Astrophysics Department FAQs for Spring and Summer 2021 Semester

Frequently Asked Questions about SPRING and SUMMER 2021:

Department of Astrophysical Sciences 

(Last revision: 29 May 2021)

You will have seen the announcement from the University describing the academic plans for Spring 2021.  While the university plans to be fully in person for instruction and research in the Fall, we remain under the Spring guidelines until further notice.   Another key university resource is the Frequently asked Questions for Undergraduates and Families and a similar document for graduate students.   In this document, we address some questions specific to the Astrophysics Department. If you have additional questions, please reach out to:

  • Josh Winn, Director of Graduate Studies
  • Neta Bahcall, Director of Undergraduate Studies
  • Polly Strauss, Academic Program Administrator
  • Michael Strauss, Department Chair
  • Susan Duncan, Department Business Manager

In particular, please pass on any suggestions you have for additions to this FAQ, please let Michael Strauss know.  

Questions for Everyone

What is happening with Morning Coffee?

We will continue to hold coffee on-line via zoom at the usual time (10:30 AM).   All are welcome to participate!  An e-mail goes out every morning with the link. 

What is the plan for weekly seminars and colloquia for the Spring semester?

All of the weekly seminars, as well as the  joint IAS/University weekly colloquium on Tuesdays, will take place online via Zoom.  The schedule of events is posted on the department website, and Zoom links are sent out by email.  There continue to be opportunities for speakers to meet (online) individually with students, researchers and faculty.  As always, all members of the department are encouraged to take part in the seminars.  

Will students, researchers, staff, and faculty be able to use desks and offices in Peyton Hall?

At this time, a limited number of people have been approved to work in Peyton Hall, while most of the department continues to work remotely.  If your work or personal situation would benefit from coming to Peyton regularly once a week; please contact Michael Strauss as chair, who can put in a formal request to the  University’s Environmental Health office.  While in Peyton, you must keep your mask on and practice social distancing when you are not in your office.  While in your office, you may remove your mask (and you may keep the door open if you would like).    Only one person is allowed in an office at a time.  

Is there a possibility of short-term access to Peyton Hall?

If you need access to Peyton (e.g. for picking up books or printouts, or for one-time needs for fast internet to give a talk or to do some coding), please email to and to with your request.   As above, keep your mask on when you are not in your office, and only one person is allowed in an office at a time.  

What about Broadmead? 

171 Broadmead currently houses Dave McComas' Space Physics laboratories.  They have specific allowance for a small number of people to work in the lab, with appropriate social distancing.  Renovations of the part of 171 Broadmead that will house the Rubin Observatory LSST Data Management team are now complete, and they are planning to move in over the summer.  

Can we have in-person meetings in Peyton Hall? 
 Yes, scheduled meetings of up to 3 people are allowed in the Dome Room (201 Peyton), and up to 5 people in Grand Central.  If you wish to have such a meeting, please enter a request to at least 24 hours before the meeting is to take place.  

All participants will have to fill out the symptom tracker within Tigersafe to confirm that they are symptom-free before entering the building.   The Dome Room and Grand Central have been marked with safe, socially distanced seating for three and five people, respectively.  During the meeting, you must keep your mask on.  

   If you are planning to meet with others, please confirm that they are comfortable with coming in before setting up the meeting.  Nobody should feel pressured to meet face-to-face if they would rather not do so. 

   Face-to-face meetings elsewhere in Peyton are not allowed.  

  When can we anticipate a transition to fully in-person activities in Peyton Hall? 

  The university is basing its policies on guidance from the state of New Jersey and the CDC.  At some point this summer, we anticipate they will announce a specific timeline and plans for making the transition to being fully in-person.  Until this happens, the restrictions described here remain in place. 

  I am fully vaccinated.  Am I still subject to these restrictions? 

   Yes.  University policies do not distinguish between those who are vaccinated and those who are not.  Note that those who are coming to Peyton regularly will need to be tested once per week.  

 I would like to bring a visitor to the department this Fall. 

  At the moment, while the university anticipates all Princeton students, faculty, researchers and staff to be on campus, they are telling us to hold off on planning for any visitors.  We're hopeful this restriction will be relaxed at some point.

  I would like to continue working from home this Fall. 

  The university is requiring that all undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and faculty be on campus this Fall.  Postdocs and researchers are also expected to be on campus, but there is a bit more flexibility in that case.  Please reach out to Michael Strauss to discuss possibilities. 

Questions for Undergraduates

How will general advising with Neta Bahcall, Director of Undergraduate Studies, take place?

Neta Bahcall will continue to meet with all our undergraduates remotely as needed -- we will meet with the entire group  and individually . 

Could I use the summer of 2021 to complete independent work requirements?

The university is not planning to allow us to relax the JP and senior thesis deadlines.  

Questions for Graduate students and Post-baccs

I am a teaching assistant. What will my duties be like?

Consult with your instructor. Since teaching is primarily remote, typical duties include online office hours, responding to online student questions, grading homework that is submitted digitally, and helping to grade exams.  Some hybrid courses will include duties to support in-person/remote instruction.

Can I be reimbursed for home office furniture?

Not by university funds or grants, unfortunately. 

I am working remotely.  Can I use departmental computing resources?

Yes, although logging in from China is a special case. Leigh Koven (the Department's Computing Support Specialist) can help.

How will my thesis committee/FPO committee meet?

Currently, all thesis committee meetings, as well as any Spring FPOs, must be scheduled online.  There may be further updates before summer FPOs.

I am experiencing Covid-related delays in my research. What should I do?

 Talk to your adviser and Josh Winn as the Director of Graduate Studies.