You are here

A Note From the Department Head

December 2, 2020

Tom Hays

Dear Friends and Alumni,

I hope this second GCD newsletter finds you well and in good health despite the year's social upheaval, a relentless COVID19 pandemic, and an exhausting presidential election. There are reasons to stay positive with renewed efforts for social justice and light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with Sars-CoV-2 vaccines just around the corner. In the meantime, stay safe and take care of one another!

It seems an eternity since the outbreak of Sars-CoV-2 and the first shut down back in March. At that time, we were well into faculty searches for new GCD hires, as well as the launch of The Leading Edge, a successful series of public science conversations that GCD hosted this past spring. As of today, even as the number of COVID cases continues to mount in Minnesota, the vigilance of GCD faculty, staff and students in compliance with public safety precautions has paid off. We have fortunately had only a very limited number of infections reported in the department. Knock on wood!

A new academic year is well underway with the Fall semester ending in a couple of weeks. While the pandemic and social distancing have made this semester different, our commitment to all students and their success remains the same. GCD faculty are fully invested in their fall and upcoming spring classes, working to enhance online learning opportunities and minimize student stress.

In our laboratories, while data generation has slowed, data analysis and manuscript writing has become a focus in work-from-home shifts to accommodate safe social distancing of researchers in the lab. One positive reminder to emerge post-COVID – best to analyze one set of experiments before rushing to the next!  We look forward to research labs humming again in the new year and to the arrival of three new GCD faculty.

Following the murder of George Floyd in our own neighborhood, we have also been engaging in self-reflection as instructors, mentors, and a department. We will listen to our marginalized communities to better understand the patterns of structural discrimination so that we can build a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, staff, and colleagues in GCD and the university. Black Lives Matter!

In this newsletter, we share faculty, student, and alumni news, recent happenings around the department, and some research highlights since the last newsletter. We hope that you enjoy the newsletter and that it will pique your interest in the educational and scientific advances within GCD. Thanks for your support in these challenging times and as always, we welcome your feedback and questions at

Wishing you the best of the holidays

Tom Hays
Professor and Head, Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development