Summer 2020 Track B and research labs

Greetings!

An email has been sent to graduate students with more information about the decision to continue to conduct instruction remotely during Track B, the reopening of research labs, as well as an update on the forthcoming graduate student MTU Flex web page (email is attached).

We realize you are anxious to return to the lab and to the regular advising and instruction of graduate students. We have frequently received the question, “What do I need to do to get my lab and students ready for continuing in-person research and advising in the laboratory?” 

For Track A, research activities will continue to be conducted remotely. For Track B, we are putting in place plans to conduct in-person research; however, under the current executive order, we must limit activities to those deemed critical. We are not sure at this time whether these restrictions will remain in place during Track B. Several Michigan universities are working with State entities in an effort to reopen research labs as soon as possible. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and we will keep you updated as the situation changes. We have directed graduate students to work directly with their supervisors and refer to the resources and VPR guidelines on mtu.edu/research/COVID-19.

As we continue to monitor the situation, it is imperative that we protect the health and safety of our students and faculty as we return to research activities, while increasing our research activity in a stepwise fashion in line with governmental guidance. As colleges and departments are planning their return to normal activities, the specifics will vary greatly with the type of research activities, the nature of research laboratories and equipment, and whether fieldwork is involved.

There are some common guiding principles that we should all follow: 

  1. Follow local, state, and national directives regarding shelter-in-place and social distancing. 
  2. Under Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s extended “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, all persons are required to wear face coverings when entering enclosed public spaces, including campus buildings and workspaces, where social distancing cannot be maintained. 

    Michigan Tech strongly encourages employees to provide their own personal face coverings in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. There is additional information about masks in the April 30 edition of Tech Today.
  3. Protect the physical and emotional health and safety of our researchers and students.
  4. Prioritize graduate students nearing graduation when selecting activities to ramp up first.

There is additional guidance about conducting research on the Vice President for Research website, but we recommend that all advisors begin to develop a plan for their labs that addresses the following fundamental issues:

  1. Protection of the health and safety of students and faculty
    • A social distancing plan
      • How many people can safely work in the lab synchronously following social  distancing (six feet/two meters) guidelines?  
      • Do you need to set up a staggered schedule so that no more than two people are present in the laboratory? (In many cases two people need to be present for safety concerns.)
  2. Personal protective equipment (PPE) for personnel in the laboratory and cleaning procedures
    • What PPE should students and staff wear in your laboratory? (Mask? Lab coat? Gloves? Goggles? Others?)
    • How should the lab be cleaned up after each use?  
    • Should you maintain a log for student schedule and lab cleanup?   
  3. Activities that must be conducted in the lab and those that can be carried out remotely
    • Prepare a list of activities that have to take place in the laboratory, such as sample prep, experimental work, and equipment use.
    • Prepare a list of activities that can take place remotely, such as work on the computer and data entry, group meetings, individual meetings, and writing.
  4. A communication plan 
    • Prepare a plan to communicate all the details for working safely in the laboratory. Require students and staff to sign that they have read and understood the plan.

We realize this is an uncertain time and we are all anxious to return to our normal research and advising routines. Please continue to ask questions of us and we will answer them with as much speed as we are able.

Take care and be well,

Pushpa


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