Research Returns to Campus

Researcher in full-body PPE conducts experiment in nanotechnology lab
Labs across campus, like the Singh Center for Nanotechnology pictured here, are slowly resuming research activities as part of the first of a three-part phased reopening. (Pre-pandemic photo)

On March 16, faculty, students, and staff discontinued all nonessential on-campus research activities. Now, Penn has entered into the first of a three-part phased reopening of these activities, with a focus on prioritized projects, population density restrictions, and a continued reliance on teleworking.

Penn Today spoke with the Vice Provost for Research Dawn Bonnell to learn more about this first phase of research resumption, how it will inform future reopening efforts, and how researchers across campus are engaged in slowly, and safely, resuming their work.

What is the goal of the Phase I research reopening?

We want people to come back to research in a way that’s safe for everyone. This requires new practices, new behavior, and new infrastructure. The concept of transitioning in phases is to have a smaller group come in and test whether social distancing plans are working, identify any gaps, and see if additional protocols are necessary

When we know the practices are working well, we can gradually increase the population density until we are at our new normal, which will include still wearing face coverings, implementing cleaning procedures, and social distancing. It’s a strategy to help us, in a structured way, move from our previous behaviors and practices to new behaviors and practices.

What types of projects will be active in this first phase?

One set of examples is projects and activities that need to be initiated before others can work. Another is research that can have immediate impact, for example, on the COVID-19 epidemic. Each School has a plan for determining what research will come back first and when. Some Schools are not anticipating doing research in Phase I.

Continue reading Bonnell’s Q&A at Penn Today.