Innovating During the Pandemic

In my administrative role, I think a lot about labs, and I think a lot about mentoring faculty and their success. With the pandemic, some of the things we do are scuttled, but we have an opportunity to not only do those things differently, but at least in some cases, do them better.

We have new faculty who are scheduled to start this Fall. Normally, we reach out over the Summer, but for many, contact increases as the Fall starts. This year, more of our incoming faculty are excited about having launch committees not only to help them get started successfully, but to also have regular contacts before they are meeting in person. It’s a first step along the way to helping welcome them and have them be part of the community.

We have faculty who are going up for promotion and tenure. I have been humbled by colleagues who are organizing pretenure online talks. This is brilliant. Not everyone can afford or is at an institution that can afford to pay for faculty to do the circuit as they get ready to turn in their packages. This offers a brilliant opportunity for people to get to see their talks and learn about their work first hand even if they cannot attend a talk. I hope we all keep this moving forward. It’s a chance to level the playing field a bit.

We have researchers who have risen to the challenge to rethink how they do research. On this, I am absolutely humbled. Most of my work involves chemicals one doesn’t want in one’s house. In fact, my insurance company a number of years ago asked me to sign something that stated I would not do chemistry at home. But I’ve been inspired by my colleagues who have thought through how they might be able to do at least some part of their work at home whether it is collecting and storing environmental samples, 3D printing components, testing sensors, or even printing electronics. My seven year old is getting roped into my work to see if we can print structures for a project. It may not be the highest resolution science I will ever do, but it will be the most fun, and perhaps, we’ll gain some new insights into what can be done.

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