Transition to Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3

The University is implementing a four phase process for reopening research laboratories, studios, and core facilities. This guidance is intended to describe how the University is transitioning to Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3, as of July 13, 2020.

Before moving to the details of the transition, it is important to emphasize several key points:

  • The safety and health of student, faculty, and staff researchers continue to be top priority. To date, the lab-specific plans for reopening labs, studios, and core facilities have been thoughtful and compliance with those plans has been excellent. The continuation of the excellent record to date is important if Notre Dame is to keep the labs/studios/core facilities open.
  • If a lab/studio/core facility can continue to operate at the same levels as used for Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 2, the Task Force urges researchers to do so.
  • As the world continues to observe in this pandemic, the situation is unpredictable. Researchers should be prepared for any possible trajectory of the disease in the local community. The University may be able to transition to Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 4 sometime this fall. Or Notre Dame may have to stay at Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3 levels for some time - or even retreat to Phase 2 levels.
  • It is expected that conditions, norms, and expectations will change when the student body returns to campus in August (2020). Even if there are no extraordinary developments related to infection rates in the community or on campus, the Task Force anticipates holding at Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3 levels until the situation with the additional campus population is well-understood, which is expected to be at least several weeks into the fall semester.
  • Researchers anticipating incorporating undergraduate researchers into their lab/studio early in the fall semester should detail this in their Phase 3 plan. Additional guidance on Undergraduate Research Assistants can be reviewed here.
  • In general, Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3 corresponds with University Reopening Phase 3

Transition to Phase 3

The Research Task Force began transitioning from Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 2 to Phase 3 on Monday, July 13, 2020. The transition was depend on:

  • Levels of infections in St. Joseph County and the wider region.
  • Continued high levels of compliance with lab/studio requirements and with approved lab/studio plans.
  • Consistency of Phase 3 requirements with State and County directives/orders.
  • The University's confidence that researchers will be able to maintain safe and effective lab/studio operations at Phase 3 levels when the student body returns to campus in early August.

Phase 3 Changes

In Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3, more activity is allowed in labs and studios than has been allowed in Phase 2. Researchers also have access to facilities, offices, and collaboration spaces with limitations that mirror University Phase 3. Guidance from Facilities Design and Operations to building managers/units regarding occupancy of building spaces expresses limits, not desirable targets. Deans, Department Chairs, and/or unit leaders may lower the occupancy. The Research Task Force wants to emphasize that the good operations and safety practices demonstrated in Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 2 should continue. Research directors and researchers should continue good practice, even if that means that there is some loss of productivity and efficiency. Above all, Notre Dame wants to keep the labs, studios, and core facilities safe and open.

Phase 3 details are as follows:

  • The limit for nominal density moves from 25% to 50%. For situations where a density standard is difficult to apply, this standard translates to approximately 120 SF/person or a 6’ spacing, whichever is more conservative. It is not recommended that labs double current density unless it is absolutely necessary and safe.
  • Undergraduate students are allowed in research laboratories/studios at the start of the Fall semester, August 10, 2020. Research directors must implement the recommendations provided here:
  • Face-to-face human subjects research can begin with implementation of the guidance provided here:
  • Graduate students may seek accommodation through the Sarah Bea Office.
  • A University health screening app will become available in Phase 3. Researchers will be asked to transition from the current health screening process to the new app, when it becomes available.
  • Use of offices for study and analysis is allowed provided physical distancing can be maintained and there is a comprehensive plan in place for cleaning and disinfecting work spaces. Occupancy of offices and computational labs during Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3 should correlate with occupancy limits that have been developed by Colleges and Schools in conjunction with the University Building Reopening Team and announced by the Building Managers. Faculty and students are urged when utilizing these spaces to be mindful of any conditions of ventilation, density, and duration of occupancy that might dictate that less than maximum occupancy is advisable. 
  • The use of kitchenettes, conference rooms, and collaboration spaces is allowed but must follow the building reopening rules. Building Managers will confirm that these spaces are ready for use and how they may be utilized. 

Note that the date of transition from Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3 to Phase 4 has not been determined and will depend on the public health conditions of the community and campus as well as compliance with lab/studio requirements and plans during Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3. Research directors should not expect consideration of the Phase 4 transition until the academic year is well underway. Research directors should also plan for the situation where lab/studio/core facility utilization would have to be reduced in the case of a local outbreak of the virus.

Submission and Approval of Phase 3 Plans

The approval process for Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3 plans remains essentially the same as for Phase 2. Associate Deans or the Assistant Vice President for Research will review all plans for their respective College or unit. Risk Management and Safety, Department Chairs, and Deans review final plans and recommend approval to the Vice President for Research. Final approval is decided by the Vice President for Research or his designee. An expedited review is anticipated for requests that include only minor changes to a previously approved Phase 2 plan.

Three request forms are provided for use in Lab/Studio Reopening Phase 3:  

  1. For cases where there are no changes to a Phase 2 Lab/Studio Reopening plan, notification is required using this no change form
  2. For cases where a Phase 2 Lab/Studio Reopening plan will be updated for Phase 3, please use this updated plan form.
  3. For first-time submission of a Lab/Studio reopening plan, please use this new plan submission form.

Plans can be submitted for approval now and throughout the entire period of Phase 3. 


For additional guidance, please communicate with your Department Chair and if needed, relevant member of the Subtask Force on Research Laboratory Operations. Members include Jim BrockmoleSteve CorcelliMelanie DeFord, and Mark McCready.