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New Covid-19 Related Undergraduate Research Requirements (2020-2021)

Undergraduate Participation in Research - Recommendations and Approval Process PIs of Approved Research Labs/Studios on Campus

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
MSU Foundation Professor

Douglas A. Gage, Ph.D.
Interim Vice President for Research & Innovation

The opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in research and other mentored scholarly activity outside of the formal classroom setting is an important hallmark of the educational experience at Michigan State University. However, this opportunity is a privilege and comes with mutual responsibilities for both the student and mentor. As the health and safety of our students, staff and faculty is the highest priority under the current pandemic conditions, this semester participation of undergraduates in most cases requires approval from the Provost in the case of curriculum related research activities, and from the Interim Vice President for more general research activities. Understanding that there is not always a clear line between educational and basic research activities, the Provost and Interim Vice President are working together in this process.

Here we set out the guidelines for the continuation of approvable undergraduate research activities. Requests will be submitted by PIs for undergraduate research participation through the new undergraduate research request form.

Allowable undergraduate research participants fall into four broad categories: Professorial Assistants, students taking directed individual study courses, undergraduate employees, and undergraduates participating in laboratory or other research on a voluntary basis. Since March, when the Governor’s Executive Order limited on-campus work to “minimum basic operations”, only undergraduate employees have been permitted to work on research projects as essential personnel. These individuals are approved to continue working, but we would like their presence to be documented in the new undergraduate research request form. As the University is reopened under later Executive Orders, students beyond employees, namely, Professorial Assistants, directed individual study students and volunteers can all now participate in research, provided strict conditions are met.

  1. Undergraduate participation in research should be at the discretion of the PI or lab head, in consultation with laboratory graduate students, postdocs and staff. It is recognized that reduced personnel density required to maintain physical distancing may reduce undergraduate research opportunities.
  2. For any approved undergraduate research activity there must be a workplan outlining safety procedures, research activities and schedules. This should be agreed upon in advance by both the student and mentor. Students will be expected to come to the lab prepared (e.g., preparatory reading and experimental calculations done in advance), arrive at the agreed upon time, complete their project work and leave the laboratory when finished, as is expected of other lab personnel. Time in the laboratory may be restricted, as shift work may be implemented to reduce lab personnel density.
  3. Undergraduates cannot work alone in a laboratory and must be supervised at all times by a group member (graduate student, postdoc, staff, or faculty). Undergraduate researchers or scholars engaged in projects that are not in traditional STEM laboratory settings but require the use of specialized equipment or studios, or work in isolated, controlled research settings because of data confidentiality agreements, may work alone as long as such activities are pre-arranged and scheduled with the PI or project supervisor.
  4. Compliance with all safety training and procedures of the building and lab or studio plans is mandatory.
  5. Lab and studio safety plans should be updated to include undergraduate personnel and activities, although EHS re-review will not be required.
  6. Compliance with the MSU Community Compact is the expectation for all MSU students, faculty and staff, as is completion of the Health Screening Form prior to each arrival in the lab or research setting. Protecting the health and safety of others by avoiding circumstances where coronavirus transmission is likely is the responsibility of everyone.
  7. We also encourage undergraduates and all lab personnel to participate in the voluntary Saliva-based COVID-19 Early Detection Program (Spartan Spit).
  8. All work that can be done remotely, must be done remotely. This includes, but is not limited to, planning, preparation, meetings, discussions, and data analysis.

If you have any questions, please contact 517-355-0306 or

We appreciate your cooperation with this new process.


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