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For staff


COVID-19 has cast a shadow that few of us could ever have imagined. Around the world, families are grieving, lives have been put on hold, finances are squeezed. The crisis is not yet over, but hopeful stories are emerging. We’ve asked members of the University community to share their unexpected experiences at this challenging time.


Unexpected experiences series

Selwyn College Catering Manager Matt Rowe swapped ‘super formals’ for providing emergency supplies to the students who couldn’t go home during the pandemic – and says the experience has brought back some of the community he cherishes.

In the second of a new series, Beverley Glover talks about keeping the gardens open online and the apprehension welcoming visitors back in person. 

As the Staff Counselling Centre re-opens its premises, post lockdown, Michelle Reynolds reflects on the past three months and how this experience will influence the service going forwards.

Unable to set off on her MPhil fieldwork, Simone Eringfeld shifted her research to explore how students and academics at Cambridge could reimagine possible futures for the “post-coronial” university. She also hosts the Cambridge Quaranchats podcast, where she explores life under lockdown.

Faced with closed laboratories and cancelled conferences, paediatric oncologist Richard Gilbertson kick-started a “21st-century method” for meeting new collaborators – an online matching site called the Open Lab Initiative that rolls out nationally today.

Glen Rangwala, admissions tutor for Trinity College and director of the undergraduate programme in Politics & International Relations, was preparing for the University’s virtual Open Days – and wondered if anyone would show up.

Head of Public Engagement, Lucinda Spokes, describes the difficult decision to pull the plug on the 26th Cambridge Science Festival in March this year and reflects on the breathtaking flexibility of the Festival going digital – at least for now.

Katy Pitts, Principal Assistant and Safety Officer at the Department of Biochemistry, could probably now write the How-To manual on re-opening a biochemistry department in a global pandemic. She tells us of the highs and lows of recent months as her colleagues embraced the necessary changes to return to workplace – and how an encounter with ‘The Distancer’ has (literally) opened doors for all.

George Doji, host of Museum Remix at the University of Cambridge Museums, describes the digital experiment in museum storytelling that began when the collections were forced to close their doors.

When infectious diseases expert Mike Weekes realised he and colleagues had know-how that could help protect staff, patients and students in a pandemic, they set up a unique testing facility – the first of its kind, they believe, in a UK university. 

Final-year student Toni Fola-Alade had a plan: secure investment for his startup, focus on his exams and enjoy his final term. Then everything changed. He describes what helped to keep things in perspective, go offline and study – and how the terrible news of George Floyd’s murder almost derailed him. He graduated in July with a First Class degree.

Assessing undergraduate admissions was likely to be a very different process in a pandemic, let alone with a changing landscape of cancelled exams and reassessments. One of the team at the forefront of overcoming these challenges was Dr Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions for Cambridge Colleges.

They juggled their jobs and sacrificed sleep to volunteer at the Cambridge Testing Centre, a collaboration between the University, AstraZeneca and GSK to support the national effort to boost COVID-19 testing. They say they were simply fulfilling their duty as scientists. Meet the volunteers behind the masks.

What links two large furry Loch Ness Monsters, key-cards, and donning a gown to eat pot noodles? The answer is the unexpected creativity that blossomed in a time of coronavirus, says Catherine Arnold, Master of St Edmund’s College.

"It fills me with enormous gratitude that – at the moment of greatest challenge – our collegiate community rallied and rose to the occasion."

Working from home: staff and student videos

A series of videos have featured staff and students to showcase how everyone is adapting to the challenges of working from home within the restrictions of social distancing.