I know that this is an extremely challenging time for all of you and regret that circumstances require an additional restriction of normal research activities. For the safety of UT and our extended communities, all Cockrell School researchers must pause all laboratory research until further notice. Unless, you receive an exemption for essential research (as described below), each of you must implement your laboratory shutdown plans for a pause that is anticipated to last at least six to eight weeks. Please implement your plan as quickly and safely as possible and complete your laboratory shutdown no later than 5:00 pm on Tuesday, 24 March. If you need more time to complete your laboratory shutdown, please inform John Ekerdt, Associate Dean for Research, by 5:00 pm today.
Under no circumstances should you take laboratory research materials — other than laptops, paper records, and data storage devices — off site, including to your home.
After close of business on Tuesday, only essential personnel will be allowed to enter labs within the Cockrell School. Please report to John Ekerdt as soon as you have migrated your lab to “pause mode,” and include the following information in this report: lab location, name and phone number of the emergency contact person, and name and phone number for one or two designated “lab well-check” persons. Please note that only the PI or the designated lab well-check persons may enter labs after they have been paused, and those visits are limited to brief visits to ensure that samples or reagents are secure, that refrigerators and freezers are operating properly, or that other critical equipment is operating properly.
Only essential research activities will be permitted to continue within the Cockrell School beginning Wednesday, 25 March. For labs to remain open, both John Ekerdt and Dan Jaffe, Vice President for Research, must approve a request for an exemption to this shutdown.
To be designated as essential, the research activities must meet one or more of the following criteria:
· COVID-19 related activity that has a timeline for deployment that could address the current crisis.
· Activity that if discontinued would generate significant data and sample loss.
· Activity that if discontinued would pose a safety hazard.
· Activity that maintains critical equipment in facilities and laboratories.
· Activity that maintains critical samples and animal populations.
· Activity that has US government-mandated security and access requirements, cannot be performed remotely, and whose activity is deemed critical by the US government.
· Activities specifically requested by a US Government sponsor to continue during this time (documentation must be provided)
· Clinical trial activity that if discontinued would negatively impact the patients’ care.
If you feel your research meets the criteria designated as essential and you would like to request an exemption from the shutdown, you must submit a formal request to the UT VPR Office as soon as possible, but no later than 5:00 pm on Tuesday, 24 March (by clicking the link below).
In the event that you are granted an exemption, please provide John Ekerdt with a list of any core facilities that you will need to utilize during this period. Also, please notify UT Environmental Health and Safety at EHS-Directors@austin.utexas.edu of any approved activity in your lab, the presence of possible lab hazards (if emergency entry is needed), any needs for chemical or biohazardous waste pickup, and any perishable items still present in your lab or core.
This shutdown and the activity restrictions in the wider society are negatively impacting lab-based research across UT. With all of the uncertainty, it is hard to offer concrete words of reassurance, but the Cockrell School is working with President Fenves, Provost McInnis, the Graduate School, and the Vice President for Research to find ways for the university to help each of you move forward as the crisis eases. In particular, the provost announced last week, that assistant professors would have the opportunity to extend their probationary period by one year due to the impact of COVID-19.
Thank you for your assistance during these extremely challenging times. I ask that you provide additional support to the members of our community who are under the highest levels of stress, including individuals who have COVID-19 risk factors and those who are at transition points in their careers related to promotion, tenure, or graduation.
If you have any specific concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your department chair, John Ekerdt, or me.
SHARON L. WOOD | Dean, Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin | 512-471-1166
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The MRC laboratories reach users from many different fields: electronics, optics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, as well as chemical, mechanical, and petroleum engineering. Lab users are both from universities and corporates. UT MRC is more than a cleanroom with open-access with a comprehensive set of nano-fabrication equipment – it is a community of scientists who works together to build advanced technology products and knowledge.
Please acknowledge NSF support of the cleanroom in your publications, using the following Award number: "The work was partly done at the Texas Nanofabrication Facility supported by NSF grant NNCI-1542159".