MBP COVID-19 Updates


Last updated May 20, 2021, at 11:41 AM.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Department of Medical Biophysics (MBP) is adhering to University of Toronto directives. The Department and the University remain open, but with various measures in place to protect the health and safety of our students and faculty.

To this end, the following measures have been taken by the Department:

  • MBP staff are working from home.
  • Departmental administration continues and is being run by staff remotely.
  • MBP graduate courses, student seminars and other important Departmental meetings have moved to an online platform.
  • In-person events, such as the MBP Alumni Night scheduled for May 11, and the JLM Symposium scheduled for May 26, have been cancelled. We hope to be able to reschedule these events in the near future.
  • Processes such as admissions interviews and examinations continue to run and will be administered through online/alternative formats.
  • The Department is working closely with university leadership to minimize the impact of COVID19 on our students.

For the most up-to-date information on how the University of Toronto is handling this ever-changing situation, please visit the following pages on a regular-basis:

Below you will find important COVID-19-related information and updates relevant to MBP Faculty and Graduate Students. This information will be updated regularly as the situation evolves and new information emerges. Please visit often for the latest MBP COVID-19 updates.

    If you have any questions, please contact MBP Administration via email.

      12 Ways U of T is Preparing for a Safe Return to In-Person Instruction - Added May 20, 2021

      Please find the links to the infographic, UofT news story, and updated Utogether webpage with regards the 12 ways U of T is preparing for a safe return to in-person instruction.

      The news article and infographic: https://www.utoronto.ca/news/12-ways-u-t-preparing-safe-return-person-instruction

      Updated webpage:  https://www.utoronto.ca/utogether/safe-return

      These two links will be kept up-to-date as our plans progress.

      Message from the Vice Dean of Graduate Education - Added October 26, 2020

      Ontario’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. Changes will likely occur as the province and its municipalities adjust to new data about the virus. In these circumstances, please be advised that the manner of delivery of courses, co-curricular opportunities, programs, and services is subject to change, in accordance with university policies. The University thanks its students, faculty, and staff for their flexibility during these challenging times as we work together to maintain the standards of excellence that are the hallmark of the University. - Allan Kaplan, Vice Dean, Graduate Education

      Geneva Park Retreat Update - Added June 17, 2020

      Please be advised that the Department has made the difficult decision to cancel the on-site Geneva Park retreat scheduled for September 27-29, 2020.

      Due to the complications presented by social distancing requirements that will likely still be in place in the Fall, the Department feels strongly that a larger-scale in-person gathering would not be in the best interest of the well-being of our students and faculty.

      The Department and the MBPGSA are currently in the process of organizing an alternate one-day virtual retreat to take the place of Geneva Park, which is tentatively scheduled for Monday, September 28, 2020. Please reserve this date in your calendar. More information on this Virtual MBP Retreat will be available shortly.

      Modified Lab Recruitment Process for Incoming MBP Graduate Students - Added June 12, 2020

      ATTN Incoming MBP Students and MBP Faculty,

      As many of you know, the restrictions placed on labs during the COVID-19 pandemic have introduced many possible complications to the onboarding of incoming MBP students, particularly within the lab rotations program. Over the past few weeks, the Department has been working hard to find the best possible strategy to limit the impact of these complications.

      After careful examination of the possible scenarios the Department could face in Fall 2020, it became abundantly clear that there is no ‘magic bullet’ solution to the complications introduced by lab restrictions that may be in place in September. After much discussion and consideration of feedback from both incoming students and MBP faculty, the MBP Executive Committee has created a framework for Fall 2020 lab recruitment that offers the best possible compromise, given the complex nature of the situation we are faced with.

      As such, lab recruitment for Fall 2020 will proceed as follows:

      • Starting June 12th, recruiting PI’s and students are asked to initiate an ‘extended matching process’ that will allow students and PI’s to actively interact and ultimately determine if there is a good fit for a direct lab placement. PI’s can choose to reach out to students they are interested in working with and students will be free to contact PI’s they are interested in working with. The Department will provide incoming students with the list of faculty who have identified they will be actively recruiting. This list will also highlight those who have indicated they are open to directly recruiting students.
      • This ‘extended matching process’ will act as a form of extended interview and the format will be at the discretion of the PI. (e.g. one-on-one virtual meetings/interviews, inviting students to join lab meetings, inviting students to present a small literature review, etc.). It is important to note that this is not a lab rotation, rather an opportunity for the student and lab to determine if there is a match before a direct placement commitment is made.
      • Upon conclusion of the ‘extended matching process’ in mid-July, students and faculty must submit a ranking list, similar to that used following rotations, to a placement committee. This committee will directly place students into matching labs.
      • Any students who are not placed, or are unwilling to be placed, will begin a truncated rotations program starting in September. Each rotation will last 3 weeks and may consist of a mix of virtual and on-site activities, depending on the lab and restrictions in place at the time. As with regular rotations, any students not placed after the 3rd rotation will enter into a 4th rotation in mid-fall.
      • Placements for rotating students will be determined by the end of the Fall 2020 academic term. Students who cannot be placed by this time will be asked to withdraw from the program.

      We understand that this framework is not completely perfect. However, in light of the complicated situation we find ourselves in and the uncertainty we face in the fall, the Department feels strongly that the above process will allow our new students and faculty to find the best possible match.

      Update for Incoming MBP Graduate Students Starting in Fall 2020 - Added June 5, 2020

      ATTN Incoming Fall 2020 MBP Graduate Students.

      Decisions regarding lab rotations for Fall 2020 are currently pending. Early next week (June 8), the Department is hosting a meeting with MBP faculty to discuss lab rotation options for Fall 2020 in light of possible pandemic restrictions. After this meeting the MBP Executive Committee will examine both the feedback provided by our incoming students and from MBP faculty, and a clear course of action for Fall 2020 lab rotations will be determined.

      Once decisions have officially been made, all incoming students will be notified ASAP.

      During these uncertain times, complex decisions of this nature require much consideration. We thank you for your patience.

      If you have any questions, please email Annette Chan (biology-based students), or Donna-Marie Pow (physics-based students).

      Clarification on MBP Students Working in Labs - Added May 13, 2020

      In light of questions we have received about students working in labs, the Department would like to communicate that plans are underway to coordinate a reopening at various sites. MBP faculty and students will be notified once decisions have been made.

      In the meantime, the Department would like to highlight the following statement from the April 13th memo sent out by Allan Kaplan, Vice-Dean, GLSE; Rick Hegele, Vice-Dean, Research & Innovation and Lynn Wilson, Vice-Dean, Partnerships & Associate Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions:

      “Graduate students doing their research at TAHSN hospitals OR other off-campus sites (e.g. community organizations) are permitted to continue with their research projects if their research is: a) deemed “essential research” [*]; b) the student agrees and c) the departmental graduate coordinator or chair agrees. Graduate students who are NOT doing such research are NOT permitted on site at TAHSN hospitals and are encouraged to consult with their supervisor and graduate coordinator on work-from-home arrangements.”

      If you have a research project that falls into ‘essential research’, a request must to be sent to the MBP Chair along with a message from the VP of Research at the site indicating that this research has been approved. Note that these requests may still require approval from the Dean and or Vice Dean of research to move forward.

      *the definition of ‘essential research’ may vary from site-to-site.

      Letter to our Students from MBP and EDI Committee Chairs - Added April 17, 2020

      Dear MBP Students,

      The last few weeks have brought in a gamut of difficulties. The lockdown has derailed your daily routines and unsettled your plans. You may be worried about your own health, or the health of your family and friends, and you are wondering when you may meet them in person again. Your mental health may be affected by the pandemic coverage in the media and the measures being taken to mitigate the spread of the disease. You’re probably also concerned about the adverse effect of the lockdown on your graduate work in MBP and the delay it may introduce in your thesis project. In addition, many of you may be worried how this pandemic will affect your opportunities after graduate school.

      You are not alone in any of this.

      We are here to assure you that the Department is working closely with university leadership to minimize the impact of COVID19 on students. Help us in these efforts by identifying the challenges you are facing in detail in your “COVID-19 Mentoring Meeting Record,” e-mailed earlier this week. Please work closely with your supervisor to complete this form. It will provide important information to Joshua Barker (SGS Dean), the Faculty of Medicine and the Department Chairs and help them put appropriate measures in place. We also strongly recommend that you have regular meetings with your supervisor to evaluate your progress, modify expectations, and develop alternative plans. These need to be tailored to each student in our program and hence require more frequent than usual mentor-trainee interactions. Reach out to your supervisory committee as well for advice on ways that you can best make use of this time. Feel free to contact the MBP chair, vice-chairs, graduate coordinators or administrative staff should you have questions or concerns.

      Being stuck inside your home and not having access to your lab may feel like the end of the world, but this time also presents a valuable opportunity to grow and learn. Remember that graduate school is about developing independence, growing your self-starting potential, honing your expertise, finding ways to effectively educate the public and translate your knowledge, and at MBP, working on ways to help the ill. This is a great time to read research articles in your field and attend online seminars. Reading and thinking deeply about your research will open new opportunities in the future. Often a change of gears, a pause or even a reset can be renewing and prove advantageous in the long run. Consider using this time to acquire new skills or further existing ones, such as on statistical analyses or data visualization. A variety of on-line resources are available for this. You could start up a Zoom group with fellow MBP students and get together to listen to lectures online, share knowledge, discuss research articles, or practice delivering seminars.

      Finally, practice shifting your perspective. Imagine your future-self working in the lab again, thinking back on this time: what will you want your present-day-self to have invested efforts into and paid attention to? Goethe famously wrote, ‘Alles ist schwer, bevor es leicht wird’ (‘Everything is hard before it gets easy.’)

      If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

      Bojana Stefanovic
      Chair - Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

      Thomas Kislinger
      Chair - Medical Biophysics

      Research Update from U of T - Added April 15, 2020

      Non-essential research has stopped and graduate students should not be working in labs. Different sites may have different interpretations of what qualifies as 'essential' research. Any inquiries about this should go through TAHSN.

      Summer Student programs have been cancelled - different institutes may allow for on-boarding of students working remotely, but this will have to be coordinated through the HR Department of the research institute. UHN has indicated that they will not be onboarding Summer Students. The Department has also communicated with U of T HR and they will also not be onboarding Summer Students for 2020.

      Required Online Mentoring Meeting for MBP Graduate Students - Added Apr 14, 2020

      The School of Graduate Studies is requiring that all students and supervisors have an online mentoring meeting to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the student’s research plans and academic progress, as well as strategies to mitigate this impact, if needed. The deadline for this online meeting is May 15.

      Please review the letter (below) from the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Dr. Joshua Barker, explaining this process. Students and supervisors need to complete the supplemental 'COVID-19 Mentoring Meeting Record' and submit it their respective Graduate Coordinator: Downtown, Dr. Razq Hakem and cc: Mrs. Daphne Sears and uptown, Dr. Greg Stanisz and cc: Mrs. Donna-Marie Pow. There is also other important information on working from home for graduate students linked below.

      Resources for the online mentoring meeting:

      MBP Summer Program Update - Added April 10, 2020

      The MBP Summer Student program for 2020 has been suspended until further notice. Students who have received an offer of hire are asked to contact their hiring supervisor regarding their position.

      Faculty who wish to hire a summer student who can work remotely are to check with the HR department of their hospital to see if the student is eligible to be hired, as summer students are technically recruited through hospitals and MBP only assists in the process.