UToledo Resumes Research on Campus Prioritizing Health, Safety

June 9, 2020 | COVID-19, News, Research, UToday, Engineering
By Christine Billau

Robust research is a vital element of The University of Toledo’s mission to discover life-changing solutions to problems and drive economic development.

Three months after noncritical research was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, scientific laboratories reactivated on campus this week with the health and safety of faculty, staff and students as a top priority.

Gabriel Otto, left, and Abdel Hakim Abou Yassine, worked in the lab of Dr. Hossein Sojoudi, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. Otto is an undergraduate student, and Yassine is a graduate student.

“Researchers started coming back to campus Monday, June 8, with research operation plans in place to mitigate transmission of COVID-19,” said Dr. Constance Schall, associate vice president for research and professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. “Our researchers continue to show their creativity, resilience and support to our students and to strengthening our research enterprise.”

The safety protocols implemented University-wide to restart research on campus include measures to curtail the spread of the virus, such as maintaining a social distance of six feet, wearing face masks or face shields and personal protective equipment, disinfecting shared spaces, practicing good personal hygiene, and self-screening for fever and COVID-19 symptoms at home before coming to campus.

Faculty or staff who are sick should not report to work and contact their primary care provider.

“We are very excited to get students, faculty and staff back on campus and re-engaged in research,” Dr. Patricia Relue, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Engineering and professor in the Department of Bioengineering, said. “Our faculty and graduate students have been extremely creative in finding ways to keep research moving forward during the shutdown, but COVID-19 has definitely slowed progress, especially for our experimentalists.”

Though a limited number of critical research projects continued on campus during the last three months, the majority of projects were paused. Even so, many UToledo researchers have continued work remotely while planning for the full return to their laboratories.

“A group of more than 20 faculty and staff from across the University started work in April on developing a blueprint for resumption of research activities while protecting and maintaining the health and safety of our researchers and University community,” Schall said. “We developed our process to phase in research activities on campus and off-campus field studies.”

If there is an increase in community infections, it may be necessary to restrict research operations again.

Read more about the full Rocket Restart plan as UToledo puts measures in place to safely return to on-campus operations. Additional details will be released in early July.

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