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Chair's Note

Newsletter issue:
David J.-Perkel

Dear Friends,

I hope this newsletter finds you well and in good health despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. All of our professional and personal lives have been disrupted in multiple ways, but I wanted to update you on how the UW Biology Department has adapted to continue its missions: to discover new information about life on earth and to disseminate our understanding of living things to students and the public. 

Among the adaptations are the use of a combination of synchronous (all students participating in a class session) and asynchronous (students can listen to or watch pre-recorded lectures or other material, or complete other activities on their own schedule) teaching approaches. Other adaptations have been critical for laboratory courses: use of online lab experiment simulators; adoption of digital anatomy software; and assigning viewing of videos of cutting-edge research techniques. None of this adequately replaces our typical in-person teaching practices, which include evidence-based approaches, strategies to maximize inclusion, and hands-on laboratories to learn practical techniques, and we all look forward to a time when in-person instruction can resume safely.

Further, our undergraduate students have shown outstanding resilience through perhaps even greater adaptations. They have learned to receive their instruction in a completely new way, often in an unfamiliar environment and, for some, at odd hours of the day. Together, all of these efforts have accomplished a huge goal: to keep the educational pipeline going for our undergraduate students. The courses we are delivering this quarter will allow seniors to graduate (we anticipate conferring 529 bachelor’s degrees this June!), and others to discover biology or progress towards their degrees.

Although much of our laboratory or field research has slowed dramatically, many department members are analyzing data, writing papers, or contributing to the community. For example, Profs. Carl Bergstrom and Ben Kerr have turned their expertise to explaining disease ecology to the broad public. Both have had large public presences in discussions about the epidemiology of pandemics.

I can’t overstate how proud I am of our faculty, students, and staff for helping make this highly disrupted time still extremely functional for our undergraduate students. In the face of all of these challenges, the UW Biology Department has pulled together in a remarkable way and its members continue to support one another through these extremely difficult times.

Sending you and yours good wishes for health, safety, and well-being.

Best wishes,

David Perkel

Professor and Chair, Department of Biology