Research Resumption

Penn Chemistry Reopening Plans

Reopening Process Guidelines of the Department of Chemistry of the University of Pennsylvania from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The complications of a sudden closure of the University due to the COVID-19 Pandemic created a need for a plan to shut down and reopen both safely and effectively. The Penn Chemistry Mission Continuity Committee was formed with the intention of developing these strategies. The following reopening process guidelines are based on the findings of this committee. Compliance with these guidelines is mandatory, and any failure to comply risks the continued research operation of the Department.  Department of Chemistry researchers must further comply with all parameters provided by the Vice Provost for Research and the School of Arts & Sciences .  Current phased reopening plans and status can be found through the links above.

Phased Reopening

The Department has employed a multi-phase reopening schedule. Access will be restricted to personnel whose activities cannot be completed from home, work schedules should be staggered to minimize the number of personnel in facilities at the same time, and those who can work remotely must continue to do so. Phase implementation dates will be determined by SAS and the VPR. Penn Chemistry is currently in Phase III.

Phase I: Increase of Prioritized Research, with enforced population density restrictions and telework continued.

• ~20% research occupancy. Lab personnel at a minimum density and lone worker parameters must be considered. Total occupancy at 20%: must include facilities, housekeeping staff, and multi-use facilities staff.

Phase II: Expanded scope of research operations, increasing the population with social distancing enforced, telework continued.

• 50% normal occupancy. All other criteria outlined below still in effect.

Phase Fall 2020 Semester: Eliminates explicit population density as a percentage of normal occupancy while still requiring social distancing in all spaces. All other criteria outlined below still in effect.

Phase Spring 2021 Semester:  Very similar to Fall 2020 Semester; undergraduate research will be allowed upon approval .  All other criteria outlined below still in effect.

Phase III: Return to full research operations, with new awareness and hygiene practices as the norm and telework utilized where possible 

• 100% normal occupancy. All other criteria outlined below still in effect.

Chemistry Buildings Complex

Social distancing of 3 feet must be implemented at all times. Masks are required inside the Chemistry Complex regardless of vaccination status.

Entrance: The main doors on 34th Street into the CHM73 Building near the guard station remain the only accessible entrance. All Chemistry personnel must display their PennCard and enter through this door. Symptom checks must be recorded daily and prior to entering any facilities in accordance with University guidelines and using Penn Open Pass and must be enrolled in the Surveillance Testing Program. Social distancing and mask requirements must be maintained by those waiting to enter the Complex.

Exits: Other doors must be used by all personnel to exit the complex. In the event of a Fire Alarm, personnel may use the exit closest to them while following social distancing protocols.

Stairwells. There are no restrictions on stairwells as long as 3' social distancing and masking measures are observed. 

Elevators. Elevators are no longer restricted to one person, however 3' social distancing and masking must be maintained. Personnel will be encouraged to use the stairwells whenever possible. 

Hallways. There are no restrictions on hallways as long as 3' social distancing and masking measures are observed. 

Restrooms. All restroom occupants must observe 3' social distancing and masking measures.

Common Areas. Social distancing must be strictly maintained. No in-person meetings permitted.

  • • Phase 1: Eating is probibited inside the Chemistry Complex.
  • • Phase 2 and Fall 2020 Semester Phase: Eating is permitted in designated areas only.
    • It is strongly recommended that researchers go outside to eat and social distance outside the buildings. Please consider use of the outside entry of CHM73 as well as other grassy areas.
    • If your group has a group room, then develop a schedule or process so that only one person is eating in the group room at a time. Ensure that you have wiped down the area before and after use.o
    • The following areas will be designated for eating during Phase 2. If a designated area will be used for eating, then it is the responsibility of the user to wipe down the area before and after use. Vagelos 2000: there will be 6 tables available for single person use
      • Vagelos 2000:  there will be 6 tables available for single person use,
      • Vagelos 3000 and 4000: Single person use only; one at a time,
      • For Chemistry personnel: the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor areas at the end of Vagelos. The tables at the far left and right at the ends of these hallways can be used by one person at a time for eating,
      • CHM58 1st floor: table across from ladies room for single person use,
      • CRET 1st floor (outside Lynch Room): 2 tables available for single person use,
      • CHM73 Basement “The Pit”: 4 tables available for single person use,
      • There should be no eating in any public walk through areas in the Chemistry Complex (i.e., hallways in buildings, etc).
  • Phase 3: Eating is permitted in designated areas only.
    • Conferences are now open for group meetings. Social distancing of 3' and masks must be used at all times.

Main Office Suite

Meeting with individual Chemistry administrative staff should be scheduled with those personnel and conducted remotely.

Chemistry Stockroom

  • Modified schedules will be posted and shared through different phases.
  • All items to be purchased and picked up from the stockroom will be requested through the window.
  • Social distancing and masking requirements must be maintained. This will be regulated by stockroom personnel.

Shared Instrumentation Areas (overview below; separate process document)

  • Each instrument area has a specific process document for users of the areas.
  • Upon notification that “return to research” is in place, the targeted return levels in the Instrument areas will be met (initially ~20% access at any one time; increased levels to be determined by the University) including directors and area managers.
  • Social distancing must be maintained and mask use in place.
  • Glove use is documented in each area’s protocol. Thorough handwashing before and after use of all of the Centers is required. Spinners in the NMR area must be handled with fresh Kim wipes.
  • There should be no loitering in any of these areas to minimize numbers and assist with social distancing parameters.
  • Access will be granted to approved and trained users abiding by the process documents in place for each area (MS, NMR, BCRC, HTE); however, the X-ray facility will be handling all crystals within the X-ray facility (i..e., Dr. Pat Carroll and Dr. Mike Gau will be the only people to enter this facility due to the size of the facility).

Personal Protective Equipment

Masks. Consistent with CDC guidance and the subsequent mandate issue by the Provost, all Chemistry personnel are required to wear a facemask when on campus (using the guidelines established by Environmental Health & Radiation Safety).

An initial supply of surgical masks (one/researcher) will be provided by the University. Research groups will be responsible to provide further mask supplies and/or specialty mask needs for their research.

Gloves. Gloves should not be used outside laboratories or in shared instrumentation spaces in the Chemistry Buildings Complex. Please ensure regular hand washing with soap if you are touching common surfaces in the buildings. Signs will be posted.

All other standard PPE standards should be followed, including protective eyewear, closed toed shoes, etc.


Penn Housekeeping personnel must wipe down all door handles and common-touch places. They must do an exceptional job cleaning rest rooms, e.g., wiping down all surfaces (walls, stalls, floor) around commodes, urinals, and sinks.

Chemistry personnel will be responsible for research areas. With that in mind, a process for use and sanitization of laboratory equipment and workspaces must be developed before any research is conducted.

Personal Responsibilities

Social Distancing. Personnel must remain at least a minimum of 3 feet from other Chemistry personnel in common areas and at all times (during research, student spaces, etc). 

Hygiene. Personnel must wash their regularly, including before and after interacting with any common or shared spaces in the Chemistry Complex.

Regular Health Screening. For Phase 2 and per University requirements, on-line “symptom checks” will be required on a daily basis through use of Penn Open Pass. To register for Penn Open Pass, click here. Researchers must enroll in Surveillance Testing.

Personnel should remain home and notify their supervisor if they experience any of the following and must follow the symptom check requirements as designated through Penn Open Pass.

  • Temperature exceeding 100.3 F
  • Shortness of breath/cough
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Sore throat
  • Excessive fatigue

Enforcement & Reporting

All researchers should observe these process rules for their own protection and safety. Please remind other researchers if there is a lapse or concern. If necessary, please bring specific issues to the attention of the faculty mentor to address if within a group. Departmental leadership can also be notified. Finally, an anonymous reporting line is available through EHRS and through the Department of Chemistry.

Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 Exposure

University guidelines for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 exposures are provided through the Office of the Vice Provost.

As stated by the VPR, if you feel any symptoms of infection (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath), immediately self-isolate and inform your supervisor. The supervisor notified should contact Environmental Health and Radiation Safety 215-898-4453, with notice to Human Resources, for advice regarding testing, contact tracing, and disinfection.

All process reporting should following the VPR guidelines. For a confirmed COVID-19 case, restrict access to the lab until FRES arranges for enhanced cleaning of lab and areas outside the lab and EHRS has been contacted to provide support related to contact tracing and close contact.

Individual Research Laboratories

On 5/29/2020, the SAS Dean’s office provided an email to researchers outlining the following information:

The University has outlined guidelines for a phased resumption of research activities on campus.

Participation in research is not optional for graduate students, post docs and other researchers during Fall 2020 Semester Phase. Trainees must be fully engaged making reasonable progress in their research, whether on campus or at a remote location. All activities that can be done remotely should be done remotely.