Research and lab operations at the University of Kansas started resuming in early May as part of the institution's five-phase reopening plan.
Labs began reopening May 11, with different buildings opening in phases through June 8, according to the plan laid out by campus operations in May.
Simon Atkinson, vice chancellor of research, said there is a list of safety guidelines those resuming research must adhere to. Along with being required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfect shared equipment, researchers must follow social distancing guidelines and prepare a personal safety plan for their respective labs.
“It’s a bit of a balancing act for some of our investigators, but I think they are finding ways to make it work,” Atkinson said.
Due to new social distancing mandates, fewer people are allowed to be in the lab at one time, meaning the work day may need to be stretched longer to provide adequate time for all researchers to complete their tasks, Atkinson said.
Break rooms and other communal areas in the lab have also been closed off to ensure it doesn't become a “hangout place” for researchers, Atkinson said. And those who can continue to work remotely have been asked to stay home to keep numbers down.
“We’re asking people to do all the work that can be done remotely, remotely, rather than hanging out in the lab to work on a paper or see some data,” Atkinson said.
Gustavo Murillo, a junior studying molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, was doing research with professor Joanna Slusky in the Molecular Biosciences Department prior to the pandemic. The two aimed to find out if certain proteins could be influenced when adding a globular segment.
Murillo and Slusky were unable to continue the research on campus, but that was not an issue for him.
“I wasn’t very far along before spring break, and some of the bacteria I was working with was too old, so I had to start from the beginning," Murillo said. "But it wasn’t that bad."
As phase one of the University reopening plan begins, Murillo and other researchers will continue or restart much of their work that was temporarily paused due to COVID-19.
Atkinson said long-term research projects continued during the pause and that others have been finding a way to continue their research.
“They found creative ways to keep going with their research when they weren’t on campus,” Atkinson said.