How your Microbiology Department is coping with Coronavirus CoViD-19

On Friday the 13th of March, the last day of classes before Spring Break, President Hargis announced that all courses would be conducted online after the break. Our faculty immediately went to work transitioning to online instruction. For laboratory courses, in particular, you can imagine that this undertaking was daunting.

As Department Head, I am proud of how our faculty, teaching assistants, staff, and students took the enormous changes in stride. For the faculty, moving to online instruction was a challenge that they approached eagerly, with hard work and creativity. Teaching assistants and students had to be flexible – and they have been. Staff adjusted their work schedules. As a result of these efforts, and in the face of daily changes, when it comes to the department’s teaching mission, we all are telecommuting now.

Research as usual simply isn’t possible at this time. Most laboratories are temporarily shut down or working in ways that minimize person-to-person interactions. The majority of faculty and laboratory personnel are working from home on projects that can be accomplished on computers, without being at the bench. The final tally of manuscripts submitted this year could set a new record!

The office staff are telecommuting also. They have essential jobs. Faculty are still ordering supplies, although at a slower pace, and Marty comes to campus as needed to deliver packages. Alice is still making sure that orders are tracked and vendors get paid. Most importantly, everyone in the department is still getting their paycheck.

Of course, conducting business in the department isn’t possible without the hundreds of men and women who continue to accomplish their work just as we do. Over and over again I hear that supporting students is paramount. It amazes me how the university continues to operate, without losing sight of what is most important, and this despite the fact that I’ve only seen images of my colleagues and coworkers on my computer screen.

Our department therapy dog, Chunk, has rallied around her handlers at home during the pandemic. She is getting more walks and snacks than usual. But she also seems to miss seeing students on campus. On the other hand, Chunk is learning a marketable skill; she is becoming a Zoom-master!

To our alumni and parents of Microbiology majors, please know that all of us are working diligently to maintain a student experience that is as normal as possible. These are indeed challenging times.

Stay healthy and safe. And Go Pokes!

Best wishes, Tyrrell Conway, Regents Professor and Department Head