Research resumes for students and faculty at the new Hall of Science
The building houses the biology, chemistry, environmental science and neuroscience departments
While construction on the Hall of Science building wrapped up in October, American University students and faculty resumed their research in the new building in August, after on-campus operations paused in March.
AU restricted access to the building to only the faculty whose offices and laboratories are located inside and the students conducting research under their supervision, in order to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Andrea Moore, Hall of Science equipment and facilities manager, said that researchers moved into the Hall of Science, which houses the biology, chemistry, environmental science and neuroscience departments, in mid-August. Faculty first submitted a “Return to Research” plan that included COVID-19 safety measures they intended to take in their research labs.
“As of right now, our primary focus is on masking, sanitizing, cleaning and social distancing,” Moore said. “Part of our challenge is that because we also have contractors and subcontractors in the building who aren’t AU faculty and staff, we have to make sure that they also meet those requirements and so we have been very very strict about social distancing and masking,”
Temperature checks, along with giving out daily wristbands to people who entered the building were part of the safety measures, but that ended in September. Some faculty members, like Naden Krogan, an associate professor in the biology department, have included daily temperature recordings in their “Return to Research” plans.
“We take the temperature of everyone who’s coming into the lab, just to make sure that there are no fevers,” Krogan said. “I do have students working with me right now so I make sure that they’re not all in at the same time and those students that are in, we can maintain a safe distance in the lab just because we have more space and we can spread out and make sure that we’re maintaining that social distancing.”
The University also posted COVID-19 signs throughout the building including social distancing stickers and current max occupancy posters for different labs and rooms. AU also rearranged the furniture to ensure appropriate spacing per the University and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Students and faculty said they are happy to be able to conduct their research in the new building.
“I absolutely love the research that we do. It’s like my life’s greatest passion right now, so it is really exciting to be kind of like the test group of this new building and these new facilities, and I cannot wait to be able to use it for actual class instructional,” said Ashley Bastin, a biology major who interns in Krogan’s lab.
Max Paul Friedman, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said in an emailed statement to The Eagle that the Hall of Science is “a glittering, state-of-the-art home for students and faculty whose passion for exploration and cooperative work make possible the kinds of contributions to knowledge that create exciting learning opportunities, attract grant funding enabling further important research and publications, and allow AU to contribute to understanding and progress in ways that enhance our reputation.”