Queen Mary University of London has reopened the majority of its laboratories to enable academics to carry out their world-leading research and to continue the phased reopening of more campus facilities for the new academic year.
Laboratories at the Blizard Institute before lockdown. Credit: Queen Mary
With laboratory space now operating across all three faculties, Queen Mary is paving the way for a thriving campus for staff and students in September 2020 following the period of lockdown introduced by the UK government to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The safety of staff working in the laboratories is paramount and has only been possible following guidance to ensure each facility is covid-secure.
Professor Colin Bailey, President and Principal at Queen Mary University of London, said: "Opening labs that have been closed during the lockdown is a significant step that allows Queen Mary academics to continue with their important research. Putting the arrangements in place to ensure that the staff can work safely in these facilities has been a huge undertaking and I am grateful to all of the colleagues who have worked so hard to make it possible."
In the School of Medicine and Dentistry, the laboratories in the Blizard Institute operated in a very restricted capacity during the height of the pandemic to allow researchers to work with important Covid-19 samples but since June 8 a broader reopening has enabled this work to expand and other research to restart.
On the same day of the reopening, researchers were able to begin working on new human tissue samples to progress their extensive research into Crohn’s disease.
Professor Tim Warner, Director of the Blizard Institute, said: “This is very good news for everyone at the Blizard. It is particularly important for many of our PhD students and early career researchers who may be most affected by the lockdown interruption in the longer term. They are now able to restart their work and are very pleased to be back.”
In order to operate safely, laboratories across the University have been required to develop a new maximum occupancy to allow for social distancing while many lab spaces are running from early in the morning until night, with booking systems used to help manage the available space.
Queen Mary has also worked with staff to help ensure the journey to and from work is as safe as possible.
At The William Harvey Research Institute, also part of Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, two laboratories were set up for Covid-19 research during lockdown but since June 2 additional facilities have opened up with the laboratories now able to operate at greater capacity.
Professor Amrita Ahluwalia, Co-Director of The William Harvey Research Institute, said: “A major aspect of the research we do requires state of the art facilities provided in our research laboratories. One of our top priorities has been making sure that our PhD students and researchers can get back into the lab to continue with their bench studies. Opening the labs safely allows all of our researchers to return to finish their critical work but also helps to create a feeling of returning back to normality which is crucial on so many different levels right now.”