Undergraduate researchers back to campus

March 29, 2021
Rodolfo H. Torres
Vice Chancellor
Research and Economic Development
March 29, 2021

Dear UCR Campus Community,

Until now in the pandemic that COVID-19 spawned, only graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, their faculty advisors, and key personnel were permitted to work in labs at 25% occupancy capacity. The improvement on the pandemic situation in Riverside County (now officially in the red tier) and the availability of more testing sites for the coronavirus as well as vaccines support the notion that we have reached the point at which we could allow some undergraduate students to return to doing research on campus facilities. 

The Research Ramp-up Committee has carefully evaluated the situation and has approved the return of undergraduates under the following conditions and process. The intention is to bring back undergraduate students as soon as possible this spring after all elements in the process are fulfilled. Specifically,

PIs interested in adding undergraduate students to their labs will need to update their Work Site Specific Plan (WSSPs) to accommodate the students’ arrival. 

To update the WSSP, PIs and/or supervisors need to:

•    Retrieve and review their existing WSSP
•    Make adjustments as appropriate
•    Review the WSSP with new lab workers and ensure all questions and concerns are addressed
•    Have lab workers acknowledge the WSSP by signing and dating it
•    Return the updated WSSP to ehspublichealth@ucr.edu

PIs/supervisors who do not have an approved WSSP on file with UCR Environmental Health and Safety need to:

•    Visit the WSSP page and follow instructions on how to complete a WSSP
•    Ensure that their supervisors/chairs acknowledge their WSSP
•    Ensure all lab workers — faculty, staff, and students — review and sign

The addition of undergraduate students to research facilities are still subject to the 25% cap on labs’ density. In particular, labs which are already at that maximum capacity will have to implement rotations or other processes so that maximum capacity is not exceeded at any time, and undergraduate students will undergo the same training given to other personnel already approved to be on campus.

Undergraduate students will have to complete the UCR symptom monitoring survey every day they will be present on a facility. They should indicate in the survey their advisor as the supervisor to be notified of their presence on campus.

Furthermore, undergraduate students who will be on campus are recommended to be tested on campus through our COVID-19 testing laboratory at least once a month (additional information to follow) and they will be provided with a letter from HR to access vaccination at any of the county facilities.

Under no circumstances should undergraduate students be coerced into coming to the research facilities on campus. We would also like to remind PIs that they are responsible for the safety and security measures in place in their labs and we encourage anyone who observes a lack of compliance to report it through the EH&S site survey

While we hope that some of the current restrictions will be relaxed as the health authorities allow us to do so, our campus will continue to monitor the overall situation with the pandemic and we may need to go back to our previous stage if conditions worsen or if we experience outbreaks in the labs.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you again for your efforts to keep research and scholarly work at UCR going despite the adverse conditions we have been through in the last twelve months, and for your cooperation in minimizing the risks in our research environment. I am fully aware of the limitations on your work the absence of undergraduate students in labs has caused and, equally important, about the negative impact on our students’ education.  But we continue to have the safety of our community as our number one priority and we know that with your cooperation we can successfully embark in this new phase of research activities.