FAQs

This page gathers answers to questions submitted to chemistry leadership by faculty, staff, and students. Content included here is intended to supplement (rather than replace) content provided by Emory University, Emory College, and/or Laney Graduate School.

If you have a question that is not answered here, we encourage you to review university and school-level guidance to see if it has been answered at that level. If you still need assistance, please email kwalsh6@emory.edu to be connected to someone on the chemistry team who can assist you and to help us share the answer with others who likely have the same question.

We are also maintaining a list of FAQs that have been asked but are not yet answered. If/when we have answers, they will be shared here and, if deemed necessary by department leadership, emailed to chemistry list servs.

This page was last updated on July 20 at 2:33 pM.


Health & Safety

Q. How were safety policies for individual labs developed? How can health and safety be protected if every lab interprets the rules differently?

Chemistry P.I.s were asked to work directly with their groups to create a health and safety plan in accordance with university-level guidelines. This flexibility is in recognition of the different needs of different labs and the desire for reasonable autonomy for P.I.s. Maximum occupancy for laboratory spaces was determined centrally and labs are required to make scheduling plans for their spaces with these limits in mind.

Q. Am I required to wear a face covering in the lab?

Yes, everyone is required to wear a face covering when on campus, except when working alone in a closed room.

q. will face coverings be provided by the university?

University guidance indicates that we will be able to provide two free face coverings to every individual returning to campus. For details on the distribution of these face coverings, please review the “Important Information” email sent out on May 29.

q. What if I forget my face covering?

We have a limited supply of disposable face coverings in the stockroom that you may request be emailing or calling Steve when you arrive to the building.

q. Is it safe for me to wear a face covering given that it may contribute to solvent exposure or create a fire hazard?

We are monitoring research related to the safest face covering options for laboratories in conversation with EHSO and other experts. At this time we are not aware of any conclusive research indicating that wearing a cloth face covering in a lab environment will lead to an increase in inhalation of solvent vapor.  Face coverings are required and other measures, such as safe usage of a hood to manage volatile organics, should be employed to ensure safety.

q. May I wear gloves outside of the lab?

Rules related to glove use that were in place prior to COVID-19 have not changed—chemistry does not allow laboratory gloves in the hallways due to concerns over contamination of surfaces. You may provide and wear your own gloves in public areas if you wish.

q. what happens if a research activity – training, moving equipment, etc. – necessitates working within six feet of another person?

Prior to working in close proximity, you should request permission from the chair (Brian Dyer) for an exception to social distancing guidelines.  Once permission is granted, all personnel working within 6 feet of one another should wear laboratory PPE, a surgical or N95 mask, and a face shield.

Q. How do I both work alone in a support lab to maintain social distancing and not work alone in a lab for safety reasons?

When occupancy limits prohibit you from having a colleague in the room, it is recommended that you have a research partner that checks on you regularly – no less than every 15 minutes – by phone or other communication tool. 

Q. Can I initiate some form of health screening for my laboratory?

Though we appreciate your desire to keep your group safe, we strongly encourage you to follow university guidance and refrain from creating independent health screening protocols.

q. what happens if my group/someone else’s group doesn’t follow university guidelines during the low density return to research?

Groups that are found to be out of compliance with university guidelines on multiple occasions, or have a member that tests positive for COVID-19, will be sent home for two weeks.

Q. What should I do if I observe behavior that doesn’t conform to the university guidelines?

We are relying on everyone to understand and follow all health and safety guidance. At the same time, we know that adoption may be uneven and mistakes may occur as people deal with unfamiliar policies. We also must prepare for the possibility that some people will chose to intentionally circumvent health and safety guidelines. In either case, we encourage you to report issues either directly to department leadership, to the EHSO, or anonymously via the form on this website. Repeated violations will lead to lab closures and, if necessary, a renewed pause to all research efforts.

q. What should I do if someone in my lab has symptoms of covid-19?

You should inform your supervisor.  For additional information, please consult the university’s COVID-19 webpage.

q. If I work with someone I also live with/socialize with now and/or if I have been confirmed to have COVID-19 antibodies via testing, may I have more flexibility in regard to social distancing?

Until further notice, it is safest for everyone to engage in the same health and safety practices. We do not have the ability to manage exceptions at this time.

Q. Someone in my home is in quarantine following travel. Do I have to quarantine, too?

If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should self-monitor for symptoms.  If you do not have symptoms, you can return to work but should continue to self-monitor for symptoms.  Similarly, if someone in your home is currently in quarantine, you should maintain social distance and self-monitor for symptoms, but you are permitted to work as long as you are not showing symptoms.  If you would like to discuss this further, please reach out to the Emory COVID information line (404.712.6843).

q. Is there a plan for routine testing of asymptomatic individuals for the long term?

There is currently no plan for Emory to provide testing during the low density return to research. You are asked to self-monitor temperature and there will be random testing of temperatures in the building.

q. How can I get tested if I believe I have been exposed to COVID-19 and/or have symptoms?

Please review university-level guidance.

q. Will the department close if cases of COVID-19 rise in Georgia?

The provost’s office is relying on experts within and outside Emory to closely monitor COVID-19 information, including the rate of cases at Emory, in Atlanta, and beyond.  We will close or adjust our operations immediately if the university directs us to do so.

q. will i be notified if someone in the department tests positive for covid-19?

You will be notified only if the contact tracing process indicates that you were in contact with someone who tested positive. Privacy considerations do not allow chemistry to disclose the name and testing status of any specific individual. This process is described in depth in the June 30 email “COVID-19” available here. We expect to release a more detailed process soon to provide more detail about sanitizing common areas.

q. I have a concern or complaint about the department of chemistry’s response to covid-19. Who can I contact outside the department?

The university Ombuds Office is available to all students, staff, and faculty. This office has the authority to contact senior leaders and all other members of the university community, to gather information in the course of research or seeking solutions to issues, to mediate or negotiate settlements of disputes, and to bring concerns to the attention of those in authority. Contact ombuds@emory.edu.

Graduate scholars may also reach out to Laney Graduate School staff if they have concerns that they do not feel can be addressed by their P.I., graduate program leadership, or departmental leadership. Amanda Marie James is the contact for STEM students who need advising related to the pandemic. Mackenzie Bristow is the acting associate dean of student affairs.

Anonymous concerns may also be reported to the Emory Helpline or to the Office of Compliance via their Trust Line.

Q. If I get COVID-19 and want it to be announced to the department for transparency, who do I contact?

Please contact Todd Polley, director, at tpolley@emory.edu.

Q. How does the atlanta mayor’s stay-at-home order affect the return to research at low density?

The mayor’s “stay at home” order includes exemptions for educational institutions. Based on a July 8th communication from the Provost, Emory’s current approach is to “suspend approval of additional persons to return to campus” and “monitor and reassess the factors identified above ( COVID-19 prevalence in the community, demand for healthcare resources, operational impact on testing and contact-tracing) to determine whether conditions support increasing density on campus.”

Q. What were the results of the large scale testing of researchers conducted in july? will departments be made aware of these results?

The Department of Chemistry has not been made aware of the results. We do not know if this information will be made available to individual departments.

Q. Does the governor’s executive order that municipalities cannot mandate coverings mean that Emory cannot require employees and students to wear masks?

There is the potential for this to become complicated (i.e. pressure on federal funding, etc.), but, in general, Emory University is a private institution residing on private property. Therefore, Emory can determine whether face coverings are required. Face coverings are still a requirement for all on-campus work.

Q. I have seen some people in the hallways and in labs wearing their face coverings incorrectly. How will this be addressed?

Emory has released a video explaining protocol for face coverings. We encourage all researchers working on campus to review to understand best practices. If you see people not wearing masks properly, we ask that you please continue to let us know through the response form or directly to any member of chemistry’s leadership team. As a result of previous feedback, we have been able to address several problematic areas.

Supplies and Stockroom

Q. How will chemistry procure proper ppe for the low density return to research? My lab donated our ppe supplies (gloves, etc.) at the start of the pandemic.

The chemistry stockroom is working with vendors to secure necessary PPE and will keep faculty apprised of the availability of PPE. Safety precautions must be followed; if PPE, including masks, is not available, lab work will not be permitted.

q. Can the department ensure that gloves and other PPE will continue to be available throughout the low density return to research?

The chemistry stockroom is doing its best to source gloves to ensure a reliable supply. We do not yet know what the consumption level will be in this new research environment. We cannot guarantee access to gloves and labs should prepare for the possibility of limited PPE availability in regard to both safety and research continuity and productivity. If any required PPE – including gloves and face masks – is not available, you may not work in the lab even if you have been approved to do so. We will do our best to ensure that this does not become an ongoing issue for labs.

q. Will the Stockroom be open and operating normally when I return?

No, the Stockroom will remain closed, and all research supplies should be purchased from outside vendors using the standard ordering process.

q. Will purchases made directly through the stockroom (gloves, cleaning supplies) be limited to ensure that supplies are distributed equitably?

The stockroom will not be open so the supplies being provided directly can be monitored as they are distributed. We do not have a specific plan to share, but this is something we are aware of and responding to as the low density return to research rolls out.

q. how will i receive cleaning supplies for my laboratory?

The University’s most recent guidance states that research laboratories are responsible for purchasing their own disinfecting supplies.  Chemistry will therefore provide you with some ethanol and paper towels to get you through the next week or two, but you should incorporate disinfecting supplies into your laboratory’s regular purchases.  The ethanol and paper towels will be placed in the P.I.’s lab with the masks.

Facilities and Parking

q. Will campus services ensure a supply of hand sanitizer and soap in public areas?

We have requested the installation of hand sanitizer stations at strategic locations throughout the building. We do not know if this will be approved and how they will be resourced. Soap will be provided. If you find that you are experiencing issues with access to soap in public dispensers, please email Jan McSherry with your name, phone number, and the location(s) where you observed a supply issue.

Q. Will researchers from other groups be allowed to use shared equipment in my laboratory?

Yes, but remember to clean surfaces before and after use.  Also, the occupancy limit of the room cannot be exceeded at any time.  Visitors must therefore consult with the laboratory PI about specific requirements, including instrument sign-up/scheduling, cleaning regimen, lab occupancy limits and any other relevant policies.

q. How will service visits be handled with social distancing?

Service visits are permitted but the lab should notify the chair of any planned visits by outside service technicians to allow us to monitor overall building population. Additionally, if a service visit requires you to work within six feet of another person, the additional PPE guidelines for tasks that do not allow for six feet social distancing must be followed. Prior to working in close proximity, you should request permission from the chair (Brian Dyer) for an exception to social distancing guidelines.  Once permission is granted, all personnel working within six feet of one another should wear laboratory PPE, a surgical or N95 mask, and a face shield.

q. Am I allowed to use my office?

Yes, but office work should be done remotely.  Temporary access to student offices, for example to retrieve personal items, is allowed if social distance is maintained.  For typical student offices, only one person can occupy the space at a time.

Q. Will I have access to meeting rooms (ex. Atwood 270, Emerson E401) or study spaces?

No. Shared spaces remain closed. We cannot conduct reliable contact tracing if we use shared spaces casually. Common spaces should only be used to go back and forth to labs and instrument spaces that you have specific permission to use and to travel to public bathrooms and the stockroom package pickup area.

Q. Am I allowed to use refrigerators, coffee makers, and microwaves?

Public kitchens will be closed indefinitely – except for using sinks to wash hands – so please do not use public refrigerators, coffee makers or microwaves.  If you have not already done so, please remove all items from public refrigerators as they will be turned off.  However, we will not be restricting the use of kitchen appliances within offices at this time.

Q. what is the parking situation on campus? Will i have to pay for parking? Are shuttles running? what If i want to park and avoid shuttles?

In an #EmoryTogether email sent on March 21, the following language regarding parking was included:

Beginning Friday, March 20, until further notice, the parking decks listed below will have free entry/exit for use by Emory and Emory Healthcare personnel who are considered essential. This change in parking policy is provided to support social distancing during the COVID-19 campus operating environment. Email any parking questions to parking@emory.edu. Email shuttle or commute questions to commute@emory.edu

Emory Email sent 03/21/20

The decks listed in the email were:

  • Peavine I and II Decks; located at 29 Eagle Row
  • Fishburn Deck; located at 1672 North Decatur Road
  • Michael Street Deck; located at 550 Houston Mill Road
  • Starvine Deck; located at 1945 Starvine Way
  • The Sorority Lot

In an email to graduate students on May 29, LGS provided this additional information specific to student parking:

Another issue that has been circulating is transportation. The shuttles are going to be running, but on more limited schedules. As of now, it seems that [parking lot] gates will close again June 1. All students will be eligible to get a parking pass for $25 total which gives you access for all of June and July. Do not reactivate your parking pass. Laney is working on trying to get everyone access to the parking garage closest to their workplace, but as of now, please do not make any changes to your suspended parking permits. For people who never had a parking pass before but want one because they do not feel safe taking mass transit, Laney is also trying to prevent there from being a fee for obtaining a new parking pass. Please sit tight on this issue until official decisions have been made for graduate students. I encourage you to visit the Emory transportation website for the most up-to-date information:http://transportation.emory.edu/shuttles/COVID19_info.html.

LGS Email sent 05.28.20
q. in the event of a positive covid-19 test in the department, will common areas be disinfected?

Protocol calls for the supervisor of the person with COVID-19 to inform the department’s administrative team of the confirmed COVID-19 case and identify the work area of the person with COVID-19.  If necessary, the department will contact Building and Residential Services (BRS) and request that the work area be disinfected.

Graduate Scholars

q. My approved work schedule will cause me to be traveling to or from work after curfew. What do I do?

It is our understanding that you are permitted to travel to and from work even after curfew. However, if you do not wish to be out after curfew, you should adjust (shorten) your schedule so that you can be home during curfew. You may not work different hours unless you request a new schedule via your P.I. and receive approval. 

Q. What are the requirements for graduate students to return to lab? Where can we find the forms and other information we need to submit?

You should have received a direct email from LGS detailing the requirements and a link to the for you must submit to return. Please inform Ana if you have not received this email.

q. Can my P.I. approve me (or require me) to return to campus ahead of the availability of the LGS form?

Absolutely not. You need to receive your email invitation to complete the form, return it, and receive a response from LGS approving your return before you may come to campus.

q. if LGS will automatically approve my return if i say i am ready to come back to campus, why can’t i return now?

Your desire to return is one key aspect of the health and safety procedures in place at this time. Do not return to work without formal approval. Doing so jeopardizes your ability to work in future and chemistry’s ability to safely return to research at low density.

Q. What happens if a graduate student does not feel comfortable returning to lab at this time? Will I still be paid if I do not return to work on campus?

The low density return to research is an opt in process. LGS requires you to submit a form regarding your return to research and one of the questions covers your desire to return to work. If you indicate that you do not wish to return to work on campus, you will not be approved to return. Please do not hesitate to contact the graduate administration team—Kira, Ana, or Simon—if you would like to address concerns related to returning to campus and are not yet ready to speak to your P.I. We will keep these discussions confidential to the fullest extent possible.

At this time, you will still be paid your regular stipend if you are not yet ready to go back to lab. We do not have details at this time on how the source of your stipend might change in this case or what ongoing accommodations will be available for students who choose not to return to campus.

q. How is the department going to handle potential repercussions form an advisor if a graduate student opts out of returning to work during the low density return to research?

This is not simple and will be handled on a case by case basis. Your graduate administration team is here to advocate for you and protect you from repercussions. LGS is very concerned with protecting student health and places all other considerations secondary to ensuring student health and safety. If you are not comfortable bringing an issue to the graduate admin team, you can also contact graduate school staff directly. Amanda Marie James is the contact for STEM students who need advising related to the pandemic. Mackenzie Bristow is the acting associate dean of student affairs.

q. What is the Department of Chemistry doing to support students whose mental or physical health is affected by the pandemic?

The Department of Chemistry is relying on the university to continue to provide support to students via CAPS and Student Health. If you need help accessing the support that is available to you, please reach out and we will help to connect you to Emory resources. The Department of Chemistry will not attempt to provide comprehensive health services at the department level because we depend on the professional expertise provided by Emory’s healthcare providers.

We do understand the role that community support plays in regard to mental and physical health. We are continuing to plan virtual activities for students such as study breaks and online trivia. If you are interested in a specific event or resource at the department level, please contact Kira to discuss or submit via the form on this website.

Academic Progress

Q. I am a student who needs a faculty or staff signature. can i request one electronically?

Graduate students may request electronic signatures by sending their completed form via email to Ana Velez, our graduate program coordinator. Ana will request signatures from faculty via DocuSign on your behalf and return the completed form.

Undergraduates requiring signatures will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Please contact your advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies, James Kindt.

q. how will covid-19 affect incoming graduate students?

Incoming graduate students who accepted offers to come to Emory are still expected to matriculate in August. We do not yet know if orientation and class work will be virtual or in-person and we will follow all LGS and university guidance. LGS is also allowing students to defer their offer of admission to 2021 until July 1. Please see the LGS site for the most up-to-date information.

q. Which undergraduate classes will be offered online? What do I do if I need to take a class but it is not available in the format I need?

All CHEM 150 and CHEM 150L classes will be taught online this fall. For other courses, please review the Emory course atlas. Also, please review the provost’s message from Wednesday, July 8th to understand how course options may have changed and continue to change as Emory adjusts in-person enrollment options for fall. If you need assistance understanding how to apply classes in different modes towards your degree, please reach out to your assigned chemistry advisor or to the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. James Kindt.