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Doctoral student Diana Lucas Baca, a member of Prof. Mary Watson’s research group, conducts chemistry research in Brown Laboratory on the UD campus.
Doctoral student Diana Lucas Baca, a member of Prof. Mary Watson’s research group, conducts chemistry research in Brown Laboratory on the UD campus.

UD opens second phase of research operations

Photo by Yun Hong

Gradual research reactivation underway

The University of Delaware began welcoming researchers back into its facilities in early June. During this first phase of research reactivation, more than 700 faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and other essential personnel have returned on a limited basis to labs on campus and facilities operated by UD research partners, as well as field sites.

Based on the success of Phase 1, with its emphasis on revised safety protocols to mitigate against coronavirus (COVID-19) disease transmission, the next wave of researchers is now being invited to apply for Phase 2. Charles G. Riordan, UD’s vice president for research, scholarship and innovation, made the announcement in a letter issued to the research community on Tuesday, June 23.

“It’s been going very well — people have been working incredibly hard and effectively,” Riordan said. “Our research teams have been diligently following our new health and safety procedures. They are doing a good job taking care of one another, and further instilling a culture of personal accountability.”

With the launch of Phase 2, about a third of the University’s research community — an estimated 1,500 personnel — is expected to be back in labs and design studios and conducting fieldwork at any one time by the end of June.

Riordan said he anticipates conditions will permit the University to be at 90-100% on-campus research capacity by the start of fall semester, which will begin Sept. 1, as UD President Dennis Assanis announced on Tuesday, June 23.

Phase 2 will expand research operations to include all field-based work, so long as it is consistent with local guidance and conditions relating to COVID-19. Laboratory research will ramp up with an indoor density of one person per 250 square feet, and studio activities, such as visual and performing arts and design, will be permitted.

Phase 2 may also include limited human subjects work in certain contexts such as studies for which in-person research interactions can occur, with no added risk, in the context of a clinical care visit. Instructional labs and studio spaces will be available to facilitate the preparation and redesign of fall semester courses.

Riordan emphasized that common/gathering areas and shared office spaces will remain closed, and group work will continue remotely. Research work that can effectively be performed remotely should continue remotely.

“Our research community is leading the way in adopting new health and safety protocols to keep our campus community safe,” Riordan said. “It is critical that we all look out for one another by diligently self-monitoring for COVID symptoms, practicing safe physical distancing, wearing face masks and washing hands frequently.”

In addition to completing online COVID safety training before returning to campus, Phase 2 researchers can expect these changes as their work on campus resumes, Riordan said: 

  • A daily health questionnaire

  • Cloth face masks as the norm

  • Highly controlled access to buildings/facilities and the traffic flow within them

  • Closure of common areas/shared spaces

  • An initial density of no more than four researchers per 1,000 square feet, potentially necessitating shift work at some facilities

  • Increased cleaning of bathrooms and high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, etc.

Researchers can access more information at this webpage and share thoughts and questions at UDresearch@udel.edu or at a virtual research town hall, held each Monday, 1-2 p.m.

 

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