The trials of moving a lab during COVID-19 times

Dr Senthil Arumugam

Rockefeller University Press’ Journal of Cell Biology asked seven scientists around the world to share their experiences of uprooting their research careers and laboratories during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Senthil Arumugam was one of them.

Dr Arumugam moved his lab from the University of New South Wales to Monash BDI in September 2019. Microscopy is a very central part of the (Cellular Physiology) lab, he said. “COVID-19–imposed lockdowns in Melbourne made it evident that going full steam was not possible; my microscopes would have delays, and I had to restrategise,” he said.

“To restart the lab with a dedicated microscope to train students, and to be able to perform some experiments, I scavenged through old microscope parts at our imaging facility and various other storages and put together a wide-field microscope to perform live-cell studies. Monash Faculty of Nursing, Medicine, and Health (FMNHS) and Monash Microimaging (MMI) helped provide access to other specialist microscopes with COVID-safe protocols in place, allowing us to complete impending experiments for the revision of a manuscript.

We also moved our analysis computers home, allowing us to work remotely.”

Dr Arumugam said the challenge was made easier by his team. “I am incredibly lucky and proud to lead a very adaptable and persevering group.”

Since relocating his lab, Dr Arumugam has used sophisticated technology - Lattice Light Sheet Microscopy - to describe a novel ‘priority-shipping’ process for epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR).  These findings were published in Communications Biology. . Read more about this research here.