Published: Nov. 4, 2021 By

Most people will forever remember where they were in March 2020 as the world began to shut down. For many at CU Boulder, an incredible haul of work instantly followed. Like the COVID-19 virus, their tasks were new, momentous and immediate.

“I can think of no more difficult year than the one that began on March 13, 2020, and was dominated by COVID-19, its impact on our students, faculty and staff and our institutional response,” said CU Boulder provost Russ Moore.

One group of faculty and staff — the CU Boulder Pandemic Scientific Steering Committee and Science Team, or “The Team” — was set on determining how the university could remain operational during a pandemic.

“Without being asked, and in the true spirit of public service, the members of the Scientific Steering Committee and Science Team dropped what they were doing in order to develop the science and many of the associated operations that allowed our campus to successfully open and operate,” said Moore.

The Team consisted of Kristen Bjorkman, Gloria Brisson, Jose Jimenez, Mark Kavanaugh, Daniel Larremore, Leslie Leinwand, Cresten Mansfeldt, Jennifer McDuffie, Matt McQueen, Shelly Miller, Roy Parker and Melanie Parra. Their priority was the safety of the CU Boulder community and beyond.

Their work was evident in every aspect of campus life.

They developed saliva- and wastewater-based SARS-CoV-2 screening tests to find both individual infections and larger outbreaks on campus. They created a contact tracing program that involved eager students and became one of the most responsive in the state. They helped design the HVAC systems that were installed throughout campus to reduce airborne disease transmission. They guided physical distancing and masking protocols. Most importantly, their solutions were grounded in science.

Their ideas and implementations were constant — sometimes happening from the hours of 2 to 4 a.m. or on weekends. The work is not done. Much of The Team’s scientific work will be studied, reviewed and published to help future crisis response practices.

 In the words of the provost, speaking on behalf of thousands positively impacted by their work, “The Team’s dedication serves as an inspiration to us all.”