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Research laboratories prepare for partial reopening

Some research laboratories on the University of Sussex campus will be re-opening today (Friday 29 May) and early next week, following government guidance that people who cannot work remotely are encouraged to return to their places of work.

While many Sussex staff are able to work from home during the Coronavirus pandemic, some researchers need access to specialist equipment and the teams that support it.

Provost Professor Saul Becker said: “We know that some colleagues want to resume their laboratory-based research as soon as possible. 

“So we’ve undertaken a significant amount of work with the relevant Schools to put in place health and safety measures and guidance to ensure that a return to work for these researchers is possible. 

“This will enable their activities to continue in a way that prioritises the safety of our staff, and is in line with government guidance on how laboratory work can be safely re-started.”

The institutional health and safety guidance has been used to inform specific local risk assessments in relation to labs, which have been developed by Schools to promote and ensure safe systems of work for staff on campus.

The School of Life Sciences, BSMS and the School of Mathematical & Physical Sciences have identified the laboratories that will be re-opened first.

The Genome Damage and Stability Centre investigates the responses of cells to genome damage and their relationship to diseases, such as cancer, that can arise as a result. All work will be returning here from Monday (1 June) but in a limited capacity, initially following social distancing rules.

Similarly, all research labs will be open in the Medical Research Building, with a restricted number of staff invited to return. Staff in these labs carry out research on infection and immunity, including Covid-19 and TB; genetics and genomics; cancer biology, particularly leukaemia; and the immunology of disease processes including Covid-19 and inflammation.

The return to Pevensey 2 will be limited in the first instance to one research group (materials physics research into nano particle/materials at the interface between chemistry and physics), with more researchers to follow.

Return to work will be on a voluntary basis and line managers will seek the express consent of relevant members of staff.

The Provost said: “We are aware of and we will be sensitive to the personal circumstances and caring responsibilities of individual staff.”

He added: “Getting to the point where we can start to re-open some of our research labs has involved a great effort by many colleagues in extraordinary circumstances, and I would like to thank everyone who has helped to make this possible.

“Further laboratories will re-open in phases once they have been judged safe to occupy, and all of the necessary procedures for safely carrying out research activities in each building have been put in place.”

A lot of work is also under way on an institutional recovery plan, to put in place measures for a wider return to campus by other Sussex staff.

Professor Becker said: “We won’t be back fully until we’re sure we can satisfy all health and safety requirements and the Executive Group has approved the plan.”


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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Friday, 29 May 2020

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