University labs back open for business
Students are returning to laboratories in Surrey’s Department of Chemical and Process Engineering after labs were closed for more than three months due to Covid-19.
The ongoing pandemic has meant testing times for many research students needing laboratory access across the UK. After a three-month closure, however, the labs at Surrey’s Department of Chemical and Process Engineering (CPE) have reopened, with teaching staff and students back conducting experiments in a safe environment.
“Before labs could re-open, the department had to develop new Covid-19-safe working procedures and risk assessments, which complied with both Government and University guidance,” says CPE Experimental Officer Ben Gibbons. “The emphasis of these procedures was on ensuring social distancing and good hygiene practices.
“Technical staff returned a week in advance to prepare the labs. The labs have distance markings laid out, are stocked with appropriate disinfectants, and have maximum room occupancy signs. Departmental technicians checked lab equipment, utilities and safety systems were functioning and ready for use, while the University’s Estates and Facilities team ensured the building was safe for occupation again.
“My impression from speaking to returning researchers is we've managed to strike a fair balance between allowing them to resume many laboratory activities and maintaining a Covid-19-safe working environment.”
And this is a conclusion that bioengineering researcher Dr Stella Totti agrees with.
"I’m excited to wear my lab coat again,” says Stella. “During lockdown, I missed the daily research activities in the lab and interactions with my colleagues.
“It feels safe to be back. The University’s taken all the necessary measures to establish a safe working environment, while maintaining research activities and life on campus.”
Dr Franjo Cecelja, Head of CPE, adds: “It’s a first step but it’s a step closer to normality. CPE research labs have now been opened for more than four weeks and they’re running smoothly.
“It’s astonishing how quickly, thoroughly and consistently researchers adhered to all health and safety procedures, and blended them into regular research work.
“We’re not only assuring research advances, but we’re also giving an example of how normality can be achieved without any compromise to health.”