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Dean of Science Christopher W. Stubbs said the return to in-person instruction has been “energizing” as he outlined updates regarding the Sciences Division’s ongoing endeavors in a Tuesday interview with The Crimson.
“The energy on campus is just palpable. And it’s great to have the students back. It’s great to be back to being an intellectual community of scholars and learners,” Stubbs said.
He described the return to Harvard laboratories as a “staged process,” explaining that researchers have already been back in laboratories for a long time, faculty and staff are starting to settle in, and students will be coming back in large numbers.
“That’s still something that we’re feeling our way through,” Stubbs said. “Harvard is no different than other parts of the economy and the world, of trying to understand: what combination of working remotely, working in person; how do we allocate offices, how do we share spaces.”
Stubbs said that although there is a “diversity of apprehension” within the division about being in-person amid the ongoing pandemic, the College’s high vaccination rate is a “reassuring element.”
Stubbs also pointed to the absence of Covid-19 transmission cases in classroom settings as a mark of success.
“Our workplace, the research laboratories, and our classrooms where we encounter one another in a classroom setting, are not places where Covid transmission has happened,” Stubbs said.
“I think the instances that we have on campus of colleagues falling ill are infections that are acquired in other ways,” he added. “I think we need to be cognizant of that, but as far as I know we’ve established a supportive and safe learning and research environment on campus.”
Later in the interview, Stubbs discussed the division’s upcoming major intellectual initiatives, including the newly launched Ph.D. Program in the quantum science and engineering department.
According to Stubbs, construction at 60 Oxford Street — where the program is set to be housed — is “moving forward really nicely,” and the division is continuing to recruit faculty for the program.
Stubbs also commented on the two oversight committees that Harvard formed in 2019 to ensure that the FAS was not susceptible to research integrity issues such as academic espionage.
“Our stance at Harvard is that we don’t do any classified research on this campus at all. There are no secrets here for people to steal, and we’re as keen as ever to engage in the free flow of people, ideas, and scholars,” Stubbs said.
Lastly, Stubbs addressed current pending legislation that would increase federal science research funding. He said he will remain “guardedly optimistic” about the priority the Biden administration seems to place on science and technology.
Looking toward the future, Stubbs said he is interested to see how the division will continue to evolve in the face of an “endemic pathogen.”
“What’s it going to look like next fall? What's it going to look like the fall after that? What’s the long-term end stage here, as we accommodate what will end up being an endemic pathogen?” Stubbs said. “I think that that chapter of this book has yet to be written.”
—Staff writer Justin Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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