Since early spring, the Acadia community has been adapting the new realities of COVID-19. Resuming research has been a challenging process to navigate amidst an unfolding global pandemic. However, given the importance of research and the commitment of Acadia to provide a hybrid learning environment we have all persisted to create a safe work space.
During the summer researchers were invited to create “return to research” plans that detailed who needed to be in the laboratories, how frequently work would be conducted and how public health directives could be followed. These plans were reviewed by a safety team at Acadia and when deemed acceptable people were invited to return to labs.
Most return plans include precautions such as staggering working hours to ensure physical distancing, turning communal lab space into individual workstations, and carefully tracking who has been in the labs with sign in sheets. The use of PPE (personal protective equipment) has increased, researchers now routinely use masks, gloves, and occasionally face shields.
Those who work in labs are typically quite familiar with proper aseptic technique, so adapting to even more rigorous disinfecting has been relatively simple.
Dr. Nelson O’Driscoll and his research lab were early adaptors of face masks, well before Nova Scotia made masks mandatory in indoor public places in July, 2020. At the time Dr. O’Driscoll said he felt it was reasonable to include masks in his return plan as he thought they would only increase in importance- he was correct!
Like many, Dr. Robin Browne felt the pressure to adapt as several of his time sensitive projects were delayed when campus was shut down. In the tissue culture research laboratory, a lot of one on one training takes place and typically people are in close proximity manipulating small amounts of plant material. To replace the close contact Dr. Browne has spent time sourcing videos to aid with training students. Dr. Browne expects the impacts of COVID-19 delays to affect research for a significant amount of time into the future. However, he is glad to be back in the lab and working with his team again.
One of Dr. Browne’s students, Katie King, a second-year biology major, is thrilled to be back working in the tissue culture labs. “I really value the learning and hands on experience I get while working in the tissue culture lab. For me, this is not only an important addition to my education here at Acadia, but a big tie in to what kind of work is being done in my field of study. A lot of the skills I have been developing aren’t things you can pick up in a class setting, and will be a huge benefit to me as I pursue a career in this field. I am so glad to be back in the K.C. Irving Centre. I had really missed working here!”