Oberholster Lab in the Department of Viticulture and Enology

Photo of research students.

Oberholster Lab in the Department of Viticulture and Enology During Suspended Operations.

“We have a couple of long-term experiments that would have resulted in losing a year of work if not continued. We determined we can continue in a safe manner due to the fact that there are very few people in our environment and we can maintain social distancing. We have another project where the samples will be beyond their storage date if not analyzed and they are irreplaceable.

These students have voiced their desire to continue and we worked out what work they can do and is necessary to maintain the project while shelter-in-place is in place. I want to emphasize, that they volunteered to work. I was prepared and offered to make a plan B with them if they did not want to continue.

We deep cleaned the lab with 70% EtOH (basically spray every possible surface and wiped with alcohol wipes what we can’t spray). We are not doing this daily as we have limited presence in the lab and it takes a long time. This is done weekly. The only student working in the lab almost full-time, is wearing a mask the whole time while in the lab. Then whenever someone has to come into the lab, they wipe all the surfaces that they have touched including the door handles, keyboards etc. Students discuss any lab activities with me in advance for each day, so I know who will be where when and how long they expect it will take.

We created a lab group on WhatsApp. They check in when they arrive and tell me where they are and for how long they expect to be there and they check out when they leave. This is irrespective of time of day or whether other people are around. However, if they have to come in over the weekend or in the evening, they check in every two hours if needed. This is also the case if they are alone in the building. Depending on who their transport, I may also request that they check in with me when they arrive home if after dark. I am not comfortable with the higher crime rate and lack of people on campus especially after dark.

I decided to do the WhatsApp group as it is not only depended on me to keep track of people. I have back-up post-docs and their fellow students that see the check-in and check-out and we can alert each other if someone does not check-in or out. Additionally, it means that the students know who else of our lab is in the building. They also always know where I am. I discuss my schedule with them once a week and let them know if it changes. Also, I acknowledge the check-in and check-out with a thumbs-up or ok so that they know that I have seen it.”