Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

The health and well-being of PME’s community both on- and off-campus is our top priority. This page contains the latest news and information specific to the PME community regarding the response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The University is providing information on planning the resumption of programs and operations on campus on the UChicago Forward site. You can also find extensive information about public health, how to protect yourself, travel advisories and guidelines, and support resources on the online coronavirus information hub. The University asks that everyone who is returning to campus commit to protecting our community by following the UChicago Health Pact.

More health information is available from UChicago Medicine, CDPH, and the CDC

COVID-19 Research at PME

Researchers at Pritzker Molecular Engineering have dedicated their labs and resources to pressing research questions surrounding the global pandemic of COVID-19.

These multidisciplinary projects focus on approaches to detecting and treating the virus, screening vaccines and antibodies, determining the efficacy of protective equipment, and more.

UChicago Technical COVID-19 Response Team

The UChicago Technical COVID-19 Response Team is composed of faculty, staff, and students from across campus working together to solve urgent technical engineering problems to improve COVID-19 outcomes. If you need help or would like to propose a project, please contact them.

To: PME Community
From: PME Building Administrator Matt Williams
Subject: Consumption and workspace within the ERC
Date: April 6, 2021

In our efforts to continually adapt to the needs of the PME community, I am writing to update everyone on consumption and workspaces within the ERC.

Due to higher demand, ERC 102 has been designated as a consumption-only space. In addition to the ERC 1st floor café seating, ERC 381, and ERC 219, we now have four dedicated dining areas that can be used by all.

To allow for temporary work areas, we have transitioned ERC 161 into socially distanced desk space for individuals who are on their PI’s approved research resumption plan. These spaces are available on a first-come/first-served basis and are for temporary use only. As the room will be open 24/7, please do not leave items unattended. We have also added a few tables and chairs to the atrium as well.

As a reminder, masks must be worn in all campus areas, inside and out,  at all times, with the exception of when you are eating in a designated consumption area.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: PME Building Administrator Matt Williams
Subject: ERC dock closed tomorrow
Date: February 15, 2021

Due to the inclement weather, the ERC dock will be closing early today (2/15) and will be closed all day tomorrow (2/16). Regular operations will resume Wednesday morning (2/17). Please plan any needed shipments accordingly and thank you for your patience and understanding.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Facilities Director Paul Julson
Subject: Extreme cold weather forecasted 
Date: February 4, 2021

With the negative cold weather temperatures forecasted through the weekend and into next week, the building support team will be on site monitoring the building and offices for various condensation issues and any other potential issues that may arise. To minimize condensation, please remove objects from the windowsill in your lab and office space and keep window shades open. Please forward any specific concerns to Paul Julson, Jennifer Robles, and Matt Williams.

PME Building Support Team Contact information:

  • Paul Julson: Cell phone: 847.707.0956
  • Jen Robles: Cell phone: 773.569.7320
  • Matt Williams: Cell phone: 773.673.4282

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Senior Associate Dean Joshua Berg
Subject: PME Requirements to Return to or Visit Campus
Date: June 24, 2020

This message is intended to address some recent questions about requirements to return to or visit campus.

All University of Chicago Personnel who return to campus must complete the Health Attestation and Training below; if you have already completed the Health attestation and training, thank you. 

  1. Health attestation
  2. Appropriate lab or non-lab online safety training:
    • Laboratory-based researchLog in and select the training titled “COVID-19 Controlled Resumption of Research Activities.”
    • -OR-
    • Non-laboratory-based research and personnel training: Log in and select the training titled “COVID-19 General Safety Training.”
  • All personnel returning to work as part of a research group, whether in an office or lab, must also be included on the essential personnel list of an approved PI Return to Research plan.
  • For University of Chicago personnel who are NOT on approved essential personnel lists, but who have a critical need to pick up items from an office or the ERC dock, you must complete the above health attestation and training, and must also contact Matt Williams ( to coordinate access/pickup.  After Matt confirms that your attestation and training have been completed, a pick-up time can be coordinated.


Please remember that anyone not on an approved, faculty-submitted R2R personnel form cannot enter campus buildings without explicit approval from the PME administration. If you have a someone that you need to enter your research space (e.g., a technician coming to install or repair equipment), please contact Maria Rubio ( and she will let you know what information is required for review by the Return to Research review committee.

  • Health & Safety is our first priority. We expect all individuals to follow health and safety regulations, procedures, and requirements designed to mitigate the risk of viral transmission. The following plans are being implemented to promote a successful gradual return to our facilities:
  • Access to campus buildings will follow a standardized process requiring divisional approval, verification of completion of required training, a health attestation, and coordination with campus partners in DSS and BSD.
  • Please assess your own health status before entering any building on campus; if you are sick, do not come to campus.
  • A Monitoring Team consisting of Paul Julson, Jennifer Robles, and Matt Williams will walk through PME spaces from 8 AM-8 PM Monday through Friday and from 12 PM-4 PM on weekends, addressing masking and social distancing issues, and will be available to field questions.
  • CARE Ambassadors will be stationed at building entrances around campus from 7 AM-7 PM Monday through Friday, checking for mask compliance, social distancing, and safe building entry.
  • Universal masking and social distancing (6 feet from other people) will be required on campus.
    • Cloth masks will be provided to all returning personnel.
    • If your lab is in ERC, when you first return, you can pick up an envelope containing your cloth masks from the “care ambassador” who will be stationed at the NE main entrance of the ERC
    • If your lab is located outside of the ERC, the mask-containing envelopes will be grouped together and one person from the lab will pick up the group’s envelopes from the dock.
    • Should you forget your cloth mask, a disposable mask will be provided at the building entrance by our Care Ambassador.
      • Cloth masks should be washed daily with soap and water or 70% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol.
  • Frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizing stations is highly encouraged. 
    • Hand sanitizer stations have been set up near building entrances and in many common areas such as lobbies and elevator banks.
  • Disposable dry wipe dispensers and garbage cans will be distributed near high touch areas including elevator buttons and select door handles.
  • Health and safety signage will be posted at entrances, poster boards, elevator banks, and restrooms.
  • Social-distance markers will be placed at elevator banks and other gathering areas to promote social distancing.
  • Entrance and exit pathways will be marked in ERC.
  • In ERC, elevators will be marked as single-occupancy.
  • All kitchens/coffee machines/refrigerators should be locked and/or signed as closed and not to be used (no exceptions). Any food should be cleaned out.
  • The Quantum Café will remain closed until further notice.
  • Common area/lounge furniture has been moved and securely stored.
  • Water dispensing stations are closed and signed accordingly
    • Water bottles will be available near the dispensing stations.
  • Eating anywhere in campus buildings is strongly discouraged. Eat at home if possible, or outside.
    • However, where eating outside is not possible, PME has designated the ERC 381 conference room as a consumption room, with two separated eating areas, each with a single chair. Isopropyl alcohol in spray bottles and paper towels will be available in each area, with garbage cans nearby for pre- and post-wiping of surfaces. There will be a check-in/check-out system and a 15-minute time limit for use of this space.
  • Beginning Monday, 3/23/20, the ERC loading dock operational hours will be reduced to 8am to 12 pm, Monday through Friday.
  • One staff member will be on site each day to facilitate shipping and receiving functions.
  • During these hours, the dock will be accessible for any shipments that need to go out and for any packages that you would like to pick up yourselves if you are on campus.
  • One mail run will be performed each day, between 12 -1 pm. Packages not delivered will be held on the dock and recipients will be notified.
  • All expected freight deliveries must be communicated to the dock as soon as you have an expected arrival date. We will make every effort to accommodate these deliveries, but we must have as much detail as possible about what we are receiving and when. Any uncommunicated freight delivered outside of the revised hours will not be able to access the dock and may be held by the carrier or returned to the sender.
  • Gasses will still be inventoried daily and changed as necessary. If you are in need of products from Airgas, please place your order with the dock personnel no later than Friday at noon. One order will be placed on Monday morning for Tuesday delivery as needed. A limited supply is being held on site for emergency replacements.

If you have any questions about the updated dock schedule and function, please reach out to Maurice Perry ( and Matt Williams (

To: PME faculty, staff, students, and postdocs
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: PME return-to-campus planning
Date: June 16, 2021

Per the message from Katie Callow-Wright this morning, the University is planning for a full resumption of activities for Autumn Quarter, including all research, education, and staff functions. Individual schools and units are responsible for developing staff return-to-campus and research return-to-campus plans following current University guidelines and federal, state, and city guidance.

This message provides a brief update on PME planning efforts, as well as restates University vaccination requirements and policies.

Vaccination Information

As the University announced on May 18, all students participating in in-person classes, research, or activities in the U.S. are required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 starting with the 2021 Autumn Quarter. The University will be centrally enforcing the student vaccine requirement and recently provided students with information on how to confirm that they have satisfied this requirement. To make a vaccination appointment, students can email

The University is continuing to evaluate whether the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for all academic appointees, postdoctoral researchers, and staff. Per University guidance, individual units should not require anyone to disclose or provide their vaccination status. Employees who would like to schedule a vaccination appointment should call UCM at 773.834.8221, and you can email for assistance with obtaining a vaccine or visit the City of Chicago’s website for options near you.

Research Resumption Planning

Per University guidance, PME will no longer enforce capacity limits or require social distancing within labs. The University will consider easing masking requirements later this summer, though face coverings over the nose and mouth are still required in University buildings at this time. Individual lab groups should determine how they plan to proceed in light of this new guidance. We understand that many members of our community will choose to maintain distance and use face coverings for various reasons, and we request everyone to act with consideration and understanding regarding these choices.

Staff Return to Campus

PME has convened a working group that includes representatives from across business units to plan for the transition back to in-person work for staff. This effort is separate from the research planning process above and will proceed on its own timeline.

Through this process, we aim to develop a flexible and equitable approach to alternative work arrangements that can accommodate the diversity of roles at PME. Once PME’s plan has been approved by the PME executive committee, we will communicate it broadly. Current work arrangements will remain in place until the new plan has been communicated.

The working group members include the following, who welcome feedback on the plan:

I appreciate your patience and flexibility during the planning process. More communications will follow as plans become finalized and approved.

Matthew Tirrell

To: PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell, PME Dean
Subject: Return-to-research Update
Date: June 9, 2021

Dear PME community,

In light of the City of Chicago moving to Phase 5 on Friday, June 11, the University is aware that PIs, students and researchers are eager for information on when UChicago laboratories can resume operating similarly to pre-COVID conditions. The University is awaiting clarification on higher education COVID-19 guidelines from the State and City before an update can be relayed. Until clarification is received and communicated, current University COVID-19 guidelines will remain in place.

Thank you for your patience in waiting for the University research resumption update.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Undergraduates allowed to return to PME labs and facilities on Thursday, April 22
Date: April 20, 2021

In accordance with the April 19 update from Michele Rasmussen, undergraduate students may return to PME laboratories and facilities on Thursday, April 22. Lab access will be restored to those undergraduates on a PI’s approved return-to-research plan and any undergraduates, who have ID card access issues, should contact Matt Williams at

As a reminder, if you have any symptoms, please stay home and get tested. Anyone who is symptomatic, identified as a close contact by a contact tracer or tests positive, should report immediately to and let your PI/supervisor know. 

Thank you for your continued cooperation in complying with all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and keeping each other safe.

To: PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Effective immediately: Undergraduates restricted from PME labs and facilities through at least April 15
Date: April 8, 2021

In accordance with restrictions for undergraduate students outlined below by Michele Rasmussen and Eric Heath, effective immediately undergraduate students are prohibited from entering PME laboratories and facilities through at least April 15 and cannot return until further notice from PME. This is a precautionary measure to keep the campus community as safe as possible from the cluster of COVID-19 cases in the undergraduate student population.

Anyone who is symptomatic, identified as a close contact by a contact tracer or tests positive, please report immediately to and let your PI/supervisor know. As a reminder, testing is available for all campus community members at

Thank you for continuing to follow the requirements of the UChicago Health Pact, including wearing face coverings, maintaining a distance of 6 feet whenever possible, and complying with all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

To: PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Winter Quarter Welcome and Winter Attestation
Date: January 19, 2021

I hope you have had a good start to the Winter Quarter. I am happy to welcome everyone to the new year, and to welcome back undergraduate researchers who have been cleared to work in labs per the updated University research resumption guidelines.

Thank you to those who have submitted their Winter Quarter attestation form. All members of the University community, whether you will be on campus or not, are required to complete the online attestation form for the Winter Quarter. The attestation acknowledges that you have completed the University’s COVID-19 Safety Training and will comply with the University’s COVID-19 health requirements. 

The Winter Quarter attestation must be submitted today. You must complete the Winter Quarter attestation even if you completed the attestation for Autumn Quarter. If have not yet completed the Winter Attestation, please do so as soon as possible. The online training, a requirement separate from attestation, has not changed and will not need to be retaken if previously completed.

We have done a great job limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus so far, and I urge everyone to continue to follow the UChicago Health Pact and to keep up-to-date on University guidelines by visiting the Go Forward website. I look forward to a gradual return to more normal circumstances as vaccination plans rollout this year, and to a time when we can safely resume additional activities. I appreciate your continuing efforts as we move forward with a safe, healthy, and productive new quarter.

To: PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Winter Recess and AURA upgrade
Date: December 17, 2020

As we approach the end of 2020, I want to thank everyone for their efforts, adaptability, and collegiality during a year of unanticipated challenges and uncertain circumstances. I know we will carry over this spirit of resilience and drive into the new year during which we will surely and progressively move toward a more normal mode of working.

As a reminder, the President and Provost announced a Winter Recess between the University holidays of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day in recognition of our staff members’ exceptional dedication and hard work this year. All non-essential functions of the University will be closed during this period. I ask that you respect this closure and refrain from emails and other non-essential business as much as possible. 

Staff, please use the “Winter Recess” code to indicate this time off in Workday. For staff who must be on campus during this period, please contact PME human resources to receive credit for “make-up” personal days that can be used between January 2 and June 30, 2021. Additional information on Winter Recess can be found in these FAQs. The provost’s office reminds us that the Winter Recess benefit applies to postdocs, as well.

AURA upgrade

Faculty, please take note of the announcement from University Research Administration regarding an upgrade to the AURA grants system that will require six days of downtime. Due to the upgrade, URA will have extremely limited business capacity beginning at noon on Thursday, December 24, 2020 and will resume operations on Monday, January 4, 2021. 

When possible, submit all pre-proposals that require URA submission, proposals, and JITs with deadlines that fall within the above dates to URA no later than 5 pm CST on Thursday, December 17, 2020 to allow time to address any urgent issues that may arise. If you anticipate submitting proposals with early January deadlines, please contact Jacob Homan or your pre-award grant specialist in URA so that they will be prepared to turn your proposal around quickly after Winter Recess.

Thank you for your attention to these matters. I hope everyone enjoys a restful and restorative end of year.

To: PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Update on City of Chicago Emergency Travel Order
Date: November 12, 2020


A reminder that the City of Chicago Emergency Travel Order will be modified effective tomorrow, Friday, November 13.

As COVID-19 cases surge nationally, the Chicago Department of Public Health will categorize states as red, orange, or yellow, with different guidelines for each color. Categories will be updated every other Tuesday by noon. If you choose to travel for the holiday season, carefully check your destination’s category before your departure and return, and plan accordingly.  For example, a destination might be “orange” when departing for travel and then change to “red” before returning, which would require a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Chicago.

For questions about when you may return to a PME lab after travel, contact your PI and/or Maria Rubio at If you are a non-research PME staff member, contact your supervisor regarding when you may return to campus after travel.

If you experience COVID-19 symptoms, the University provides testing services through University of Chicago Medicine and UChicago Student Wellness. As a reminder, the University requires that a positive COVID-19 diagnosis be promptly self-reported at Information about reported exposures on campus can be found on the COVD-19 Dashboard and additional COVID-19 resources are available on the UChicago Forward website.

Thank you for staying informed and following University protocols and the University Health Pact. Your efforts have contributed to the low number of COVID-19 cases on campus, and we must continue to keep each other and ourselves safe and healthy, especially as COVID-19 cases spike across the country. I appreciate your continued cooperation as we work through this evolving situation together.


To: PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Reporting Protocol for Positive COVID-19
Date: October 27, 2020

Today we learned that an individual in the Eckhardt Research Center tested positive for COVID-19. This individual followed appropriate University protocol, including staying off campus when feeling ill, and self-reported their positive test to, as well as to their supervisor/PI. The University’s Contact Tracing program has been initiated, and the individual is resting at home.

I would like to remind the PME community of the University’s reporting protocol for a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and that you can find information about reported exposures on campus through the COVD-19 Dashboard.  This and additional information about COVID-19 is available on the UChicago Forward website.

This also serves as an important reminder to continue to follow the health and safety guidelines outlined in the University Health Pact. If you have concerns or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the University provides testing services through University of Chicago Medicine and UChicago Student Wellness.

I thank you in advance for staying informed about and following University protocols and the University Health Pact, and I appreciate your continued cooperation in keeping each other and ourselves safe and healthy. Let’s stay safe, remain vigilant, and be well.


To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Inappropriate building access
Date: October 25, 2020

Last week, I received an incident report concerning a member of the PME community who, not in possession of the required ID card, followed another person (not in PME) into a locked building, then to an elevator bank. The second person appropriately called another car to ride separately. The incident was captured on video, reported through UCAIR, and noted with chagrin by me and by University research leadership.

Under no circumstances should anyone tailgate anyone else into restricted buildings, nor allow themselves to be tailgated, as this undermines the access protocols put in place to promote community health and safety. No one at any level, faculty, staff, researcher or student, is authorized to ignore these protocols.

Should you happen to find yourself without your ID card, and need access to your space, please either text Matt Williams (773.673.4282), or, if available, use an electronic directory near the entrance to select buildings to summon a building manager to help you obtain access.

Thank you,

To: PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Reporting Protocol for Positive COVID-19
Date: October 9, 2020

Today we learned that an individual in the Eckhardt Research Center tested positive for COVID-19. This individual followed appropriate University protocol and self-reported the positive test to, as well as to their supervisor/PI. The University’s Contact Tracing program has been initiated, and the individual is at home and feeling well.

I would like to remind the PME community of the University’s reporting protocol for a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and that you can find information about reported exposures on campus through the COVD-19 Dashboard.  This and additional information about COVID-19 is available on the UChicago Forward website. 

This also serves as an important reminder to continue to follow the health and safety guidelines outlined in the University Health Pact. If you have concerns or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the University provides testing services through University of Chicago Medicine and UChicago Student Wellness.

I thank you in advance for staying informed about and following University protocols and the University Health Pact, and I appreciate the great job our community has done in keeping each other and ourselves safe and healthy. Let’s stay safe, be vigilant, and be well.

To: PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Welcome to Autumn Quarter
Date: September 29, 2020

Dear PME community,

Welcome to the first day of the Autumn Quarter. To those new to our community, including our incoming PhD students and our first cohort of master’s students, welcome to the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.

We start the academic year continuing to navigate changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have had great success over the summer resuming on-campus research, first at 25 percent occupancy of lab spaces, and now at 50 percent. Our students, faculty, postdocs, and staff have done an outstanding job of upholding the University’s Heath Pact, and in protecting the health and safety of ourselves and each other. Continued flexibility, adaptability, and vigilance will be key in creating a meaningful and productive Autumn Quarter. Let’s keep up the good work.

To help you with questions or concerns during this quarter and beyond, below is a list of University and PME resources and contacts you can consult for information and guidance.

General University resources

  • UChicago Forward – information and updates on public health requirements as well as the resumption of activities on campus, including research, education, workplace, and more.
  • COVID-19 Exposure Protocol – information on when and how to report a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Those who test positive must self-report to
  • UCAIR – use this site to report an accident or safety issue on campus, including any concerns about COVID-19 public health violations.
  • Autumn Quarter Information Line, 773.795.5374  – available 8am-6pm, Monday-Friday for questions about Autumn Quarter, including health and safety requirements and COVID-19 testing.

University resources for remote teaching and learning

PME resources and contacts

  • PME COVID-19 Updates – PME-specific information and updates regarding COVID-19, including dean’s messages and current COVID-19 research.
  • PME Suggestion Form – anonymously report COVID-19 issues or other suggestions and concerns.

The following individuals are available for information in their area of expertise:

We will also continue to update the PME website as new information becomes available.

I appreciate and am grateful for all of the efforts our community has made in response to extraordinary circumstances, and I am confident that we will continue to work together to create a healthy and successful Autumn Quarter.

To: PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Required COVID-19 Training and Attestation
Date: September 24, 2020

The University requires that everyone who will be on campus in the Autumn Quarter, which starts on 9/29, MUST complete the following requirements before 9/29 or risk the loss of campus building access:

  1. Online COVID-19 Training
  • Employees and Non-lab-based Researchers (mainly computer-only research): “COVID-19 General Safety Training” (cvd-02w); or
  • Lab-based Researchers: “COVID-19 Controlled Resumption of Research Activities” (cvd-01w).

If you have already completed your required course, you do not need to retake it. If you are unsure of which training to take, complete the lab-based researcher training.

  1. New health attestation

                If you completed this new attestation version on or after 9/10, you do not need to retake it.

Please complete these requirements as soon as possible to allow for the processing of building access. Any PME faculty, researchers or personnel who have building access issues with their ID card and are included in an approved PME research or workplace plan should contact PME Building Administrator Matt Williams at

I appreciate your cooperation with this policy as we continue to take care of the health and safety of ourselves and each other.


To: PME graduate students
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Research resumption and graduation timelines
Date: August 26, 2020

PME graduate students,

With health and safety our top priorities, the PME has moved from 25% occupancy in our lab spaces (Phase 2) in June to our current 50% occupancy (Phase 3). I am pleased to report that since the University’s contact tracing program has started, there have been no reported incidences of COVID-19 in PME. 

This is in large part due to you and your peers following the health and safety protocols developed by the University and the health and safety guidelines developed by each lab group. I appreciate and thank you for these efforts. Please keep it up.

Overall, I have heard our students express excitement over the opportunity to return to campus and resume their research activity. Nevertheless, there are concerns that it may take longer to complete research projects due to the pandemic.

Recognizing that each student’s work will be impacted in different ways, it is our hope that with the support of PIs and mentors and the use of good time management, the majority of our students will be able to graduate within their expected timeframe. For those whose research has been significantly impacted, please know that we plan to be as flexible as possible in supporting you through this challenge and onto graduation. 

Our Dean of Students Office is available for questions or concerns and to provide guidance:

You can also visit the UChicago Forward website for the latest updates on the University’s plans for Autumn Quarter, and the PME COVID-19 Updates webpage for PME-specific information.

I look forward to building a successful Autumn Quarter with you.

Matt Tirrell

To: PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Entering the ERC and campus buildings
Date: August 17, 2020

We have received reports from the University regarding individuals “tailgating” into the ERC – where one person swipes in using their keycard and a group enters the building, or where individuals already in the building let others in without swiping.

University and PME guidelines require that each individual entering a campus building individually swipes in using their keycard. This policy helps ensure that we are maintaining an appropriate density within our buildings per city and state guidelines, that only approved personnel are entering buildings, and will be helpful in the event that contact tracing is needed. Individual swiping is required even if all members of an entering group are approved personnel and are familiar with one another.

I ask that we respect this policy and that any individual entering a building individually swipes in. Please note, all ERC entrances are available to approved personnel, you no longer have to enter through the northeast entrance.

If you are approved personnel and are having issues using your keycard to access a building, contact a member of the facilities team and they will help resolve the issue:

I appreciate your cooperation with this policy. Let’s continue to work together to take care of the health and safety of ourselves and each other.

Thanks, Matt

To: All PME Students
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: F-1 Student Visa Program
Date: July 9, 2020

Dear PME Students,

On Monday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency within the Department of Homeland Security with oversight of the F-1 student visa program, issued policy guidance related to COVID-19 course adaptations made by colleges and universities for the autumn 2020 academic term.

As announced on June 30 by President Zimmer, the University of Chicago is pursuing a hybrid model of course delivery for the autumn: a mixture of both online and in-person classes. PME instructors teaching in the autumn are already organizing for hybrid course delivery.

Incoming PME students will meet with faculty advisers in September to develop a course schedule that is appropriate to their research interests and takes into consideration potential visa-related constraints.

Current PME students are all registered for research courses supervised by their PIs. Nearly all are engaged in research that would involve in-person, on-site engagement.  Additionally, PME is currently planning to offer courses with in-person components, which would be available including to current international students who are still pursuing course requirements or who need to take additional courses.

We expect that issues and guidance in this area will change and evolve over the summer. (Already, a legal challenge has been filed concerning the new policies). University of Chicago departments/offices are coordinating to partner with each other, with central administration, with professional organizations, and with our Ivy Plus network to provide student support, further clarification, and analysis. Please be reassured that the goal of the PME and the broader University is to support all of our students in having a positive, robust, and engaging Autumn Quarter.

We wish you all well and will provide updates as soon as we have them. The Office of International Affairs will post updates and additional information on their website. You may also contact Rovana Popoff or David Taylor if you have specific concerns regarding the new F-1 student visa policy expectations.

To: All Members of the PME Community 
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell 
Subject: Autumn Quarter 2020 
Date: June 30, 2020 

PME colleagues,

Per President Zimmer and Provost Lee’s message this afternoon, PME’s academic committee and business continuity team have begun development of Autumn Quarter and return-to-workplace plans in accordance with the University’s guidelines and protocols. We will share details of those plans as they become available.

On June 15, we began the resumption of on-campus research activity following extensive planning by our return-to-research committee. I am pleased to note that the PME community has taken our shared responsibility of health and safety seriously and emphasize the importance of continuing to follow the public health protocols developed by the University. 

You can find the most up-to-date information about the University’s plans for resumption of campus activities on the UChicago Forward website, and PME-specific information on our COVID-19 Updates page. There are also two resources available for anonymously reporting on-campus safety concerns or violations: 

We have faced a number of challenges this year, and I value the cooperative and collegial way the PME community has worked together to face and overcome them. We will continue to focus on our core values of collaboration and innovation as we finalize our academic and return-to-workplace plans, and we will prioritize the health and safety of our community in our decisions. I look forward to creating a successful Autumn Quarter with you.


On June 11, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering held a town hall to discuss two important topics: research resumption planning and Pritzker Molecular Engineering’s shared values of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

In the first half of the meeting, members of the PME Return-to-Research Committee detailed the safety measures put in place for researchers to resume some on-campus activities, noting that no one should be pressured to return to campus if they are uncomfortable doing so. All those returning to campus are required to take training and pass a quiz on safety guidelines. A reporting system is in place for those who do not comply with guidelines. The committee also answered questions regarding resumption of on-campus activities.

In the second half of the meeting, Dean Matthew Tirrell reaffirmed PME’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Members of the PME community submitted questions and requests regarding resources for and representation of underrepresented minorities, engagement and support for local communities, transparency of diversity initiatives, and other matters. PME leadership announced plans to take actionable steps on a number of initiatives and recognized the need for future conversations.

  • The town hall was recorded and users with a UChicago Zoom login can access it here.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Resumption of On-Campus Research at PME
Date: June 11, 2020

All PME colleagues,

Per Provost Lee’s message, resumption of research at the University will begin on Monday, June 15. Only PME research groups whose faculty research plans have been approved by the PME Research Review Committee and have an adequate PPE supply to begin a safe return to the lab should start on Monday. Research group members should contact their PI regarding questions about their lab’s research resumption plan and when to start specific assigned shifts. Detailed information about building safety is attached.

Additionally, all research group members must complete the online “COVID-19, Controlled resumption of research activities” training and attestation at in order to regain access to your campus lab. (The attestation is a “read this first” document to start the training and you must click and complete the attestation using the “click me” icon on that page.)

We are all eager to return to our laboratories; however, the health and safety of every UChicago community member is the priority, and we must all do our part by following the guidelines and procedures developed by the University and our research teams. Anyone may choose to remain working remotely due to health or safety concerns, and this will not be held against them.

Individuals experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus should not return to campus and should consult their healthcare provider immediately. If you test positive for COVID-19 and have been in a University-owned or operated facility, contact so that the health and safety of others in our facilities can be addressed. Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate as directed by healthcare professionals before returning to University locations.

You can find the latest information and guidelines from the University about resumption of on-campus activities at

There are also two resources for anonymously reporting on-campus safety concerns or violations:

I also encourage everyone to make use of self-care and wellness resources available through the University:

Thank you for your cooperation and patience as we begin to resume activities on campus.


To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Research Resumption mid-June
Date: May 27, 2020

Sharing Provost Lee’s message regarding the resumption of research at the University, as well as some updates about return to research planning at PME.

PME has convened a Return-to-Research Committee co-chaired by Andrew Cleland and Stuart Rowan to help direct and oversee the resumption of research at PME in accordance with University guidance.

Each research team and core facility manager will develop and submit restart plans for their lab groups or facility. These plans will be reviewed by a Return-to-Research Review Committee, which consists of myself, Andrew, Stuart, Jeffrey Hubbell, and Maria Rubio.

Upon approval, research team leaders and managers will communicate their restart plans to students, postdocs, and staff. If trends continue as expected, on-campus research and scholarship will increase to approximately 25% in mid-June.

The health and safety of our community will take the lead on any decision regarding resumption of research. Research and scholarship that can be done remotely must continue to be done so. Only activities that require access to campus because it is the only place the work is possible will be considered for returning to campus.

We will continue to share updates and information about the planning process as they become available. You can also find information about the University’s plans for reopening online at

I appreciate your patience, assistance, and cooperation as we continue the planning process.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: COVID management Update from Ka Yee C. Lee and Katie Callow-Wright
Date: May 21, 2020

The email message below came this afternoon from the president’s and provost’s offices. The essence of this message is that, while planning for a return to research is starting up, the timing and many of the details of the implementation are still being developed, and therefore are not yet fixed in time or in content. We are operating still under the stay-at-home regime that has been in effect for the last two months.

But there is movement. I have attached the GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND CONSIDERATIONS GOVERNING THE RESUMPTION OF RESEARCH ACTIVITIES that was distributed by the Vice Provost for Research yesterday evening. This gives you some idea of the measures that will be taken toward research resumption. Andrew Cleland and Stuart Rowan are leading a PME R2R committee that we adapt and specify how these considerations will apply to PME. A preliminary report from that committee may be distributed as early as tomorrow.

As we approach this very important step, I want to emphasize that we will do it with deliberate speed, but not undue haste; we are eager, but not in a rush. We will not move into this next phase until we are ready; at the same time, we are taking all possible measures to be ready. Thank you for your assistance, cooperation and patience.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: COVID-19 in the BSD Community
Date: March 23, 2020

I am sharing with you a message from Vice Provost Kim and Dean Polonsky regarding a BSD staff member who works on the 11th floor of the Cummings Life Science Building who tested positive for COVID-19.

The Cummings elevators and 10th and 11th floors will be closed tomorrow for deep cleaning. We expect the elevators and the 10th floor to reopen by 3pm.

In line with CDC and CDPH instructions, the University is reaching out to those who may have had close contact with the diagnosed individual and advising them to self-isolate at home for 14 days and self-monitor for symptoms. If you are not contacted directly, it means we do not have reason to think you had close contact with the individual, per CDC’s guidelines.

Additional details can be found in the message below. We know this is a difficult and concerning time, and we encourage you to stay informed with University updates at The University has also established a call center for those with COVID-19 questions or concerns, which you can reach by dialing 773.795.5374. You may also email COVID-19 questions to the University at



To: Faculty, Staff and Students
From: Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, Dean and EVP for Medical Affairs, Karen Kim, MD, Vice Provost for research
Subject: COVID-19 in the BSD Community
Date: March 22, 2020

Dear BSD community:

We learned this evening that a staff employee who works on Cummings Life Sciences Center (CLSC) 11th floor has tested positive for COVID-19.

In consultation with specialists at the University of Chicago Medicine, we determined that March 19th and 20th were the only days in the last week when this staff member may have come into contact with co-workers. Administrative staff who may have come into contact with the individual were notified earlier today. Thankfully, our colleague is stable and resting at home in self-isolation.

Given this situation, we are immediately closing the elevators as well as the 10th and 11th floor of CLSC for specialized deep cleaning. There will be signage indicating these closures. Upon completion of the deep cleaning, we expect that the elevators and the 10th floor will reopen by 3pm on Monday March 23rd; the 11th floor is expected to reopen by end of day on Tuesday March 24th. We will notify you if this timeline changes.

In line with CDC and CDPH instructions, we are contacting those who may have had close contact with the diagnosed individual and advising them to self-isolate at home for 14 days and self-monitor for symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing). The self-isolation guidance that was sent out earlier this week to all BSD graduate students is attached. If you are not contacted directly, it means we do not have reason to think you had close contact with the individual, per CDC’s guidelines. CDC does not recommend testing, symptom monitoring or self-isolation for people exposed to asymptomatic people with potential exposures to COVID-19, such as “contacts of contacts.”

We recognize that this news is concerning and the circumstances are difficult. The BSD and University of Chicago community is incredibly strong and supportive, and we must continue to rely on that support especially now. We ask that you respect our efforts to protect the privacy of the administrative staff member and the others who are contacted. We also encourage students who wish to speak to a counselor to contact the Student Counseling Service at 773.702.3625. The University offers the Staff and Faculty Assistance Program, provided by Perspectives Ltd. Employees may call Perspectives Ltd. at 800.456.6327 to speak with a counselor.

Safeguarding the health of our community is our greatest concern. Please continue to practice social distancing and follow the prevention guidelines offered by UChicago MedicineCDPH, and the CDC. If you experience flu-like symptoms, please call your physician.

We encourage you to stay current with  University updates at and by visiting the BSD-specific website: The University has also established a call center for those with COVID-19 questions or concerns, which you can reach by dialing 773.795.5374. You may also email COVID-19 questions to the University at

We will continue to keep you apprised during this evolving situation. Again, we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Instructions for “Stay at Home” Order
Date: March 20, 2020

With today’s announcement of a “stay at home” order by Governor Pritzker, PME will begin implementing the essential-personnel continuity plans established by each lab group and business unit.

Under a “stay at home” order, essential research personnel means the fewest number of people needed to conduct activities that are required to preserve samples, animals, or functionalities critical to the long-term preservation of a lab or those supporting critical other projects.

Essential business personnel means the fewest number of people needed to perform functions that would have serious negative consequences for PME if not performed during an emergency or disruption, including tasks required for safety and facilities operations.

PIs and directors have identified a list of essential personnel for their area, which has been shared with our facilities team. Starting at 5 pm on Saturday March 21 and continuing through Tuesday, April 7, only individuals on this list will have access to buildings. I ask all PIs and directors who have not done so already to contact their essential personnel and outline plans and essential tasks.

Key contacts during the campus closure include:

You can also refer to the PME website for links to additional resources and information, including the University’s coronavirus hub and Spring Quarter websites.

The health and safety of the University and PME community has been paramount in the decisions made surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you for your cooperation in these efforts.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Planning at PME for Remote Learning
Date: March 19, 2020


The University has developed additional resources for Spring Quarter and COVID-19 information that I would like to bring to your attention:

  • Spring Quarter Website: The University launched a new website,, to help individuals better navigate Spring Quarter. It provides resources and information for staff, faculty, and students and serves as a sister site to the site that will continue to focus on disease-related updates.
  • University Hotline: The University launched a new phone hotline for members of the campus community. Operators are prepared to answer questions on public health, campus facilities and services, travel, events and visitors, policies and more. The hotline can be reached at 877-744-4800 or 773-795-5374, Monday-Friday from 9am to 7pm Central.  Operators can help answer or route questions about changes for the Spring Quarter, remote learning, remote work questions for staff members, and COVID-19 preparations. 
  • Guides: Attached are three guides that can help you determine whether you need to self-isolate and guidance for what to do during self-isolation.

You can find information and links to all these resources on the PME website. You can also continue to send COVID-19 questions to

We will continue to share any new guidance and information as it becomes available. Thank you to everyone for their actions and cooperation over the past weeks as we have implemented contingency plans in response to COVID-19. I am impressed and grateful for the quick response and collegial way the PME community has pulled together under these extraordinary circumstances.



To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Remote Engagement & Continuity Planning
Date: March 16, 2020

As the Dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, I am the primary lead for our division’s continuity planning.  If there is a situation that demands on-the-spot presence and action and I am not available, Jeffrey Hubbell as Deputy Dean has been named as my second in command.  Rovana Popoff as Senior Associate Dean will be third in command until April 13th when Joshua Berg will take over as Senior Associate Dean for Administration and Operations.

Jeffrey Hubbell will chair a faculty committee on remote learning to facilitate the PME’s successful delivery of spring courses.  The committee includes Paul Nealey, Jun Huang, Andrew Cleland, and Mustafa Guler.  Paul Nealey and Rovana Popoff are our liaisons to the University remote learning working groups. IT Director Craig Hamill will be in charge of ensuring that faculty, who will be teaching in the spring quarter, have the appropriate computer equipment and IT support. They are all working together to share communications and coordinate activity.

Provost Lee’s 3/16 memo to faculty on planning for research outlines immediate actions for “significantly ramping down on-campus research activities.”  With the immediacy of her request, all research PIs and administrative supervisors will need to identify and provide contact information (email address and mobile number) for an alternative lead or second in command; that information should be shared with Maria Rubio by end of day tomorrow. Our facilities team will continue to conduct periodic walkthroughs of our buildings and facilities and will contact the PI and second in command, if the need arises.

As shared earlier, others in leadership roles include Craig Hamill – IT Support, Matt Williams – Facilities, Tarnisha Smith (HR), Jacob Homan (Finance), Tracy Walker (Administrative Support), and Devon McPhee  (Communications).  For specific COVID-19 questions, you can write to

With University expectations for remote engagement and continuity planning quickly evolving, I also want to reinforce the expectation that we will all need to be flexible as we adapt to carry out the PME’s central mission of research and education.  As we identify the mission essential functions (MEFs) of the PME that will ensure our on-going operation,

  1. We will need to be mindful not only of what we consider to be our own individual responsibilities, but also what we might be called up to do in other areas of the organization;
  2. We will not be able to expect the levels of support, referral, and delegation that we have been used to under normal operations; 
  3. We all need to take the time to become familiar with on-line and other resources and to be as self-sufficient as possible.

Administrative and support areas (both central and lab-specific) will need to take the time to make information, policies, and practices relevant to their areas as transparent and accessible as possible so that others might be able to take on tasks/responsibilities where they can.

Mission Essential Functions are the limited set of PME functions that must be continued throughout a disruption of normal operations in order to fulfill the mission of the PME.  Per the University’s Office of Emergency Management, MEF’s typically do not include:

  1. General training and exercises
  2. Long range planning
  3. Travel to conferences
  4. Audits and inspections
  5. Non-essential visitors or meetings.

Essential versus non-essential: the distinction between these categories is whether or not a function must be performed during a crisis.  Essential functions are those that must be performed, even during emergencies and disruptions. If this function is not performed it will have severe negative consequences for the PME. If determined that a function must be performed during or immediately after an emergency or disruption, the function is mission essential.  Functions can also be deemed essential if they are mandated by safety or a requirement such as regulation, law, executive order, court order, regulation, management priority, grant-funding contract, internal procedure, etc.

Again, for information about the public health situation related to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and University actions to date, please visit UChicago’s coronavirus online information hub.  Per University guidelines, if you need to self-isolate because you are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19, graduate students and post-docs should be in contact with their PI and/or the Dean of Students, faculty should be in contact with me or my designate, and staff should be in touch with their supervisor and/or HR Director.

Other relevant resources are below:

  • CDC Guidance to Schools & Workplaces
  • UChicago Dean-on-Call: The Dean-on-Call is the University official responsible for providing referrals, information, and support to students during an emergency.  Students, faculty, or staff may contact the Dean-on-Call any time there is a concern or emergency in order to get advice and support. The Dean-on-Call can be reached through the UCPD dispatch at 773.702.8181 or 123 from any campus phone. The Dean-on-Call may also be reached through a direct paging system by calling 773.834.HELP (4357).

Medical Resources:

  • Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for COVID-19. If possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.
  • Student Health Service (SHS): 773.702.4156
  • Nurse Advice Line (after SHS business hours): 773.702.4156
  • UChicago Medicine Emergency Room: 773.702.6250

PME Facilities Contacts:

  • Matt Williams, ERC Building Manager (773-673-4282)
  • Paul Julson, PME Facilities Director (847) 707-0956
  • Jennifer Robles, Building Technical Assistant Director (773) 569-7320
  • Peter Duda, PNF Technical Director (805-636-2323

Again, I appreciate the flexibility and leadership that all of you are showing and will continue to show as we move forward to carry out the research and education of the PME.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Remote Work
Date: March 13, 2020

Per the recommendations today of President Zimmer and Provost Lee, staff, graduate students and postdocs should work with their supervisors and PIs to make arrangements to complete work from home whenever possible.

Labs and campus remain open, and experimental research may continue. When on campus or in the labs, follow recommended social distancing and hygiene protocols, such as dispersed placement at lab stations, frequent hand washing, and increased wipe-down of equipment and surfaces.

Anyone who feels unwell should stay home. Those with reason to believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days.

We will continue to share new developments and guidance as they arise. The health and well-being of our community is our first priority. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in these efforts.

To: All Members of the PME Community
From: Dean Matthew Tirrell
Subject: Planning at PME for Remote Learning
Date: March 12, 2020

With the announcement from President Zimmer and Provost Lee this morning about the move to remote learning, I want to make you aware of planning activities underway at PME for Spring Quarter and other potential disruptions due to COVID-19. 

  • Academic continuity planning: Our Dean of Students Office and IT Department are working closely with the University to implement remote learning for the Spring Quarter. I have scheduled a meeting with faculty this afternoon to discuss Spring classes and how best to move them online.
  • Administrative continuity planning:  Administrative directors at PME have begun development of a business continuity plan that outlines essential administrative functions at PME, as well as essential personnel to perform these functions in the event of absenteeism and partial or full campus closures. In this ever-evolving situation, it’s best to have plans in place to adjust to the situation as needed.
  • Research and lab continuity planning: I encourage faculty members and their lab groups to begin continuity planning for research in the event of absenteeism and partial or full campus closures. This includes identification of essential research tasks which cannot be completed at home, as well as individuals needed to complete those essential tasks. Again, it is best to be prepared in an ever-evolving situation such as this.

I appreciate your patience and partnership as we continue our preparations in response to these extraordinary circumstances.

As the situation evolves and we receive additional guidance and information, have these contacts available for questions:

For information about the public health situation related to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and University actions to date, please visit UChicago’s coronavirus online information hub . A link to the hub is also available on our []website.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.