ISTC postdoctoral researcher Kirtika Kohli is working on a project led by B.K. Sharma to develop novel catalysts for making chemicals from CO2. As the state of Illinois has entered phase 4 of COVID recovery, Kohli has been able to return to work in the lab while observing appropriate precautions, including wearing a face mask and following designated one-way paths while entering, leaving, and moving about the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center facility.
Only a single person works in the lab at a time, but Kohli says “Still I feel I need to be very careful, not for me only but for others, too.”
Q. What precautions and safety procedures are you employing to reduce risk while working in the lab?
When I enter the lab, I follow the standard lab safety procedures, including putting on a lab coat, a pair of gloves, and eye googles (to protect my eyes). I also disinfect all the lab surfaces, such as benchtops, fume hood, reactor surfaces, etc.
After I am done with my work in the lab, I clean the lab space and eye goggles with disinfectant, discard the gloves in a trash bag, remove my lab coat, and wash my hands with soap at least two times. As I am leaving the facility, I pass multiple disinfecting stations, so I make sure to use hand sanitizer each time.
As a researcher, our minds are often thinking about experiments, so the posted signs that explain the guidelines about room occupancy, restroom use, social distancing, etc. are good to remind us.
Following a single path to enter and a single path to exit the facility sometimes gives you a smile, like you are playing some game in which you need to follow red big signs!
Q. Are there new challenges that arise because of these precautions?
Wearing a mask all the time—sometimes it feels OK and sometimes it is irritating. The major challenge is to speak loudly while wearing a mask when you are in a conference call.