SFU Surrey science labs host COVID-19 hand sanitizer production

May 07, 2020

While science labs at SFU’s Surrey campus have been devoid of the buzz of student experiments and discovery for nearly two months, they recently came to life for another purpose—the production of hand sanitizer to help the community battle COVID-19.

A small group of staff and faculty, donning lab coats and gloves and practicing physical distancing, packaged more than 800 250-ml bottles of the critically needed liquid, which had been created in the labs according to a formula adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO), then dispensed and labelled.

Nav Chima, director of Community Programs and Partnerships

Next week, the bottles will be delivered to a number of at-need community groups in the Surrey area, which will include support for front-line health workers and the homeless shelter and food bank near the university campus.

The idea—to roll up sleeves and take a production-line style approach to addressing a community need—was conceived by Nav Chima, SFU Surrey’s director of community programs and partnerships. 

“We have amazing labs at the Surrey campus, so why not purpose them to support the growing need for hand sanitizer in the local community," says Chima. The idea took root when campus Executive Director Steve Dooley reached out to the Faculty of Science to see what was possible. Immediately, Dean Paul Kench was on board.

SFU Dean of Science Paul Kench

"Supporting our communities is something the Faculty of Science is deeply committed to,” says Kench, who called on a team of staff and faculty to set the wheels in motion—and then later took part in the production line. “We feel privileged to have worked with SFU Surrey's administration team during this time of crisis to provide these hand sanitizers to those in need."

Dooley says the idea struck an immediate chord with all of those tapped to help. “With the campus closed to the community it’s important that we find ways to stay connected and help out where we can, in this case, to marshal SFU resources in support of our community,” he says.

Several units were looped in, including science stores and receiving, which helped to supply the products needed, once the elements for the hand sanitizer ‘recipe’ had been determined. Staff then mixed the formula and created work stations where hundreds of bottles awaited filling.

“Every effort to consider the well-being of our communities can make a big difference in this ongoing battle to address the pandemic, and we’re grateful to all those who helped make this possible,” says Dooley. 

Participants included associate dean David Hik and his daughter Felicity, Mike Devolin, campus facilities manager, David Lee of science stores, Ruth Appanah, faculty director of facilities, Liam Goundry, IT technician, Khadijah Ali, teaching lab technician, Faatimah Ali and Hamel Tailor, manager of lab operations.