Research Ramp Up

Research at Georgia Tech is among the institution's core missions, and it is essential to providing learning experiences for graduate students across the six colleges. In addition, the output of our research programs directly impacts society in the form of new discoveries and technologies. Finally, research activities at Georgia Tech have a significant impact on local and regional economies. For all those reasons, it is imperative that we ramp up research activities in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.

All members of the Georgia Tech community should recognize that our ability to transition from one phase to another of the ramp up depends on both internal and external factors. Internally, we control how we work, how we protect ourselves and our colleagues, and the extent to which we are exposed to the virus based on our personal adoption of the guidelines created for our community. However, we are also subject to the behavior of the public at large.

As part of a gradual return to more typical operations, an effort is underway to ramp up more research and bring the faculty, graduate students and staff related to that research back to campus safely and gradually. Starting in June 18, Georgia Tech has resumed research activity for the purpose of fulfilling research grants and contracts, and to ensure student degree progress. It is estimated that research may ramp up to approximately 75% over the course of the summer, with priority given to researchers who are unable to perform their work in a remote environment. Researchers will continue to be encouraged to perform work remotely to the greatest extent possible.  

 

Research Frequently Asked Questions

 

Fall 2021 – COVID-19 Information - Updated July 16th 2021

 
General
  • All faculty, staff, and students are strongly encouraged to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • No student, faculty or staff member should be treated differently based on their COVID-19 vaccination status.
  • Students should not be asked about their vaccine status and segregated in a classroom or from other instructor-student interactions (e.g., office hours, group work, field trips, labs, etc.) based on their vaccination status.
  • Vaccination status can be used to determine whether or not a person should quarantine after a close contact with a person who tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Masks/face coverings are not required on campus. Two exceptions may apply on campuses – health center/medical facility and public transit. Un-vaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to continue wearing a mask or face covering.
  • Institutions will return to campus in the fall with no social distancing measures. Un-vaccinated individuals are strongly encouraged to continue social distancing whenever possible.
Students in Experiential/Clinical Placements

Students may be required by off-campus partnering organizations to wear masks and/or be vaccinated as a condition of participation in experiential learning opportunities such as study abroad programs, externships and delivery of medical services.

Health Centers/Medical Personnel

Medical providers may use a patient’s COVID-19 vaccination status as they would normally under the typical standard of care. Consistent with the normal standard of care, medical providers may ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccination in treating patients.

Contact Tracing/Contact Notification

In the context of contact notification/contact tracing, personnel conducting the notification may ask a person’s vaccination status and may ask for proof of vaccination; however, proof is not required.

Accommodations

Approval of all COVID-19 related accommodations and flexible work arrangements (including telework) expired June 30, 2021. Requests for ADA accommodations or flexible work arrangements will be reviewed in accordance with the pre-pandemic ADA accommodations or Telework/Flextime policies.

Students who need accommodations for their classes should contact their Disability Resource/Services Center.

Cleaning and Disinfecting After a Positive Case

Please see the most recent guidance related to cleaning and disinfecting facilities/areas after a person tests positive for COVID-19: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building- facility.html#anchor_1617551661760

 

Revised Lab Guidance — Updated June 21, 2021

We have been working through details on what recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University System of Georgia (USG) means for Georgia Tech in numerous areas this summer and in our continued plans for a fully residential experience for Fall 2021. The following guidance is in effect for Georgia Tech labs:

  • Summer semester plans include social distancing, and we will continue that practice inside labs to honor the arrangements that have already been set. To work within CDC guidelines, labs will now move to staffing models that allow for 3 feet of social distancing between individuals.
  • Individuals in labs who are vaccinated do not have to wear a face covering. Individuals who are not vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering while inside campus facilities, including labs.
  • Otherwise, labs should revert to pre-Covid-19 health and safety protocols as outlined by Environmental Health and Safety (EHS).
  • As part of this transition, labs should review and update their health and safety protocols as necessary. EHS is available to assist lab directors in this process.

Read the detailed May 20, 2021 campus operations update. 

Do we still have the 150 square feet/person rule in the lab?

Summer semester plans include social distancing, and we will continue that practice inside labs to honor the arrangements that have already been set. To work within CDC guidelines, labs will now move to staffing models that allow for 3 feet of social distancing between individuals.

What rules exist for researchers occupying shared offices and meeting spaces including conference rooms?

Individuals who are vaccinated do not have to wear a face covering. Individuals who are not vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering while inside campus facilities. Social distancing rules no longer apply for these spaces. 

What are the expectations regarding the use of face masks/face coverings in research facilities?

Effective May 14, 2021, University System of Georgia (USG) guidance states that individuals who are vaccinated do not have to wear a face covering. Individuals who are not vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering while inside campus facilities, including labs. For those using face coverings in labs where chemical, biological, and radiological agents are present, single-use surgical masks continue to be provided by Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), available through the building manager.

Laboratories where N-95 protection is required were identified before the coronavirus pandemic, and the requirements for using this type of mask to protect laboratory occupants have not changed. EHS is responsible for determining which tasks require this protection and ensuring compliance with OSHA Standard 1910.134 APP D. These masks cannot be worn in Georgia Tech laboratories without review and approval of EHS.

What should be done if a laboratory research worker tests positive for Covid-19?

Guidance for Responding to a Covid-19 Positive Test for a Research Laboratory 

Laboratory research poses unique challenges in responding to a Covid-19 positive case in a laboratory research worker. Existing Georgia Tech policies clearly define a path for those who test positive and the follow-up contact tracing process. This guidance defines a process for ensuring laboratory safety and the appropriate notification path for laboratory workers and their supervisor (PI) while simultaneously protecting the privacy of the infected individual.

A laboratory researcher is anyone who works in a research laboratory at Georgia Tech. This includes research staff, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates. A majority are paid employees, many of which are students. Laboratory safety practices apply equally to all laboratory workers regardless of student or employee status.

A supervisor is an individual responsible for directing activities in a given research lab. This may be a PI or a research scientist or a staff member. Their supervisory responsibilities include all staff and students and visitors who work in the laboratory.

If a laboratory researcher tests positive, the laboratory researcher follows the Georgia Tech process for a faculty and staff member who tests positive, as defined at health.gatech.edu/coronavirus/isolation-quarantine. In particular, the laboratory researcher must notify their supervisor (as defined above) as soon as possible.

The supervisor should take the following actions:

  1. Do not disclose the identity of the employee testing positive when taking steps to ensure the safety of other lab members.
  2. Contact EHS as soon as possible at ehs@gatech.edu. EHS will work with the supervisor to develop a plan of action that may include temporarily closing the lab as well as disinfecting.
  3. Inform members of the lab that the laboratory space is temporarily closed for access until further notice for assessment by EHS. Do not disclose health information about infected individuals. If critical experiments require time to shut down or put on hold, work with EHS on a plan to perform those tasks safely and communicate that plan to the laboratory.
  4. Follow up with laboratory members on any EHS-related laboratory activities and the timeline for safely returning to the laboratory.

Other laboratory researchers should respect the privacy of any infected individuals. They may be approached by a contact tracer if they are identified as having had close contact with the individual testing positive for Covid-19. Please respect the privacy of the health information of any co-worker and do not disclose that information to anyone.

Am I allowed to ask a faculty member, staff member, or student if they are vaccinated?

No, you are not allowed to inquire about someone’s personal healthcare decision.

What are the rules governing travel during the pandemic?

Effective June 14, 2021, the guidelines are as follows:

Domestic Travel: The State of Georgia is no longer under a non-essential travel ban. Regular domestic travel may resume under normal travel policies.

International Travel: Essential international travel is permitted with managerial approval. Essential travel is defined as: 1. Important to the mission of the Georgia Tech; 2. Involves activities that cannot be conducted virtually; 3. Is time sensitive due to work deadlines or other related considerations. In all cases, travelers and their managers should review and adhere to current CDC guidelines on international travel: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices.html and  travel.state.gov/content/travel.html.

Is there guidance for field work during Summer and Fall 2021?

Field travel has resumed. Georgia Tech employees and students traveling in state for field work do not need a spend authorization. Travel for field work out of state requires a spend authorization prior to travel. International travel for essential business and research requires a travel spend authorization in advance.

Are there guidelines for the role that undergraduates can have in research?

Undergraduates may participate in research activities, following the guidelines on lab research described above.

How are we handling research that relies on human subjects?

As of March 29, 2021, all in-person research, including minors, may resume on campus and in-person. Guidance documents and information sheets are available. There are information sheets to be given to ALL in-person human subject research participants during the informed consent procedure. Please contact the Office of Research Integrity Assurance if you have any questions.

Are minors allowed as human research subjects?

Effective March 29, 2021, minors are allowed as human research subjects. Guidance on how to accommodate such subjects is posted at researchintegrity.gatech.edu/irb/important-news-and-updates#restart.

May I provide my own N-95 mask where one is not required?

If you wish to wear your own N-95 mask, which you have purchased, on campus, please ensure compliance with OSHA Standard 1910.134 APP D. These cannot be worn in laboratories without approval of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). 

Will work hours for labs be changed?

Researchers should discuss work hours with their supervisor. Because lab personnel density and distancing requirements have been relaxed, scheduling of work hours may change as well.

What is the status of the Exchange Visitor Program?

Effective March 1, 2021, OIE is accepting requests for unpaid J-1 visitors with start dates of July 15, 2021, or later. Program start dates are subject to any travel and health restrictions that may be placed

on visitors at the federal, local, or campus levels. Program start dates may also need to be revised as public health guidance changes.

All Georgia Tech Faculty Hosts inviting new exchange visitors must be physically present on campus to supervise exchange experiences. New Exchange Visitors should be entering the U.S. to participate in on-campus exchange program activities, and not entering the U.S. for the purpose of remote experiences.  

Exchange Visitors visiting the U.S. at this time and host departments should be aware of the current challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and be prepared to make changes as needed. Some of the current challenges to be aware of are:  

  • Covid-19 cases remain active in Georgia. Please see the Georgia Department of Public Health Covid-19 Daily Status Report for current data.
  • U.S. entry restrictions remain in place for several countries. Please review the CDC’s U.S. entry restrictions for additional information, available here.
  • U.S. visa interview wait times may be significantly delayed. Please see the U.S. Department of State’s current estimated visa interview wait times available here.
  • Travel requirements vary by country and international travelers should perform research to determine if they will be subject to any entry restrictions or quarantines in their path of travel. For U.S. travel requirements, please review the CDC guidance available here

The Social Security Administration and the Georgia Department of Driver Services have reduced availability for appointments, leading to longer than wait times for Social Security cards and Georgia driver licenses.

We encourage you to contact jscholars@oie.gatech.edu with any questions regarding the information above. Please review the OIE Covid-19 Exchange Visitor FAQ for more information on Covid-19 and the Exchange Visitor Program.
 

 

Additional information is available at the websites below:

Covid-19 Health Information (Information on how to recognize symptoms and how Georgia Tech is protecting its community)

Covid Central (Online symptom checker and portal to Covid-19 resources)

GTRI response to Covid-19 (Information for researchers in the Georgia Tech Research Institute)

Office of Sponsored Programs Coronavirus page (Impact on sponsored activity at Georgia Tech)

Research Coronavirus Response (Archival information on the research ramp-down)

Return to Campus Faculty Guidebook (What faculty members should expect on campus during fall semester)

Tech Moving Forward, Our Road to Recovery (Georgia Tech's plan for returning to in-person teaching, learning and working)

If you have a question about the research ramp-up, please send a note to research_rampup@gatech.edu  For GTRI-specific questions, please email covid_ask@gtri.gatech.edu