VP of Research Bernhard: details of research lab operation suspension

Author: Andy Fuller

Note: Dated communications are archived here for reference, but may not reflect the most up-to-date information available.

Dear Colleagues,

With the announcement that the University plans to suspend laboratory research operations and limit access only to essential personnel on Friday March, 27, I write to inform you about how we will manage the ramp down process. I want to emphasize that although lab operations are suspended, we hope faculty, post docs, graduate and undergraduate students can still find ways to be productive remotely by engaging in computational and simulation work, data analysis, paper and proposal writing, and other similar activities. The Deans and I stand ready to assist in any way that we can.

This letter is intended primarily to help address the following:

  • The ramp down and maintenance of labs affected by the decision to suspend lab research operations
  • The operations of certain key research facilities
  • Information about the financial support of students and staff affected by the suspension of lab operations
  • Accommodation for the effects of these suspensions on professional and career development

Follow-up information to this letter and other sources of information can be found on the following web sites

Research Labs in Campus

Faculty with physical research laboratories on campus will be required to ramp down the condition of those laboratories to a state that we will refer to as “hibernation” by close of business on March 27. By hibernation we mean that instruments, machines and test articles will be shut down or put in standby condition, with the expectation that they can be ramped up from this condition to normal operation after the laboratory operations suspension is lifted. We are not expecting any labs to go through an exhaustive or expensive shut down procedure that would require major cost or jeopardize the future operation of the equipment. We expect that hibernation mode will mean that in some cases equipment such as pumps will continue to run and coolant will continue to circulate.

I understand that this hibernation mode might require monitoring, including having essential personnel (typically a staff member if available) visit the lab periodically to ensure the instruments are still in stable condition, to replenish essential supplies or to respond to an alarm. We expect that no graduate students or post doctoral fellows would be designated as essential personnel without compelling justification. I believe your list of essential personnel should already be in the hands of the appropriate  Associate Deans (Steve Corcelli, Mark McCready or Jim Brockmole) or Melanie DeFord with the appropriate justification. Please contact them if you have not done so already or you need to make modifications. You will receive approval of your list of essential personnel and your ramp down plan from the Dean’s or VPR’s Office by noon on Tuesday March 24.

You should begin to implement the ramp down plans now, with the expectation that all labs will be completed by March 27 or sooner.  If you believe that you will need an exception to this deadline, we recommend you consult with Associate Deans Mark McCready, Steve Corcelli or Jim Brockmole or Assistant VPR Melanie DeFord as appropriate, as soon as possible.

From now until ramp down is complete, please emphasize social distancing, cleaning surfaces that are touched (e.g., door handles and tables), de-densifying work spaces, scheduling rotational access to maintain reduced occupancy to enable preserving safe distances, improving remote work options, etc. Also, please listen closely to the concerns of graduate students, post docs and staff. No one should feel compelled, either directly or indirectly, to put their health at risk. Please err on the side of caution and listen to the concerns of your trainees and staff.

Also, local healthcare providers have asked us if we have any personal protective equipment (PPE) that we can spare. Apparently, the healthcare supply chains for basic supplies are stressed. If you have potential donations, please contact Jessica Brookshire (jbrooksh@nd.edu).

Maintenance of Key Facilities

There are several facilities that affect many programs that we know you will have questions about. We want to assure you of the following:

  • The Freimann Life Sciences Center will be maintained with a skeleton staff such that animals will be fed and cared for while laboratory operations are suspended.
  • The High-Performance Computing facilities of the Center for Research Computing located at Union Station will be operational during the laboratory operations suspension.

Continuation of Support

Many of the programs affected by the suspension of research laboratory operations are externally funded. With respect to federally funded projects, OMB guidance to federal agencies has indicated that federal sponsors are expected to look to institutional policies for paying salaries under extraordinary circumstances to determine the allowability of salary funding on grant funds. In other words, we expect that federal agencies will support researcher salaries in the same way we do for those paid on University funds. Some agencies have issued more detailed guidance on how to implement this policy. NDR is monitoring guidance and will pass along more details as they become available.

Accommodation of Impact

The suspension of research laboratory operations will impact the career and professional development of many faculty, post docs and graduate students very directly and disproportionately. A task force  representing the Provost’s Office, ND Research, Assoc Deans and faculty is meeting to anticipate such impacts, to hear your concerns and to propose strategies to help mitigate the effects of the lab operations suspension. More information will be forthcoming.    

Research Administration

Central research administration functions at Notre Dame have almost entirely transitioned to remote operations. Following is a list of contacts that are regularly monitored in case you have questions:


We wish you all the very best in this trying time. Please know that the Deans and I stand ready to assist in any way we can.   

Bob Bernhard