How We've Adapted to COVID-19 - A few examples from our programs
COVID-19 has changed all of our lives in dramatic ways, but also presented some opportunities to rethink our expectations and adapt to changing circumstances. Below are just some of the ways we have adjusted to the demands of the continued shut-downs and shifts in schedules to both help our awardees succeed and continue our operations uninterrupted. -- Dr. Anne Hultgren, Executive Director
Arnold O Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows
One immediate consequence of the COVID shut-downs was the suspension, and in some cases cancellation, for new faculty searches. The uncertainty about future funding within departments is certainly understandable for why these suspensions were necessary, but the impact on job-searchers is devastating. Particularly hard hit were several of our 2017 Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellowships who were approaching the end of their fellowship terms during this crisis. We are grateful to our Board of Directors for approving 6-month paid extensions of these fellowship terms to retain these talented young scientists through March 2021. We hope that these extensions help to bridge this challenging time!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much for your support of Kumar, and for your consideration of Covid pandemic related emergency funding. This extra support will be invaluable for helping Kumar make up for lost time, and bring his exciting work to fruition after the Covid pause – so that he will be well prepared and ready to move on to the next stage of his extremely promising career. He is at the end-stage of experiments for key publications, and the extra support from the Beckman Foundation will make all the difference.
Beckman Young Investigators
In discussing the impacts of COVID for our award winners, one item that surfaced from BYIs with small children was that the shut-down of school and daycare was significantly interfering with their ability to continue their research, even when their laboratories reopened. These junior faculty were balancing new demands at home during a critical time to show new results for tenure and future funding opportunities. One BYI offered a creative solution - could the unused travel funds from the past and current year grants be reprogrammed to help with child care expenses to allow the BYIs the time they needed in lab? We agreed, and extended the allowance to elder care as well. For the 2020-2021 program year only, the BYIs could reprogram about 3% of their total grant to help with these expenses in lieu of travel.
Personally, I want to express my greatest appreciation for the effort that the foundation has done to help us. Last week, the day-care plan was very in-time and extremely helpful to my family. My daughter Miya was born on April 3rd this year. She started her daycare on Monday this week. It is such a big relief to me and my wife. For my own experience, parental care impacted my time availability significantly. My parents could not come to help as planned and Miya was born during the first week of my Organic chemistry class. Luckily, the daycare is open now and we even have the foundation’s support to relieve the mental and financial stress.
The initial wave of school closures in Spring 2020 hit our Scholars Program right in the thick of new scholar selections. What we heard from all directions was just the need for flexibility. Would we be open to delays in scholar selection? Yes. Would we be open to revised research plans? Yes. Would we be open to extensions of the grants in the following year if scholars couldn't start on time? Yes. We have been overwhelmed in the creativity and adaptability of the schools and students to keep this research experience not only running, but with meaningful experiences for the Scholars.
We greatly appreciate the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation’s efforts in checking in with our students and mentors during this difficult time. We also appreciate the Foundation’s flexibility in allowing students and mentors to have various research arrangements and timelines, given the continually-evolving nature of institutional guidelines in light of the pandemic. It is clear to us that the Arnold and Beckman Foundation cares for its scholars and mentors, and we appreciate the extra care given to make the Beckman Scholars Program at the University of Arizona successful despite the challenges that have arisen.
Our Foundation Operations
The Foundation has shifted operations to 100% telework, with lots of help from ZOOM! All staff are available as usual and we've adjusted to "having lunch" together via the computer. In addition, we embarked on our first ever Virtual Beckman Symposium - thank you to all who participated and made the event engaging and informative. While we hope that in-person meetings resume, it was great to see what we can accomplish with the new online meeting tools, and we have lots of suggestions for improvements if we're in a virtual format again next year.
While we won't pretend this time has been easy - at times the workload has doubled as we've been improvising and experimenting internally - but it has been rewarding to work with all of our awardees and find ways to pull together. Thank you all for your input and perseverance. You inspire us to keep the mission going!