Initiating the safe ramp-up of on-campus engineering research activities

Dear Colleagues,

The University of Michigan has been working with the State of Michigan and other public health authorities to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am particularly gratified with the actions taken by our CoE community to complete the sudden research ramp-down in March, while maintaining the activity needed for safety and mission critical research operations. Thank you!

The University has now initiated a planning process for the safe ramp-up of on-campus laboratory research when we are given permission to do so.  

I have attached a presentation developed under the leadership of UMOR that describes some of the next steps that will be taken at the University and College level. As you will read, the process of re-opening CoE on-campus labs can only take place after we have been granted permission by the State of Michigan and UM executive leadership. This can happen when the State moves from our current “Phase 0” stay at home order to “Phase 1” of societal and economic re-opening. We are not sure when Phase 1 will be declared, but we want to be ready and have our plans in place.

The conditions for opening a lab are multi-faceted, and will require:

  1. Establishing that safe operations can be conducted under public health requirements for social distancing;
  2. Determining the critical nature of the research (i.e., prioritization); and
  3. Limiting the quantity of rooms opened based on their “building group.”

On-campus labs will be opened on a room-by-room basis. This means: 

  • Research activities that can be conducted remotely will continue in that mode;
  • Some lab activities will be limited or excluded; and   
  • Faculty, postdoc and student offices, computational labs, and other communal spaces will not be opened in this Phase.

Also, access to our buildings will be quite different. Those who enter will need to meet requirements for daily health attestations and temperature monitoring.  And, the opening process will take place over a series of stages, starting slowly at first to ensure that our processes are working and that our operations remain safe.  

I will be working with the Department/Division Chairs and Unit Directors to develop a staged plan for CoE’s research lab ramp-up.  You will hear from them soon with further instructions on the process that will be used in your unit. As not all eligible labs can open at once, we will work together to set priorities and develop operational plans.

The ramp-up process will be slower than we might wish, and this will inevitably lead to some frustration. If we are successful in the early stages, further opening may occur sooner.  However, if there is a breakdown in our processes or a substantial outbreak of COVID-19 in our buildings or community, the ramp-up will likely be reversed.  What we do with our labs will influence the planning for the fall.

Please work with your leadership to help us develop these important plans.  And, I look forward to the day when we all can conduct our research on campus effectively, safely, and together.


Steve C.