December 2020

Our lab policies have not changed much since May when we last posted about our COVID-19 response. However, for the sake of posting the most up-to-date information possible, I would like to re-state the rules in place at this time, redefine who is allowed in the MCL, and what is required to use the MCL at this time.

People who qualify to enter the lab

All of our normal clients are welcome in the MCL at this time, provided they have adequate permissions and training. In addition to filling out the forms at the bottom of this post and receiving training by lab staff, all researchers must fulfill the necessary requirements in their sections below:

  • Undergraduates must have permission through their PI to be working on campus. Their projects must be deemed essential in their respective department, and their participation in that project must be justifiable.
  • On-campus users with a Bachelor’s degree or higher may perform research in the MCL as is deemed necessary by their PI.
  • Off-campus users must receive permission from the lab manager to perform research. The research must be deemed safe enough to perform without staff present.

Additional lab rules while in Limited Research Activities

In addition to the usual rules that allow us to work in the lab safely, additional measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of germs between users.

  1. All lab time must be scheduled exactly. No adjustments will be made to approved time slots to either shorten or lengthen your time in the lab.
  2. Lab time will be scheduled such that there should be no more than 1-2 people per room at a time, with sufficient space to maintain 6 feet of distance between people. This may result in an increased waiting time before you are able to access certain machines.
  3. Wash your hands immediately upon entering the lab (there is a sink with dish soap and paper towels in the XRD room) and just before exiting the lab.
    1. If you are in the lab for more than 1 hour, wash your hands at least every hour while you are in the lab.
    2. If you leave the lab and return during your scheduled time, please wash your hands before leaving and after returning.
  4. Upon entry of the lab, fill out the Symptom Tracking form located on the front desk. A new form should be filled out each day you use the lab.
  5. A face mask or covering must be used to cover both your nose and mouth from the time you enter the building until you leave.
  6. Before you leave, use isopropanol (in a yellow-capped bottle) to clean every surface you have touched including (but not limited to)
    1. Door handles
    2. Drawers
    3. Chair backs
    4. Monitors, keyboards, and mice
    5. Glass slides, spatulas, tweezers
    6. USB devices
    7. Machine parts

To get approval to use the lab

In order to reenter the lab, all of the following steps must be completed.

  1. (For on-campus users only) Fill out the College of Engineering Employee Certification form. This declares your intent to use the MCL to the College of Engineering. The lab you are requesting to use is the MCL.
    1. Department: Materials Science and Engineering
    2. Laboratory supervisor’s name: Kimberly Watts
    3. Laboratory supervisor email: characterization.uofu@gmail.com
    4. By reading the rules in the sections above, you can answer “yes” to the question “I have spoken with the head of my laboratory about procedures for ensuring physical distancing
  2. (For all users) Fill out the MCL Phase Orange approval form. This form is an MCL specific form, which we use to track our users. Fill this out with information about your own research and lab so we know how best to support your work.

When your forms have been reviewed, lab staff will contact you directly to resolve any issues and schedule your time in the lab. As always, please contact us if you have any concerns.


Previous COVID-19 announcements

Monday, May 11, 2020

As many of you already know, the University of Utah is beginning a transition to Phase Orange today, which means a limited return to certain on-campus research activities. University-wide information about this reopening can be found on their website. Many of you have been anxious to return to work in the MCL, and I’m happy to report that we have received permission to resume certain functions in our Meldrum location starting Wednesday, May 13. Each client will be required to go through several steps to qualify for entry into the lab. If your research is able to be put on hold for a few more months, that is advised.

People who qualify to reenter the lab

At this time, only on-campus users are allowed in the labs. Undergraduate researchers are not currently allowed in labs, which means that only University faculty, staff, doctoral candidates, post-docs, graduate students, etc. may use the lab. Our staff will continue to work from home, so all users must already be trained on the instruments they wish to use.

You may also only use the lab if all statements listed here are true about you.

  1. You have not been out of the state within the last 14 days
  2. You have not had a fever (or been on fever-reducing medication) for more than 72 hours
  3. It has been 7 days or more since the start of any symptoms
  4. You have not been in contact (15+ minutes within 6 feet) with someone who has tested positive to Covid-19.
    1. If you have been, you were tested yourself and quarantined until you received a negative result

Additional lab rules while in Phase Orange

In addition to the usual rules that allow us to work in the lab safely, additional measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of germs between users.

  1. All lab time must be scheduled exactly. No adjustments will be made to approved time slots to either shorten or lengthen your time in the lab.
  2. Lab time will be scheduled such that there should be no more than 1-2 people per room at a time, with sufficient space to maintain 6 feet of distance between people. This may result in an increased waiting time before you are able to access certain machines.
  3. Wash your hands immediately upon entering the lab (there is a sink with dish soap and paper towels in the XRD room) and just before exiting the lab.
    1. If you are in the lab for more than 1 hour, wash your hands at least every hour while you are in the lab.
    2. If you leave the lab and return during your scheduled time, please wash your hands before leaving and after returning.
  4. Some sort of face mask must be used to cover both your nose and mouth from the time you enter the building until you are in the lab at the machine.
    1. You may remove the mask while you are working, provided that you are not within 6 feet of another person.
    2. If you are to pass within 6′ of another person, please replace the mask.
    3. If you must pass through the front room of the lab, please replace the mask, as others might enter that space while you are there.
  5. Before you leave, use isopropanol (in a yellow-capped bottle) to clean every surface you have touched including (but not limited to)
    1. Door handles
    2. Drawers
    3. Chair backs
    4. Monitors, keyboards, and mice
    5. Glass slides, spatulas, tweezers
    6. USB devices
    7. Machine parts

To get approval to use the lab

In order to reenter the lab, all of the following steps must be completed.

  1. Fill out the College of Engineering Employee Certification form.
    1. Laboratory supervisor’s name: Kimberly Watts
    2. Laboratory supervisor email: characterization.uofu@gmail.com
    3. By reading the rules in the sections above, you can answer “yes” to the question “I have spoken with the head of my laboratory about procedures for ensuring physical distancing
  2. Fill out the MCL Phase Orange approval form

When your form has been reviewed, Lab staff will contact you directly to resolve any issues and schedule your time in the lab. As always, please contact us if you have any concerns.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Vice President of Research at the University of Utah has mandated that all on-campus research activities should cease, unless deemed essential. This includes all activity (both on- and off-campus) in the MCL. Until further notice, no projects will be approved to work in the MCL unless their research has been deemed essential by the University.

If you are an on-campus user and believe your research should be allowed to continue in the lab, speak with your PI who should speak with your department chair and college dean(s) about receiving that approval. If you are an off-campus (industry or other) user and believe that your research should be allowed to continue, contact Kim (kimberly.watts@utah.edu) to discuss whether your project can be approved.

Monday, March 16, 2020

New announcements from the U, including the fact that members of University staff have been diagnosed with the virus, mean that all non-essential staff members are being asked to telecommute rather than come to campus. This includes the managerial and student workers that make the MCL run. Today, we are preparing to close the lab for a (currently unknown) period of time.

We recognize that this closure may put pressure on many of our clients under significant deadlines. While most of those deadlines have likely softened in light of these world-wide changes, we recognize that life continues and some of our clients will need to continue their research despite our closure.

To the extent possible, please refrain from projects that require working in the MCL until we are able to reopen. The online scheduling system will be disabled while the lab is closed, to prevent misunderstandings regarding our availability. If your samples and/or project absolutely cannot wait, please contact Kim Watts at kimberly.watts@utah.edu in order to receive authorization to work in the lab unattended. This will require some time and communication to ensure that the lab is maintained properly in the absence of staff, so plan your timing accordingly. Not everyone who requests to use the lab during our closure will be allowed to do so; please be understanding as we try to balance the number of people in the lab, the safety of the users and equipment, and the recommendations received from our leaders.

This will also effectively halt all progress on samples that have been submitted to the lab. By the end of the day, we will try to send information to people with pending projects so they can decide how to proceed.

We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause, and thank you for your understanding. As always, feel free to reach out to us if you have questions.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Recently, the University of Utah announced that all classes are moving to an online-only format. In light of this, we have had several questions regarding the MCL’s availability in the coming weeks. Rest assured, that, as of March 13, 2020 the MCL plans to remain open as usual (from 9 am to 5 pm in our Meldrum location, and according to UCard permitted access for the Browning location). The lab will be fully available to all who are trained to use the equipment as normal.

In order to uphold the recommended social distancing measures to the extent possible, there may be days when staff are not present in the lab. These absences will occur, to the extent possible, around the online-scheduled events of the day to ensure that staff is available while clients are in the lab. If you know you will need staff assistance, please let us know at least 1 day in advance so we can ensure someone will be available.

If you arrive at the lab for a scheduled appointment, and the door appears to be locked and/or the lights are out, please contact Kim (both her phone number and email are available at the door) who can let you in remotely if needed.

Since many of the student workers will be in the lab less frequently, projects which have been dropped off to the lab for completion may be delayed somewhat. As always, we will try to get these projects completed as quickly as possible. If you are working with a tight deadline, please let us know and we will work with you to complete your project in a timely manner. However, please be patient with us as we work to keep on top of all of our work.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us, and we’ll do our best to assist you.