Delaware Public Media

University research challenged by Delaware state of emergency

Mar 28, 2020

Researchers at First State universities are forced to make adjustments during the coronavirus pandemic.

The University of Delaware and Delaware State University have limited the number of people allowed on campus to essential staff only for weeks in cooperation with restrictions laid out in Gov. John Carney’s State of Emergency Order. Most university researchers have returned home to self-quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic.

UD Vice President of Research Charlie Riordan says that while the restrictions slow scientific discovery and add uncertainty to the future of grad students, he expects students and faculty will continue to do a great job under the circumstances.

“I think we’re going to see some really creative outcomes in the weeks and months ahead in terms of how we mentor students in new and different ways, because we have to do it remotely,” said Riordan.   

But Riordan adds “candidly” if access to the university campus remains limited for an extended time it will create challenges for researchers. And about $160 million in sponsored funding is invested in hundreds of UD research projects involving thousands of grad students.

He says the research activity on campus during the state of emergency has been reduced to projects with living organisms or equipment that requires maintenance.

“If they need to maintain things like critical cell lines, equipment where they would need to come in and add cryogenic materials to keep the equipment functioning—although it’s all on standby—or taking care of animals,” said Riordan.     

DSU Vice President of Research Melissa Harrington says it's much the same on Delaware State’s campus. She adds the 12 to 15 projects that have grad students and faculty visiting the campus for research have been put on a schedule.

“Spread everybody out so there’s not large numbers of people on campus at any time,” Harrington said. 

Both Harrington and Riordan say the summer months are traditionally the most productive  for university research and researchers are looking forward to a return to normalcy.