Dr Marian Blokpoel, Biological Safety Officer, Health and Safety Services

Celebrating #OurImperial community during COVID-19

“We really want to support everyone to do the research, not just for the sake of their own research project, but for the wider community. That’s what will make the impact.”

I’m originally from the Netherlands, but I came to Imperial 25 years ago as a Master’s student and have been at the College ever since – through my PhD and postdoc positions, and now in the Safety team. I love science, and while today I don’t work in the lab, my job lets me see lots of the research that’s going on across the College, which is really exciting.

My role is to help scientists to do the work – a big part of my job is to help them to get their risk assessments approved and to work safely and within the law. We work with people to find a way to do what they want to do – I really want them to succeed. As soon as the news started to break about the COVID-19 outbreak in January, we were approached by scientists who wanted to do research in that area. SARS-CoV-2 is a high-hazard virus, so we had to move quickly to make sure that they were able to access the right type of lab space, where they could work safely. We worked really hard with the people at St Mary’s Medical School to get the first COVID-19 diagnostic and research laboratories on-line.

The key message that our team has been trying to get out has been to say: “Yes, we’re shut down, we’re not in our office, but we’re still here for you.” And, although we’ve had to prioritise the COVID-19 work, we’re still working to make sure that that all other essential research is able to continue safely, and that labs that have shut down are safe and ready to open up and hit the ground running once life returns to normal. Now I’m working from home, I’ve had to shift my working pattern to be more flexible. The afternoons are relatively quiet – the scientists and clinicians I support are in the lab or on the ward – so it’s a good time to go for a bike ride or spend time with my family, knowing that around 6 or 7 o’clock I’ll be back behind the computer as the emails will start to come in, and at a time like this, it’s really important to be able to respond quickly.

We really want to support everyone to do the research, not just for the sake of their own research project, but for the wider community. That’s what will make the impact.

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