Like researchers and academics around the world, the sudden onset of the coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of our daily life. This set of circumstances is affecting all of us in different ways – parents of young children without daycare or elderly relatives, junior faculty worried about how to fund new research directions, trainees facing a sudden loss of important laboratory work, or those of us with sick friends/family/colleagues. The BioInspired Institute has been working to help others and make progress on research in this “new normal.” In support of our members and their trainees across the Hill, our leadership has been engaging to help mitigate some of the negative effects of the pandemic:
- Professional development and support for trainees. We have continued BioInspired’s graduate student and postdoc professional development program by moving to a virtual format. With assistance from Libraries and Graduate School staff, we have presented workshops on poster design, skills assessment, literature searching, and more. To provide social structure, we are hosting virtual coffee hours, happy hours, and trivia nights, as well as providing resources for things like mental health and strategies for working from home.
- Ad hoc focus group for COVID-19 research. We formed an ad hoc focus group for researchers within BioInspired pivoting or thinking of pivoting to COVID-19 related research. The group has been sharing pitfalls and best-practices for conducting research in a highly-controlled social distancing regime and with limited campus services, as well as during phased return to campus.
- Support for faculty. We have helped foster a social and informational support structure for STEM faculty who have had to hibernate their labs. Activities have included virtual coffee hours and facilitating the dissemination of information and best-practice documentation across the Hill. As we return to work after COVID-related shutdowns, we are hosting panels and sharing documents related to “return to work” policies across the Hill.
- Feedback on University research-related policies. BioInspired leadership has engaged with faculty and students to solicit feedback and questions about research lab hibernation and return to work policies, and engaged with University administrators to share that feedback as administrators craft research-related policies.
Stay tuned for further updates later this summer on new seed funding opportunities through BioInspired to help accelerate research after COVID-19 hibernation.