Winter Session Guidance for Research Labs/Studios

Posted on October 13, 2020. Note that some information or advice may have changed since then.

Dear Colleagues,

The Research Task Force has created the following compilation of resources and guidance for research for the period of the Student Winter Break period. This information, and any updates, will be posted on the vpr updates site and/or the research continuity website.

Winter Session Guidance for Research Labs/Studios

The Student Winter Break for undergraduate students will begin on November 21, 2020 after finals week and closure of the dorms and end on February 2, 2021 before spring semester classes begin. We expect this period to be a very active time for research. The break will include University holidays from November 25 - 27, 2020 and December 21, 2020 through January 5, 2021. Please note that designated University holidays are for postdocs and graduate students as well as other University personnel classifications.

During the break, certain policies that have been in effect during the fall semester will be eased. This document provides links to research relevant policy and guidance and interprets certain policies where additional guidance might be helpful. 

Campus Operations

Campus operations for buildings and food services will operate as follows:

  1. From November 21- December 23, 2020 and from January 4 - February 2, 2021 the campus will be treated as "open." Building access and HVAC operations will operate in an "in-semester" mode.  

  2. There may be a few exceptions considered on a case-by-case basis (e.g. the Hesburgh Library will only open via card access to the campus community in order to limit off-campus public access).

  3. During the period of December 24, 2020 - January 3, 2021 buildings will be set into typical Christmas Break mode for both access and HVAC systems operations.

  4. Residence Hall access to students will be disabled once they have relocated to their alternative winter break housing accommodations.

  5. Snow removal operations will not be reduced.

  6. RecSports facilities will be open from November 21 - December 23, 2020 and January 4 - February 2, 2021. The hours of operation will be posted at

  7. The dining halls and tents will close at noon on Saturday, November 21, 2020. 

  8. Some retail outlets in LaFortune and Duncan Student Center, specifically Starbucks, Subway, the Huddle C Store, and Hagerty Family Cafe, will remain open. These outlets will close December 24, 2020 - January 3, 2021. We will monitor needs and work with the Office of the Executive Vice President to adapt to food service needs as they develop.

  9. The Morris Inn and Rohr’s will remain open every day during this break, including December 24, 2020 - January 3, 2021. Rohr’s will provide expanded grab ‘n’ go fresh market items in the Morris Inn lobby for breakfast and lunch. 

  10. Other services such as Buildings Services (janitorial and cleaning), Central Receiving, Procurement, Risk Management and Safety, Notre Dame Police and Fire, and Building Services will be operational. Some that normally serve the undergraduate student population may be scaled back, but those that serve the research programs are expected to be staffed to fully support research operations.

  11. Over the Winter Session, parking is allowed in any parking lot where the gates have been lifted.

  12. The Campus Card office will remain open, with the exception of December 21, 2020 - January 5, 2021.

Library Hours

The Hesburgh Library will be open via card access to the campus community during the break except during the Christmas/New Years period. Branch libraries will be open by appointment. Up-to-date information on library hours is available at

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Undergraduate students are allowed to participate in activities in research labs/studios during the Student Winter Break. Since students will not be attending classes, it is likely that many will spend significantly more time in the labs than they may have during the fall semester. This may significantly increase the density of labs. Labs and studios will continue to operate under Phase 3 protocols (i.e., less than 50% nominal density) during the Winter Session. 

Guidance given previously for inclusion of undergraduates in laboratories continues to be relevant. We emphasize that research directors that are considering inclusion of undergraduate research assistants in labs/studios should consult with the researchers in their labs to ensure that they have considered various perspectives on productivity and safety. 

If research directors would like to modify their Phase 3 plans, a revised plan should be submitted to the relevant Associate Dean or Assistant Vice President for Research Melanie DeFord as a Google Form revision so that changes are identifiable. If you need advice on lab protocols, the members of the Research Task Force, including the Associate Deans, stand ready to help. 

Research-related Travel

Research-related travel is allowed as described in the Winter Session Travel Policy with appropriate consideration for budget restraint and health protocols. University-funded travel should be approved in advance by the responsible Dean or Vice President.

International travel for research is allowed under this policy but is likely to be challenging and risky. As stated in the policy, all University-related international travel must be registered on the NDI Travel Registry, all tickets must be purchased through Anthony Travel, and travellers must consult with the Wellness Center (faculty, staff, and postdocs) or the University Health Service (students) before and after travel. Note that in some cases an insurance rider may be required for international travel. Arrangements may be necessary to fund the cost of this rider from University funds. It is strongly recommended that international travellers consult with Jaime Signoracci, Associate Director of International Travel & Safety ( 574-631-9645), early in the formulation of travel plans. 

Research-related Visitors, Gatherings, and Events

Research-related visits and events are allowed but are subject to restrictions as outlined in the visitors policy and the gatherings policy. In general, the philosophy will be that the University is not maintaining the community bubble that we maintained during the semester. However, visitors and events are still subject to protocols to reduce viral transmission (e.g., masks, physical distancing, local government restrictions). Thus, no large events are likely to be approved by Deans and Vice Presidents. Visitors may also be subject to quarantine and testing requirements depending on where travel originated and what the local situation is at the time of the visit.

Unused venues across campus will be available for events. However, the Morris Inn has the highest usage on campus for events and is staffed and prepared for events. Morris Inn venues should be the first option for on-campus events. 

Please call University Events at 574-631-1400 to coordinate an event or reservation at the Morris Inn. 

Dissertation and Thesis Defenses

Dissertation and thesis defenses will be allowed throughout the Winter Session. Graduate School deadlines have been extended, as follows:

Formatting checks – originally Nov. 2, now Nov. 16, 2020.

Defense deadline – originally Nov. 23, now Nov. 30, 2020.

Final submission – originally Nov. 30, now Dec. 7, 2020.

In-person meetings for dissertation defenses are allowed if they follow the protocols that have been established throughout the semester for in-person instruction. Approval to use a room for a dissertation or thesis defense and arranging access for a room should be done through Demetra Schoenig, Director of Academic Enhancements in the Graduate School (

Budget Guidance

The University’s financial situation continues to be at risk and uncertain depending on how the rest of the academic year unfolds. Notre Dame has been fortunate so far to be able to follow our plan but there is no certainty that the pandemic will not significantly affect the budget yet this year. Thus, fiscal restraint continues to be recommended, not just for your personal research program but in consideration of the University's overall financial situation. 

General principles for budgetary guidance for expenditures related to research include: 

  • Expenses budgeted on external funding sources can be spent as proposed unless the sponsor requests a modification.

  • Expenses to be charged to gifts and endowments should balance fiscal restraint and stewardship. We have a duty to use such funds as committed but also to use them in a manner consistent with the situation created by the pandemic. 

  • Research expenses charged to University funds must be approved by a Dean or the Vice President for Research depending on the source of the funds. Please consult with the College business office or Notre Dame Research business office for guidance about current policies for use of internal funds for research and the process for requesting approval.

  • As mentioned previously, University-funded travel must be approved in advance by the responsible Dean or Vice President per the University guidelines.

Need More Information?

Other information related to Student Winter Break activities and opportunities can be found at


Bob Bernhard


Robert J. Bernhard

Vice President for Research

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, Indiana 46556