Careful restart Cell Observatory and labs
With the necessary measures, researchers restart their work in various laboratories. The Leiden Cell Observatory is one of the places where scientists resume their lab work.
Almost two months after Leiden University called for working from home, some doors within the university are now ajar. At several locations, like the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL), some of the lab research restarted on 11 May. Annemarie Meijer, Professor of Immunobiology at the IBL, is involved in reopening the Cell Observatory in the Gorlaeus building. As a board member, Meijer represents the IBL in the microscopy facility.
Sanitising the microscope
The Cell Observatory consists of several parts. First, there are the microscopy rooms, where the IBL, the Leiden Institute of Chemistry (LIC), the Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research (LACDR) and the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION) share equipment. The microscopy rooms are now fully reopened. Meijer: ‘The large instruments are spaced apart and often already separated by curtains to minimize the light. Researchers can book a microscope and need to sanitise the equipment before and after use.’ As usual, the researchers wear a lab coat, but may not share it. The coats are kept in bags so they don't touch. ‘And they are cleaned more often’, says Meijer.
The other two parts of the Cell Observatory are the cell culture unit, managed by the LIC, and the zebrafish facility, under the care of the IBL. Here, too, researchers can book a workplace. These facilities cannot use their full capacity, according to Meijer: ‘This has to do with the room layout. In our cell culture unit, the capacity is approximately halved. At the fish facility, only a few researchers are allowed to enter at a time. Also, around noon researchers have no access at all so that the animal caretakers can do their work undisturbed. Less capacity is a major bottleneck. It makes a difference that there are no internship students now so that there is room for the researchers. But hopefully, the students will be able to resume their internships soon, even if the capacity then becomes an issue. We need to look into that.’
In other places, the research laboratories are also starting cautiously, such as the Sylvius Laboratory. IBL’s Scientific Director Gilles van Wezel: ‘We are very happy that we can at least partially get back to work. You simply cannot do laboratory work at home. At the same time, we understand that we must do it within the new standards. The researchers with high urgencies, such as doctoral candidates and postdocs at the end of their PhD trajectory, can at least resume their projects and that is very reassuring for them.’