allowed on campus. 


What is the DoD Guidance on Salaries?

Visit here for more information:


What impact will this have on my research program? 

The NIH has posted information here:

A list of all FOAs and DOE Laboratory Announcements may be found at, and


I am concerned about long term care of cultures/samples/animals in our lab. Who should I talk to? 

Research continuity guidance is available from Environmental Health and Safety; see 

We will take all possible measures to minimize the long-term impact to your research program, subject to personnel safety concerns. Faculty should contact Sarah Elwell ( FAS Science) and/or Leigh Needleman ( - SEAS) for area-specific research continuity questions or concerns.  


Since postdocs and graduate students don’t technically get sick time, how should we be handling their absences? 

Grad students and postdocs who are working remotely are fulfilling their effort obligation. If they are ill, that is handled as we normally do.