A Letter from Chair Wick Haxton in Response to COVID-19

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Dear friends,

All of us have experienced a lot of change and new challenges these past few weeks. While we await a return to more normal times, please take care with your own health and look out for your friends and neighbors.

Stress sometimes brings out the best in people, and that certainly has been the case with our students, staff, and faculty. I have never been prouder of Berkeley Physics. We began by trying to rescue our Open House – the annual event where newly accepted graduate students visit Berkeley, to talk with our faculty and to decide if they would rather be here than elsewhere. In just a few days, Open House was entirely reorganized as a virtual event, complete with an online poster session. Among our many heroes in pulling this off, a special thanks to Joelle and Sarah and the long hours they invested. Simultaneously we began to take our entire curriculum online – another Herculean effort that succeeded because of the leadership of vice-chair Jonathan Wurtele and a team of faculty who creatively moved even our laboratories into cyberspace. And our students pulled together, adapting to this new mode of learning without complaint, and reaching out to support one another. This included continuing the aptly renamed end-of-week Physics & Astronomy Social (Distancing) Hour, beverage of one’s choice optional.

The Department is also exploring ways it can support COVID-19 efforts. Our building manager Anthony Vitan led a search for PPE within our research labs, working with faculty to identify 80 boxes of latex gloves, 100 face masks, and various shields, goggles, and safety glasses. The materials were delivered to University Health Services.

With research being done in creative ways and our days now filled with Zoom collaborations, Berkeley resilience is everywhere in evidence. Still it would be good to get through this. When we do, come visit us – even at distances less than six feet.


Wick Haxton
Professor and Chair
Department of Physics