A Response to COVID-19

To The Singh Community:

As you know, Penn is coping with the potential arrival of COVID-19, and modifying policies to limit the transmission of the disease. The purpose of this communication is to detail the Singh Center policies during this time period. These policies are subject to change as the overall situation and University policy dictates. In addition to the below, current policies regarding laboratory safety remain in full effect.

  1. The Singh Center currently plans to remain open, with its mission to facilitate experimental nanotechnology research intact.

We have surveyed other universities both through our membership in the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure network as well as via other contacts. Most of our peer universities have some sort of social distancing policies in place, including moving to online instruction. In addition, most of these universities are keeping their nano facilities open. This is because (1) the user base and facility/building access is already relatively restricted; and (2) there are already innate isolation and cleanliness practices, especially in the fabrication facilities, put in place to minimize contamination during processing. The Center will remain open to serve both internal and external users.

  1. Enhanced cleaning protocols will be put in place.

Singh Center staff, together with housekeeping staff, will be enhancing cleaning protocols in critical areas, including the gowning area, shared microscope keyboards and computer mice (especially in the characterization area), and door latches. Supplies of cleaning wipes will be made available to users at critical locations. Users are encouraged to wipe down shared areas as appropriate. New policies may be forthcoming; in particular, there may be policy modifications regarding the use of gowns, and policies requiring the use of disposable gloves and wipes while using equipment/keyboards in the characterization area. Please pay attention to, and comply with, any policy changes.  

  1. Staff will be rotated.

Effective immediately, and in accordance with best practices, Singh staff will rotate into ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams to minimize the chance of disease spreading throughout (or via) the staff. This will not have impact on overall operations, although the speed of delivery of some services (e.g., machine maintenance, target swapping, etc.) may be impacted at the margins. Please bear with us during this time.

  1. New user training will be restricted.

In accordance with point 3 above, and until Penn changes its current policy, the training of new users will be restricted. Internal (Penn) users will continue to be trained, although since the main propriety of the staff will be facility operations, the frequency of training classes may be reduced. Some equipment may be set to ‘night/weekend’ mode even during the day, meaning that only fully qualified users may operate the equipment until they can be trained. New external users will not be trained during this time period. Currently, the next training opportunity for new external users will be scheduled after April 17. This date is subject to change.

  1. In-person classes, tours, and external meetings are cancelled.

In accordance with Penn policy, in-person classes, tours, and meetings are cancelled. Singh facilities including conference rooms remain open and available for research meetings for internal Penn research groups.

  1. Numbers of simultaneous users in the individual characterization labs will be limited.

The electron beam, ion beam, and scanning and local probe laboratories consist of a large number of small rooms, each housing 1-2 instruments. In accordance with social distancing practices, only a single user should be present in any of these rooms at a time, unless directed otherwise by staff.

  1. Additional Resources are available for more information.

Please bookmark and consult Penn’s main COVID-19 page: https://coronavirus.upenn.edu/

University-wide policies and information will be posted there. Also, please bookmark and consult the Vice Provost for Research – Research Continuity Page: https://research.upenn.edu/resources/coronavirus/

Finally, please be aware of CDC recommendations for personal protection and community spread reduction: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html

Thank you for your patience during this time.

Mark G. Allen
Alfred Fitler Moore Professor
Singh Center for Nanotechnology