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VPR Communication: Research Buildings Reopening

May 28, 2020

Dear research colleagues:

As indicated in my message from May 22, I am writing to provide you with additional details about next week’s initial step in the phased return of laboratory research, starting June 1. As I noted, the research buildings will open for laboratory-based research in a phased manner, with the schedule for our nine buildings in Evanston outlined below. Each building will have clearly marked designated points of entry and exit. 

Monday, June 1
1. Silverman: Entrance: East (by stairway) Exit: West
2. Mudd: Entrance: North (by North Garage) Exit: North (facing Searle)
3. Ryan: Entrance: West Exit: East
Wednesday, June 3
1. Tech: Entrance: Southwest (F wing) Exit: Southeast (K wing)
2. Hogan: Entrance: Bridge connections Exit: Level one main
3. Catalysis: Entrance: Bridge connections Exit: Level one main
Friday, June 5
1. Cook: Entrance: South (facing Pancoe) Exit: South (facing Hogan dock)
2. Pancoe: Entrance: West (facing Ryan) Exit: East (facing Allen Center)
3. 1801 Maple: Entrance: Main door West Exit: Main door East

Other Evanston-based research buildings: Planning for opening these facilities is underway and will be described in a separate communication.

Chicago Campus: Recent decisions by the City of Chicago make it clear that we will be delayed in opening Tarry, Ward, Searle, Morton, Simpson-Querrey, Lurie and Olson. Feinberg investigators can expect to hear additional details from Dean Neilson.

Updated June 3: The Chicago laboratory research buildings are now open. Feinberg investigators and staff should also monitor the  school’s COVID-19 page for the latest updates on the medical campus.

Remember,  prior to returning to campus all researchers must review the Return to Campus Policy and  have completed the “Pandemic Essentials: Research on Campus” online training course assigned through myHR. Evanston-based PIs must complete their Pandemic Research Plan and submit to their department chair for approval before uploading to LUMEN. Chicago-based PIs must upload their plan to LUMEN, where it is subject to review. Finally, all PIs must meet virtually with their groups to explain the group plan and must receive acknowledgement that each lab member understands the plan and University guidance.

Researchers who have already been approved as “essential” personnel may continue working prior to the open dates listed above. Once your building is open and your Pandemic Research Plan approved, all members listed on the PI’s lab plan will be approved for return to campus and will not require additional approval. Please note: specific guidance for human participant research will be distributed separately.  Remember, all work that can be performed at home should be done at home.

What You Can Expect

Buildings will be locked and require your keycard to access. You will notice signage throughout the buildings to remind you of the importance of social distancing and personal hygiene, as well as the mandatory use of facial coverings in all public spaces. Restrooms and elevators will be marked with signs identifying the maximum occupancy and common areas will be closed or modified to maintain social distancing. You will see sanitizer stations positioned near the entrances and in various locations within our research buildings. As stated in our policy guidance, we will be monitoring compliance and have established hotlines to report concerns.

You also will see that our custodial staff is implementing enhanced cleaning protocols in our buildings. Throughout the day, custodial staff members will continue to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in common spaces, including handrails, building entrance doors, elevators, etc. Restrooms will be fully cleaned daily. Corridors, stairwells, break rooms, kitchens, and laboratories will receive four general cleanings per week and one full cleaning per week. All recycling and waste will be removed daily. To ensure staff safety and to protect sensitive experiments or equipment, custodians are instructed not to touch laboratory benchtops or instruments. During the full cleaning and disinfection within lab spaces, custodians will wipe down doors, chairs, arm rests, etc. They also will pick up trash and clean the floors. PIs and their research staff are responsible for frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces in their own labs. Throughout the buildings, custodians will place blue tape on cleaned and disinfected surfaces to indicate that these have been serviced. Finally, you may elect that certain rooms not be cleaned by the custodial staff. For these cases, we have created a sign that you can post on the door.

To further facilitate this transition back to campus, we are preparing an FAQ page and will post that information on the Office for Research COVID-19 page soon. Please also visit Northwestern’s COVID-19 and Campus Updates website for the latest University information.  

We will continue to monitor work in our laboratories and are likely to revise or implement additional guidance due to changes in government orders and the needs of our research community. Of course, our decisions will continue to be informed by the latest recommendations from state and federal public health authorities, as well as by our own medical experts at Northwestern.

We know many of you have been eager to return to your laboratories — and we look forward to facilitating this return in a thoughtful, strategic way that has benefited from the input of many stakeholders. We are relying on each of you to support this effort by understanding and complying with our guidance.

Thank you again for your sustained engagement and productivity during this very challenging time.


Milan Mrksich
Vice President for Research