Fall 2020 Questions & Answers

General Program Questions
COVID-19 Safety Questions
Student Life Questions



General Program Questions

Q: Are research labs open at Frick?
A: Yes. Princeton University is currently in Phase Two of its research resumption plan. In this phase, all Primary Investigators (PIs) have submitted a Research Lab Operations Plan detailing how each lab will enact strict social distancing and comply with Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)-prescribed density and hygiene metrics and practices. Use of Personal Protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning protocols are being strictly enforced. All work that can be done remotely will be done remotely.

Your lab mentor will be your best point of contact for questions about how your lab is handling its phased resumption of research. Community-wide guidance is offered on the Office of the Dean for Research’s website: COVID-19 Information for Researchers

Q: Will remote learning be available for first-year students who cannot arrive and be on campus in Fall 2020?
A: At this time, the Department of Chemistry, in consultation with the Graduate School, has determined that we will not be able to offer a remote start option to students who cannot arrive to campus by August 17, 2020 (the start of orientation). If you find yourself unable to arrive, please email Meredith LaSalle-Tarantin as soon as possible so that we may discuss the options available to you.

Q: Will orientation take place in-person or remotely?
A: Remotely, mostly. The programmatic aspects of Graduate Student Orientation, which will begin on August 17, 2020, will happen remotely. You will receive a schedule for orientation at the beginning of August. Qualifying Exams will be held in-person after midterms. 

Q: Will graduate courses be taught online?
A: It depends. Some graduate courses may be taken online per the discretion of the instructor. Some will be in-person here on campus. It’s likely that the person could record lectures and broadcast them, so that’s a possibility as well.

Q: If I am not certain about who to select as an advisor, is there a way for me to rotate among labs to help with the decision? Is this affected by the pandemic?
A: All students will have a temporary adviser for their arrival to Princeton. If you have arranged for a temporary adviser, please let Meredith know via email as soon as possible. If you have not yet arranged for a temporary adviser, the DGS will assign one to you. During the first semester, students will be asked to meet remotely with at least three faculty members in or associated with the Department of Chemistry. Students are asked to finalize their adviser selections in December.

Q: Will advisors be available for face-to-face interaction, or will most interaction be through Zoom?
A: Given the current phase (as of 7/16/2020) of research resumption, meetings that can be conducted online should be done so. Students working in wet labs may consult with their lab mentors face-to-face, but this must be in accordance with masking and social distancing guidelines when both parties are scheduled to be in Frick.

Q: Given the social distancing constraints, will first year students be encouraged to minimize work in the lab and instead focus on completing required coursework?
A: Research is an important part of the first-year experience for Princeton Chemistry students. As such, we anticipate that first-year students who will be working in wet labs will have the opportunity to begin to conduct actual research. We encourage you to be in touch with your PI and lab mentor to learn more about your specific lab’s Research Lab Operations Plan and how you can safely begin your research program.

COVID-19 Safety Questions

Q: I have been away from campus for an extended period of time, or I am arriving on campus for the first time. Will I be required to quarantine?
A: It depends. Before arriving on campus, everyone must complete the University Health Services’ (UHS) Risk Assessment Questionnaire. UHS will review each questionnaire and provide tailored instructions for each respondent within 24-48 hours.

Q: Do I have any recourse and alternatives if I feel unsafe coming to campus in the fall?
A: Yes. For students who wish to delay the start of their graduate program at this time, the Graduate School has established a streamlined process for requesting deferrals. Please reach out to Meredith LaSalle-Tarantin, ml28@princeton.edu, if you would like to explore this option further.

Q: Are the social distancing, hygiene and personal protection policies at the discretion of the advisor/PI, or are they University-wide policies? That is, can my advisor make changes to those policies unilaterally?
A. While each lab will have its own safety policies specific to its research operations, the University’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) has laid out standard guidance that is expected of all members of the community. See: Guidelines for Safe Research during COVID-19 Pandemic

Q: If I see social distancing, hygiene or personal protection practices that are not in compliance with policy, how do I report these problems? I don’t want to get anyone in trouble; I just want to feel safer.
A: If you have concerns about the safety practices of another member in your lab, you should express your concerns to your Lab Manager, Lab Safety Manager, or PI.

Student Life Questions

Q: What are the graduate student housing arrangements in the midst of the pandemic?
A: Like all offices across campus, the Housing Office is adapting to support students and supply housing during these unprecedented times. With student support in mind, the room assignment process for this year has been revised. Details here: Graduate Student Housing. For specific inquiries, you can email askhousing@princeton.edu.

Q: Will there be food available in Frick Chemistry Laboratory as in the past, or will I need to plan to pack my lunch?
A: Currently (as of 7/16/2020), the Frick Chemistry Café is closed. We expect that all undergraduate dining halls and the Graduate College dining hall will be open during the fall semester subject to state mandates and guidance in effect at that time.

Q: Will there be any changes to parking and shuttle service in the midst of the pandemic? If I am working in the lab during a night shift, what can I do to safely get to my car?
A: Yes. In accordance with the NJ Governor’s Executive Order: TigerTransit vehicles may only carry 50% of their maximum capacity; all passengers will be required to wear a face covering unless they cannot for medical reasons; and carriers have to provide gloves and face coverings for their staff, a measure Princeton has already taken. A schedule of the lines currently in operation is posted on the Parking and Transportation Website.

Additionally, there will be a late-night shuttle service providing transportation to interested graduate students and postdocs to their on-campus residences. The shuttle will run seven days a week from 10pm until midnight, and will stop on Washington Road (Frist/Guyot) and at the Engineering Quadrangle, with on-demand stops by Lots 14 (off Ivy Lane, across from Peyton Hall), 15 (PNI), 25 (off Ivy Lane) and the North Garage (E-Quad parking garage), in addition to the graduate student and postdoc on-campus housing destinations.

Q: Will student life organizations, such as special interest groups, affinity groups and study groups still be active in the midst of the pandemic? I’d like to enlarge my community at Princeton as best I can, even in the midst of the pandemic.
A: The Graduate Student Life Team at the Graduate School remains committed to helping students become oriented to campus and thriving in their academic programs. The Graduate School Orientation for Incoming Students will take place on August 26 & 27.

Q: As a graduate student, do I have access to the University’s medical clinic, McCosh Health Center? Do the health center services include counseling?
A: Yes and yes. The services of Princeton University Health Services (UHS) are included under the Graduate Student Health Plan and include both medical and counseling services. For a comprehensive list of UHS services, please see Using our Services.

Q: I hear that there will be regular COVID-19 testing of all persons on campus. Where can I learn more?
A: This is an evolving matter. The most current UHS guidance about on-campus COVID-19 testing may be found here: Coronavirus COVID-19.

Q: Where can international students get information about the latest visa requirements and how this impacts our travel to Princeton?
A: The Davis International Center continues to update students through their website and by email on the latest visa and travel-related information.