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COVID-19 Spreads, New York Institutions Remain Resilient

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New York state universities have begun moving to online classes. Courtesy of University of Rochester.

ROCHESTER, N.Y., March 12, 2020 — With COVID-19 spreading across the U.S., universities are facing decisions of closing live classes and navigating to online formats. Among such schools is the University of Rochester, which has moved most undergraduate and graduate classes online for the rest of the school year. Other New York state schools following suit include Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), St. John Fisher College, and Nazareth College.

In a written statement, RIT President David Munson encouraged students to remain indoors.

“While completing classes during this time, students may choose to reside at their permanent place of residence or their on/off-campus residence, where social distancing and enhanced preventative public health and hygiene measures will be actively encouraged,” Munson said.

Scott Carney, the director of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester, said the institute has been resourceful during the pandemic.

“At the institute we are fortunate that we have gotten through much of the work in our core lab classes already,” Carney said. “We also benefit from that fact that optics is everywhere; it’s the physics you can see. There are experiments that can be done with a black sheet of paper and some scissors, or a cellphone and some standard LEDs.”

In cases where stopgap measures for improvised experiments are not a good option, Carney said the institute will provide students with sample data they can use while working on their understanding of the data analysis, big ideas, and “enduring understandings” the faculty hopes they will carry from the program.

Todd Krauss, chair of the Chemistry Department and a professor of optics, said that graduate students and postdocs have been allowed to carry on with their laboratory work, leaving the overall research mission minimally affected.

“That said, we have lots of undergraduates doing senior projects and/or senior research theses, and these projects will have to be terminated, which is a big disappointment of course,” Krauss said. “Many of our undergraduate students in Chemistry — and I suspect Optics — are asking me if they can continue lab work, showing how excited and passionate about science our undergraduates are at Rochester.”

In the Chemistry Department, Krauss said his faculty is having to be creative about about finishing labs for the semester because hundreds of first- and second-year students are taught with labs, many of the students fulfilling a requirement for medical school.

For Carney’s senior design students who are three-fourths through the school year, Carney said that most are in good shape and that his faculty will find a way for all of them to finish “with the knowledge, skills, and understanding that are part of our core mission to educate the finest optical engineers in the world.”
Mar 2020
BusinessUniversity of RochesterRochester Institute of TechnologycoronavirusScott CarneyTodd KraussOpticschemistry

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