Sarmila Katuwal is involved in two research projects at ISTC. The first, led by B.J. Sharma, focuses on optimization of kraft lignin depolymerization. In the second, led by Wei Zheng, she is working on design of a biochar to capture dissolved phosphorous and ammonia nitrogen from tile drainage water.
Now that the state of Illinois has entered phase 4 of its COVID recovery plan and Katuwal is back in the lab, she talks about what has changed due to COVID-19.
Q. What precautions and safety procedures are you employing to reduce risk?
The new safety protocols and guidelines by ISTC has made our work lot easier during this crisis. I am strictly using a face mask, practicing social distancing, and avoiding using common spaces in the office, like the lunchroom and conference room. Also, I wear proper PPE (like gloves, lab coat, eye glass) while conducting my research in the lab and do frequent hand cleaning and sanitizing.
The new one-way traffic flow system in the office building and one-person-per-lab rule has helped to reduce the possibility of social contact. In addition, I strictly follow lab cleaning protocols, which involves sanitizing the instruments and work area before and after conducting the experiment.
Q. Are there new challenges that have arisen in the lab?
The new challenges are mostly getting accustomed to new health safety protocols and making sure to follow the procedures strictly to keep myself and others safe. Also, when wearing a face mask and eyeglass together, sometimes, if the face mask is not fitted properly your eyeglass becomes foggy.
I am happy with ISTC's current protocols, and I hope they will continue, too.