Dear Molecular Foundry Community,
I would like to start by sending my very best wishes to you and your loved ones during this challenging time. The Molecular Foundry community is truly international, and we have all, to varying degrees, been impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 17, the Foundry has been operating under a safe standby mode, with the suspension of on-site research for the purposes of reducing transmission of the novel coronavirus, to protect the health and safety of our community.
As I write this letter, the San Francisco Bay Area is starting to emerge from a two-and-a-half-month local shelter in place order. However, this must be a careful and gradual process, and our lives will not return to normal immediately. The Molecular Foundry has been working very closely with leaders from across Berkeley Lab, as well as the DOE and the University of California, to develop a scoped pilot plan that will allow for a gradual resumption of selected on-site activities starting in June. You can read more about these pilot plans here.
As you can imagine, safely operating a program as diverse and dynamic as the Molecular Foundry’s user program while maintaining social distancing presents many challenges. The desire to fulfill our user facility mission may be understandably offset by anxiety and uncertainty around ensuring safe workplace practices during this pandemic. However, it is the Foundry’s intent to support limited and safe onsite user access, soon, with staff and users who are comfortable doing so.
Meanwhile, user research activities that can occur remotely are continuing through many online consultations with our staff. We continue to increase our capacity to collaborate remotely and are heartened by the robust user demand that was demonstrated in our spring proposal call. Thank you to our user community for their continued enthusiasm to collaborate and to our staff for their constant dedication to user service. To accommodate the many additional constraints that working from home has imposed on us all, user proposal and project deadlines have been relaxed and we are standing up virtual equivalents of many key events, including the recent proposal review board meetings and the upcoming Annual User Meeting (AUM) in August. We are eager to represent users’ needs and perspectives throughout our planning processes and welcome your feedback and ideas on how to serve you better. We encourage you to engage with the User Executive Committee (UEC) who have been especially engaged during this time, in addition to your assigned scientists, facility directors, and the User Program Office.
We are also thrilled to welcome our new User Program Director, Shannon Ciston, who comes to us from UC Berkeley, where she has served as the Director of Undergraduate Education in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department since 2014, and as a lecturer dating back to 2011. Shannon’s experience working with a large and diverse student body, as well as being an early user of CFN, the Foundry’s sister nanocenter at Brookhaven National Laboratory, leaves her very well positioned to advocate for our user community while leading this program.
The User Program Office was most recently led by Alison Hatt, who elevated every aspect of the organization through her dedication and leadership, and established the vital role that the User Program Office Director plays in the management of our user facility. Many of you know Alison well from her many years at the Foundry and will surely miss her as she moves on. Please join me in thanking Alison and wishing her all the best for the future.
While these are uncertain times, I want to personally assure you that the Molecular Foundry and its dedicated staff remain committed to serve the needs of the nanoscale science research community. I look forward to seeing each of you virtually, and especially in person, once it is safe to do so. Until then, stay safe and let us know how we can help.