PhD Network FAQs for COVID-19

Please review to this site for FAQs related to PhD students within the context of the current COVID-19 epidemic.  These FAQs will be updated as new information becomes available or when local government restrictions and policies change.  Your questions and ideas are beneficial to many; please continue to share your questions, concerns, and ideas at the COVID-19 Question weblink.

Spring 2021 COVID FAQs Coming Soon!

Fall 2020 COVID FAQs

Health and Wellbeing of the University Community

All air filters have been cleaned and changed as well as rigorous cleaning measures have taken place at all campus locations.  In addition, in keeping with our goal of every individual protecting themselves and others, each PhD student should clean the areas they use for research, study or the assistantships.  Cleaning materials will be accessible in all buildings and there will be hand-sanitizer stations at building entrances, labs, classrooms and other high-traffic areas.  Signage has been placed that describes physical distancing expectations for a particular area.  Protocols for cleaning, facial coverings and healthy physical distancing are described within the COVID-19 Hygiene and Cleaning Protocol.

Face masks or cloth face coverings must be worn at all times outdoors and inside all buildings across our campus network, including in classrooms, in research labs and associated spaces, in administrative offices, and in the common spaces.  Students, faculty, and staff will be asked to provide their own face masks or face coverings, but face masks will be available if needed.  PhD students in research labs will be provided with any specialized Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning materials specified in the lab’s research resumption physical distancing plan.  Questions related to PPE in the research lab should be directed to your faculty research advisor or the space manager.  Detailed information about face masks is available in the COVID-19 face covering protocol.

Key to the health and wellbeing of our community is the COVID-19 anterior nasal swab testing program of asymptomatic community members integrated with contact tracing.  PhD students who have already been approved to be on campus during summer 2020 as part of the research resumption process will be contacted in early August regarding scheduling their first COVID-19 test appointment and will be notified about a regularized schedule of testing that will continue going forward.  A testing schedule for students arriving to campus in late August and September will be announced later in the summer and each PhD student at the Boston Northeastern campus will receive a regular COVID-19 test.  There is no cost to PhD students for this COVID-19 testing.  All PhD students who wish to return to the Boston campus are required to sign a Health & Safety Attestation prior to returning to campus.  This attestation is described in Section III of this email.  All test results are kept confidential, consistent with federal, state and local laws.

Students who have symptoms will not be tested through the COVID-19 testing program at the Cabot testing Center.  They will be tested at the Huntington Testing Center located at 369 Huntington Avenue.  Please read this message available at the university Reopening Northeastern site.

The university has established an internal contact tracing program. Contact tracers will personally reach out and act as case workers for any PhD student who receives a positive diagnosis, helping the person to understand next steps and to access care.  They will identify close contacts of anyone who has received a positive COVID-19 test and help close contacts take next steps for their own safety and the safety of the community.  This means that you will not be notified if any member of your research group is identified as COVID-19 positive.  Rather, you will be notified if you are an identified close contact with someone (for example, in your research group) who has received a positive COVID-19 test.

PhD students in Boston will have access to University Counseling and Health Services.  In addition, the Northeastern University Student Health Program (NUSHP) provides Blue Cross Blue Shield based health insurance to PhD students, unless a PhD student has explicitly waived this insurance in preference an alternate provider.  Resources available to support mental health include [email protected] where PhD students can access a mental health provider through tele or in person visits anywhere in the world.

We understand that finding the most appropriate transportation options to access the Boston campus is on top of mind for many members of our community.  Paid parking at the Boston Campus is currently available and managed by MasParc. Through our collaboration with MasParc, a new parking debit card program has been created.  The parking debit card provides a flexible “pay-as-you-go” option for those who do not want to purchase an unlimited annual or semester permit.  Northeastern will offer a subsidy for PhD students who decide to participate in this program. This subsidy will reduce the daily parking fee for PhD students who are parking debit card holders to $8.00 for a 10-hour or less stay, or $13.00 for a 10 to 24 hour stay, which is a reduction from the current list price for fall debit card parking of $18.00 and daily coupon of $23.00.  This subsidy is provided for up to 45 parking sessions during the fall 2020 term, which is equivalent to an average of three trips to campus per week.   Information about obtaining a MasParc debit card is available at the links below:

  • General debit card website
  • Instructions about registering for a MasParc debit card.  Use input code “NU2020” to receive special parking rates
  • Debit Card FAQs
  • Questions may be directed to: [email protected]
Your PhD Education and Hybrid NUflex

The university’s research enterprise has been active.  Among the critical projects across the university’s research labs, research to combat and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic remains a top priority.  A few weeks ago, researchers working on critical projects have started to return to laboratories while adhering to rigorous health and safety protocols that maintain healthy distancing and promote the safety of our researchers.  The research resumption process begins with the PI initiating a research resumption application for a particular lab, experimental or qualitative.  The requester, who is the PI or a designee, prepares a physical distancing plan that includes a listing of all laboratory members. This physical distancing plan includes methods for managing density in the laboratory (and supporting areas) and includes a scheduling process to enable you to flex in and out of the lab area as required by your research.   If you are listed as a member of a research group returning to campus, you will receive an email requesting that you Opt-In to have access to the research space.  PhD students who wish to have access when needed, even if 1 day a week or less, should still Opt-In.  This step ensures that all laboratory safety training is in order and that you will have access to the research space with your Husky ID.  PhD students who Opt-Out will not be granted access to the laboratory.  PhD students who require high throughput computational access to perform remote research that requires access to large datasets on the cloud or a virtual desktop environment for visualization may request a cellular hotspot through Information Technology Services.

As PhD students your coursework may be in the form of classroom courses, special topics, seminars, research or other small group or individual formats.  Hybrid NUflex gives you the flexibility to choose when and where you engage in your courses.  Classroom density will be reduced based on current density restrictions and the latest public health guidance.  Classroom density will be closely monitored based on current density restrictions, and if the number of students wishing to attend exceeds the low-density capacity, we will allocate in-class spots on a rotating basis to maintain healthy distancing. At each of our campus locations, and for both undergraduate and graduate populations, Northeastern will use Hybrid NUflex, a model in the classroom that allows Northeastern to reduce density and offer flexibility to faculty and students. Some students will be present in the classroom and others will be participating remotely via videoconferencing at the same time. Remote students will be continuously connected to the classroom conversation and able to participate by chat or by video. A dynamic scheduling tool, integrated into the Student Hub, will allow you to indicate and inform faculty whether you will be participating face-to-face in class in a given week, or whether you will attend remotely. Combining new and existing applications, including COVID-19 related information, into one integrated platform will provide you with immediate access to the tools, services and information that you access and use most often.

Most of your PhD education coursework and learning occurs outside the traditional classroom.  Whether you are taking a research course, participating in seminars, journal clubs or PhD milestone exams we ask that you make decisions about your participation within the context of healthy physical distancing practices, to always wear a mask and follow guidelines for small group meetings as described in the Campus Community Safety Protocols.  Seminars and other larger groups for PhD Defenses, for example, should flex to use meeting technology such as Microsoft Teams.  Graduate Office space management will be handled within each department and furniture will be arranged to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.  PhD students who have access to desk space should plan to flex enabling the same desk to be used by multiple students at different times while also adhering to healthy physical distancing.  Cleaning supplies will be available in or near each space.  Graduate student space available for use will vary by department and their associated physical distancing plans.

Professional meetings are an important component of PhD education. PhD students are eligible to request funding from the PhD Network for virtual professional meetings as well as meetings that require travel, if absolutely necessary and approved.  Due to the global pandemic PhD students may request travel funds twice during the 2021 academic year (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021) with a total request up to $500 from the PhD Network. On March 12 the university announced a suspension of all non-essential university travel.  Recently effective on July 1, PhD students who wish to undertake university travel may do so provided that there is strict adherence with the current university travel procedures.  These procedures were developed to promote the health and the wellbeing of the university community.  There will be an announcement by August 15 regarding whether these travel procedures will be continued, adjusted, or discontinued.

If you are supported through a Graduate Stipended Assistantship (SGA) as a Research Assistant (RA) or a Teaching Assistant (TA) your assignments will not exceed 20 hours a week, consistent with Conditions of Admission and Assignment Responsibility.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, you will be asked to perform many of your assistantship activities using technology to minimize group meetings.  Research assignments will be performed consistent with the physical distancing plans developed through the research resumption process.  Teaching Assistants are asked to hold office hours and small group tutoring sessions remotely.  Those who are in a classroom or teaching a laboratory will have limited time in the classroom setting.  Each department has developed physical distancing plans for the teaching labs.  PhD students who normally attend class as part of their TA responsibilities will be trained with the technology in the classroom to help support any remote learners.  The responsibilities for each TA and RA will be assigned to minimize interactions in group settings and always adhering to the Campus Community Safety Protocols.  Funding and stipends continue to be in effect for PhD students during the fall 2020 term and in accordance with admissions letters and/or funding arrangements made post enrollment.  PhD students who wish to continue their research away from campus should engage with their faculty advisors to re-prioritize their research and funding assignments.

Important steps as you begin the Fall 2020 term

Spring / Summer 2020 COVID FAQs

Physicians can order COVID-19 testing for patients who meet CDC guidelines for testing.

For students enrolled in the Northeastern University Student Health Plan (NUSHP):

  • NUSHP covers the full cost of diagnostic tests for COVID-19 for all our members who meet CDC guidelines for testing. Self-insured customers will be able to opt-out of this program at their discretion, but any medically necessary coronavirus testing will be covered for all associates who are Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts (BCBSMA) members.
  • Consistent with the guidance issued Friday by the Massachusetts Department of Insurance, NUSHP will also cover the cost of vaccination when a COVID-19 vaccine is available, and waive co-payments for medically necessary COVID-19 treatment at doctor’s offices, emergency rooms and urgent care centers.
  • NUSHP has removed administrative barriers, such as prior authorizations and referrals, for members receiving medically appropriate care for COVID-19
  • NUSHP has waived co-pays for members with access to Well Connection, our telehealth platform. Telehealth offers convenience as well as the opportunity to avoid potential exposure to contagion. The 24/7 nurse hotline also is available free to all NUSHP members and offers a safe and convenient clinical resource for minor ailments or questions
  • The benefits outlined above apply for any student that is enrolled in NUSHP or any Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts (BCBSMA) plan, regardless of citizenship.

Beginning Tuesday, March 17, at 5 p.m., Snell Library will be closed until further notice. Digital resources will be available online on the library’s website​. All students who have library books will be asked to return any books checked out after the university reopens campus. Library fines will be waived.

Please see the following links for information about Northeastern’s remote accessibility: VPN and Global Protect, Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and Microsoft Teams.  If you are unable to resolve issues at these sites, please contact the ITS help desk at (617-373-4357). In response to the COVID-19 situation, ITS has developed the Digital Resilience webpage in support of contingency planning to prevent any disruption to student learning and to ensure business and educational continuity across all university operations.

It is your choice regarding where you want to be during this unprecedented situation.  Your health, safety and comfort are the most important.    The university is recommending that all students on and off campus go home.  We recognize that many PhD students want to stay in or near Boston because this is where they have settled to pursue their PhDs and others want to be near their families in other cities, states or country.  This is a personal decision that only you can make.  PhD students looking to continue their studies from outside the USA are asked to complete the conducting research abroad from at the PhD Network site.

PhD students who are active and registered students can provide support to teaching an online course from any location, even if you are out of country.  This applies to PhD students on RAs who are not doing experimental research.  Students doing experimental research are asked to work with their advisors to reprioritize their activities to enable them to perform their activities remotely.  PhD students continuing their education from outside the USA are asked to complete the conducting research abroad from at the PhD Network site.

We do not know when the global travel restrictions will be lifted. Please monitor the CDC and U.S. State Department’s websites for the latest information.

Expenditures related to travel awards granted from the PhD Network will be reimbursed.  Please work with vendors and airlines regarding any refunds they may provide.  The PhD Network (with receipts) will reimburse PhD students for expenses that are not refundable due to COVID-19.  Note the policies on travel and large gatherings available in University Messages.

The PhD Network will continue to receive travel funding applications.  The application review will continue on the current monthly cycle.  All PhD Network travel support falls under the current university travel policies, and students should take care not to incur any nonrefundable expenses while the travel restrictions are in place. Note the policies on travel and large gatherings available in University Messages.

The PhD Network will continue to receive travel funding applications.  The application review will continue on the current monthly cycle.  All PhD Network travel support falls under the current university travel and large gathering policies. PhD students may use their travel funds after the travel limitations are lifted.  PhD students who have personally incurred nonrefundable advance expenses for upcoming PhD Network awarded travel grants can contact Margaret Wald, Assistant Director of Operations for the PhD Network at [email protected] for guidance.

  • NIH has released guidance for those attending conferences funded by an NIH grant
  • For NSF funded travel, please follow the following guidance:
    • A conference has been canceled, but I have nonrefundable travel and/or hotel costs. Can these be charged to an NSF Conference or Travel grant? NSF is currently working internally as well as with our federal partners on a number of proposal and award-related issues pertaining to COVID-19. NSF will communicate with the community about these issues and will provide guidance as further information becomes available. In the meantime, please continue to follow all relevant policies and procedures, including those of your organization, and apply those practices consistently.
    • I am involved with a Conference or Travel award for a meeting that is taking place in the coming weeks. Should I continue with plans for the meeting? NSF recommends first reaching out to the conference organizer or host. They are best equipped to understand the guidance at the location of the event. They may recommend having contingency plans if the event is ultimately cancelled or re-located, or might be planning to provide options for virtual participation. If you are the organizer, you may wish to consider developing contingency plans.
  • More guidance can be found on the Northeastern Research Enterprise Services COVID-19 website.

We also suggest checking the State Department Travel Advisories website if the conference involves foreign travel.

All PhD education activities should be done online using a collaboration tool such as Microsoft Teams (or other technology) to support spontaneous discussion and collaboration. There is no need to delay any activity related to PhD milestones and dissertation defenses (public and private portions), proposal exams and qualifying exams can all be delivered remotely using technology.

Microsoft Teams can be accessed by faculty and students using Northeastern credentials.  It is also possible to invite individuals outside the Northeastern community to video meetings.  PhD students may access and Microsoft Teams using their Northeastern email (without the husky), for example, [email protected] rather than [email protected].  The IT help desk (x4357) is available for support with and Microsoft Teams.

Resources about remote teaching are available here. The university has created a site to support digital teaching.   CATLR is another resource for anyone looking to for support with online education platforms and teaching.  They have extended their programming to provide support to the university and this support is available to PhD students with teaching responsibilities.

The PhD Hooding and Graduation ceremony is a very personal and meaningful event when a PhD students are recognized for their academic accomplishments. This is an honored tradition. The university is exploring ways to honor all graduates at a future date. Please refer to the university’s latest communication on commencement for more information.​

Please follow the guidance of your internship site. Right now many sites around the country have shifted to a remote work environment.

After careful consideration—and based upon the latest guidance from public health authorities—Bouvé College of Health Sciences is suspending all face-to-face and/or in-person clinical/practicum/internship course-related field-based experiences effective March 18, 2020, until further notice. Clinical courses that have moved to exclusive use of remote, online and /or tele-health methods to connect students to clients and patients may continue. Please note that this change does not apply to students on co-op. A separate message pertaining to co-op was sent on March 15th. Each program is working with their professional accreditation body to offer appropriate alternative learning activities that will enable a student to meet the expectations of their program where possible. Where alternatives to in person face-to-face activities are not accepted, programs have outlined specific steps to preserve accumulated clinical and internship coursework and hours.

Bouvé College of Health Sciences is suspending all face-to-face and/or in-person clinical/practicum/internship course-related field-based experiences effective March 18, 2020, until further notice.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, funding and stipends continue to be in effect for PhD students during the Summer 2020 term in accordance with admissions letters and/or funding arrangements made post enrollment.  PhD students should engage with their faculty advisors to re-prioritize research so that they can continue their progress away from campus.  In cases where funders do not permit flexibility in activity due to the pandemic, other education activities will be identified.

The university is working to facilitate a remote research environment as necessary to accommodate the COVID-19 emergency circumstances.  Every PhD student, including those on research assistantships, is expected to engage with their faculty advisors in conversations about how to reprioritize research to minimize the need for physical laboratory presence.  Our goal is to maximize continuity within the many constraints handed to us by the government agencies and funders so that everyone can continue their research without issue.  The university is continually assessing operational needs and challenges during this crisis and changes could be made depending upon evolving circumstances.

Research is an integral component of PhD education and the university has moved all education activities to online formats.  This includes research.  So, no we do not want you to cease research and we want to support your research education continuity.  If your research involves going to a physical laboratory, we are navigating this day by day.  Effective March 24th and following Governor Baker’s “stay at home advisory” only essential research is allowed in university laboratories.  Currently, the Senior Vice Provost for Research has asked that all laboratories reduce their density immediately and to have a plan to slow down or stop research entirely.  Note that a laboratory shut down may not be the university’s decision.  There may be government or community mandates requiring the university to close the laboratories.

Each lab group is responsible to maintain the specific disinfectant supplies and train lab staff on proper procedures. Upon a work order request, the building superintendents will drop off such supplies to individual labs. Lab personnel are responsible to maintain general housekeeping for their laboratory, however, work orders can be submitted for periodic floor washing/waxing. Work order requests are submitted via myNortheastern. Once logged in, the request can be found under the Campus Space and Events tab>Facilities & Residential Life Work Request.

Over the last few days the density of people on campus has reduced significantly.  Northeastern buildings were secured on Tuesday March 17th and effective March 24 only essential research is permitted on campus.   PhD students and the Northeastern community will have access to spaces for essential research purposes only.  If a building is locked, please call x2121 and a Northeastern police officer will give you access.  You will need to identify yourself as a Northeastern community member with access to perform essential research with a “Northeastern University Travel Letter”, have your ID with you and use the SafeZone mobile applications.

Please continue to monitor the university’s dedicated COVID-19 website at: northeastern.edu/coronavirus.

State and local public health authorities have rigorous strict protocols for dealing with positive cases, including contacting those the diagnosed individual has been in contact with. The university will never disclose the medical condition of any individual.