COVID-19 affects Baylor science research

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By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer

The impact that COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, has had on society is absolutely massive. Entire states are shutting down. Both governors and mayors have given stay-in-place orders in many states and counties, including Waco. Consequently, colleges have also shut down.

Something that COVID-19, as well as the lack of students on campus, has affected in the Baylor community is research. Specifically, these circumstances have impacted both the type of research and the ability to conduct research.

Dr. Marlan Scully, distinguished research academician of science and engineering who directs the advanced quantum mechanics laboratory at the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative, said that he is currently focusing his research on coronaviruses, specifically on trying to detect any potential coronaviruses which could appear in the future.

“We’re working on ways to detect the coronavirus,” Scully said. “So you say you have a single virus, how would you go about proving that it’s there. You can use physics and modern laser techniques. . . What we’re doing is looking at the problem from not today’s COVID-19, but the COVID-20 and COVID-21, how is it going to be different? What can we do? What kind of measurements can we make to prove that a given virus, not looking at the antibodies but the virus itself, is the culprit?”

Scully said that while he is able to work at labs outside of Baylor and still conduct research, COVID-19 is still impacting some aspects of his work.

“Much of the research that we do involves people coming here,” Scully said. “My students at Baylor, my post-docs at Baylor coming [to labs off Baylor campus,] so that’s why my research hasn’t been affected by the Baylor campus restrictions. [COVID-19] certainly affects my research in general. I can’t drive out and go to a restaurant. I can’t go into the office of my assistant and order stuff I need to do an experiment. So all of that’s very much affecting my research.”

On the other hand, Geoscience Professor and Interim Chair Dr. Steven Driese said that COVID-19 and the lack of students on campus is directly impacting his lab’s research.

“A lot of labs have graduate students working in them and some labs have undergraduates as well,” Driese said. “Without them working and conducting their research, there’s going to be a gap of research productivity. That’s inevitable. Students are integral to many of the research labs, the engagement of both graduates and undergraduates.”

Driese also said that there are some actions related to his lab, such as feeding fish in an aquarium and keeping certain pieces of equipment running, that are important to continue every day.

In a statement Monday night, Baylor president Linda Livingstone did say that essential laboratory operations will still be permissible, as long as they can be performed while meeting the six feet requirement for social distancing.