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University reorganizes science labs for student safety

University reorganizes science labs for student safety

By Gabriela Chapa
Bridge Staff Intern

Published Monday, Oct. 12, 2020

In an attempt to further prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the University reorganized many of its science labs for Fall 2020. The new Texas A&M International University Flex courses and other virtual classroom options, such as the changes to science labs, make up part of a new University plan unveiled in August.

“This TAMIU Back Together Plan is the product of five committees formed by President Arenaz that included faculty, staff, students and administrators,” according to the TAMIU student FAQs on the coronavirus webpage. “Their recommendations, along with guidance from The Texas A&M University System, guides our safe return to campus this fall. Our goal has always been to create an environment that is as safe as possible for all of our community members, while ensuring our mission – excellence in learning, teaching and scholarship – continues.”

Environmental Health and Safety Manager Adrian Dominguez works alongside other departments to implement these changes to certain science labs that were under the face-to-face format.

Steven Martinez | Bridge
Science students social distance on Sept. 2 in the Lamar Bruni Vergara Science Center.

“Some of the adjustments to the science labs are as follows: requirement of face coverings in all labs, furniture was adjusted or removed for 6-foot social distancing guidelines, some labs were outfitted with ‘do not sit’ and ‘social distancing’ stickers, containers with disinfecting wipes were placed in the labs for individual use and lab occupancies were reduced.”

These rules were implemented using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the City of Laredo and the Texas A&M University System. Some of the buildings affected the most were the Lamar Bruni Vergara Science Center and the Academic Innovation Center.

Dominguez said that even though it was a difficult process to follow, his department received help from other departments that made everything possible.

“It took many hours and was a process that began with obtaining total square footage of all the labs to determine maximum capacity with social distancing in mind,” Dominguez said, “and then measuring each lab physically, since most labs have fixed furniture … Some of the capacities had to change because of the furniture available in each lab. The rest of the physical work was marking and/or adjusting furniture in the labs. Physical Plant also played a key role in installing the wipe dispensers.”

Biology major Monica Molina said these changes affected her semester. She finds the online labs more difficult and is happy labs returned to face-to-face.

“The change in Spring 2020, which went from black to white quickly, was hard to adjust to,” Molina said. “Now that we have an option to go back to face-to-face is a little simpler. I do find the labs difficult online. The reason for a laboratory is to learn from hands-on and trial-and-error. Online labs are not the same nor allow us to learn the same.

“The adjustments done are good. They allow us to be spread out and have more one-to-one construction when it comes to face-to-face labs. The online ones are not my cup of tea but no further options are available.”

TAMIU’s administration, faculty and staff continue with their goal of keeping students safe as they keep recommending to carry your own hand sanitizer, wear your face mask, and offer on-campus testing for students, faculty and staff.

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