Graduate Students in a Digital World

The spirit of the graduate policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be summarized as:

Business as usual to the extent possible with remote engagement, with
• maximum flexibility,
• minimum disruption, and
• maximum risk reduction.


In response to the university directive to curtail non-essential research efforts on campus and provide remote instruction, the INP and CMB Programs will implement the following policies for spring quarter rotations and academic coursework. The gateway programs will continue to cover student tuition/fees and stipend for all students during this period.

UCI BioSci Anteater

New policies for spring quarter

1) If a student knows which lab they will join in June, they should enroll in research units and carry out a spring rotation with that faculty member. The rotation work should be remote with a focus on data analysis, computational analyses, or bioinformatics.  If applicable, literature research and preparation of materials for a pre-doctoral fellowship application are possible rotation activities. At the end of the quarter the student will transfer into the department of their thesis advisor with the standard gateway transfer agreement.

2) Gateway program students who have not yet identified a thesis advisor should carry out their spring rotation with the potential faculty mentor with the following conditions: 1) the work plan for the rotation consists of data analyses, computational analyses, extramural fellowship application writing, or any other topic that can be carried out remotely; and 2) the rotation advisor is willing to mentor the student through virtual meetings. After completion of the rotation the student may transfer into a department if the student accepts an offer to join a lab. The student may also elect to carry out a fourth rotation during the summer 2020. Stipends for summer rotations will be covered by the gateway program.

3) Gateway program students who have not identified a rotation advisor for spring quarter should contact the CMB or INP Program Director to discuss options to maintain full time enrollment.

4) Gateway program student may elect to carry out a fourth rotation during the summer 2020. The programs will cover stipends for summer rotations.

5) Some spring quarter courses have been cancelled or postponed. Please check with the graduate support staff or the Program Director for more information. The Responsible Conduct of Research course (MMG 250, 2 units) has been postponed.

6) Students must enroll in 12 units to maintain full time enrollment. This can be easily accomplished by adjusting the research units.

Graduate Counselors

  • We encourage graduate students to remain connected to their current social support network, both near and far!
  • Phong Luong will continue to remain available to meet with all masters and doctoral students, as well as post-doctoral scholars, in a virtual manner throughout fall quarter 2020. These appointments can be arranged either digitally via Zoom or over the phone, Monday-Friday, between the normal business hours of 8:00 am – 5:00 pm PT.
  • To schedule an appointment, please email Phong (

TA Appointments

  • Faculty should carefully monitor TA workload to ensure that the designated workload does not exceeded (50%/220 hours; 25%/110 hours).
  • Any TA training that is required for the transition to remote instruction is considered part of the workload for spring quarter.
  • Additional TA support may be required to meet spring teaching needs. Requests for additional TAs should be made to the Associate Deans.

Graduate Student Meetings

  • Graduate student meetings will refer to annual thesis committee meetings, pre-advancement meetings, and pre-defense meetings.
  • All graduate student meetings should proceed according to the recommended schedule. Meetings should be conducted with online technology such as Zoom.

Additional Academic and Research Meetings

  • Lab meetings, meetings with faculty, committee meetings, and journal clubs should use an online format.
  • Meetings should be conducted with online technology such as Zoom.

Graduate Student Exams

  • Graduate student exams will now use an online format. This includes the major exams required for progression through and completion of the graduate program, such as the preliminary exam (CMB), comprehensive exams for the MS degree, advancement to candidacy, and thesis defense.
  • Exams convened online must provide the same level of communication and opportunity for discussion as an in-person exam. The chair of the exam committee will be charged with ensuring that academic quality is maintained, and university policies are met.
  • For doctoral thesis defenses, the public research presentation must be available with open access to the academic community. The ensuing final examination by the thesis committee should be held as a separate online meeting.
  • Digital signature technologies through Acrobat Pro or DocuSign may be implemented.

Research Activites

  • All non-essential research activities must be done remotely. Remote research may include data or statistical analyses, computational projects, bioinformatics, and other work that can be performed remotely from a computer. This is also an excellent opportunity to research literature and submit a review for publication, prepare materials for an upcoming exam, or prepare a fellowship application.
  • All on site research activities have been restricted to critical projects, and university policy has been stated by Vice Chancellor for Research, Pramod Khargonekar. Principal investigators in BioSci have been required to submit a lab plan for managing essential research projects.


  • All events involving multiple individuals are restricted to online formats. If this is not possible, they should be cancelled.

Defend a PhD Remotely


Where can I find current information about COVID policies for UC Irvine?

The UCI Forward website has current COVID information.  Current information is regularly posted on the Updates Webpage and the Frequently Asked Questions Webpage 

What are the plans for COVID testing at UCI?

The campus will require COVID testing for students residing on campus. Testing is currently being ramped up, and will become available to students as we move into the fall quarter. Please refer to the Student Testing webpage for more information.  

What should I do if I have been in contact with someone that is COVID positive or I have symptoms?

First, do not report to any in person activities at the University.  For medical advice, you may contact the Center for Occupational & Environmental Health (949.824.8685,, M-F 7am to 4pm). 

The procedure to report COVID exposure, symptoms or a positive test result can be found at the UCI Coronavirus Response Center website.  Briefly, the procedure is to report the information to your thesis advisor or graduate program director.  The faculty advisor is required to submit a COVID Response Form to the campus, and report the incident to the department or School Human Resources Officer.  

Return to work will require a medical clearance from a Primary Care Provider or the Center for Occupational & Environmental Health.  

What are the current travel restrictions for UCI students?

Travel Policies and Restriction for Current Graduate Students.  University-related travel is currently not approved.  Personal travel is discouraged.  

Travel Policies and Restriction for New Graduate Students.  Students arriving from domestic locations are not required to quarantine.  However, it is recommended that new students self-quarantine for 14 days before engaging in “in person” activities on the UCI campus.   

Travel Policies for Students that have recently traveled outside of the US.  Students that have recently traveled outside of the U.S., including international students arriving from foreign locations, should self-quarantine for 14 days as recommended by the CDC.   

Will all graduate courses be remote for fall quarter, or will some have in person hybrid activities?

Most classes will be offered remote only, but there are a few courses that will have some in person meetings.  If you go to the UCI schedule of Classes website, all courses that are offered as remote only will be marked “Virtual Remote”.  Classes that have in person meetings should be marked with a room and building.   

If you have a question about the course format, please inquire directly with the instructor of record.  

All courses that have in person meetings have been required to submit a plan for safe meetings that includes physical distancing, hygiene and classroom logistics. Students that are not comfortable attending in person meetings are not required to attend in person meetings.   Students that have a health condition that places them at higher risk of COVID should not attend in person course activities, and should contact Office of Disability Services to register their condition. 


Stress Reduction Courses for Graduate Students and Post-docs

Disability Services Center

  • The Disability Services Center (DSC) Office is now closed until further notice. DSC staff, services, and support will continue to be available remotely, 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday.
  • To contact DSC call 949-824-7494 or email
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