Published May 19, 2020
Classrooms and residence halls aren’t the only empty spaces at UB.
The university’s vast research enterprise — including hundreds of medical and scientific labs, arts studios and more — has largely been shuttered since March, when health and safety concerns related to COVID-19 prompted the pause of most on-campus activities.
While stay-away orders have not yet been lifted by the state, university leaders are planning for when that happens. Those preparations were the subject of a virtual town hall Friday involving more than 300.
“We’re all eager to return to campus and resume research activities,” said Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development, whose office led the online meeting.
Questions from researchers ranged from what types of personal protective equipment the university will provide to how to respond to the students and employees who may be uneasy about returning to campus.
Researchers were encouraged to develop plans to reopen their labs under multiple scenarios that may play out in the coming weeks. They will be provided with a checklist of protective equipment, cleaning supplies and approvals they will need to reopen labs.
David Pawlowski, biosafety officer in Environment, Health and Safety, reminded researchers that UB has procured 40,000 cloth facemasks for students and employees, as well as Clorox wipes and hand sanitizers.
Officials also focused on best practices for when labs reopen. That includes, but is not limited to, redesigning spaces so people work six feet apart, potentially staggering shifts to keep density down and working from home when possible.
“Anything that can be done remotely should be done remotely,” said Gerald Koudelka, associate dean for research and sponsored programs in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Joseph Balthasar, executive director of research initiatives for Research and Economic Development, stressed the time for researchers to start planning the reopening of their labs is now, and that UB’s administrative units are here to assist in that effort.