Washington People: Megan Flake

Longtime manager kept labs running through a pandemic

Megan Flake headshot
Megan Flake is the laboratory safety and protocol manager at the McKelvey School of Engineering. (Photo: Whitney Curtis)

Megan Flake has seemingly limitless energy and passion for her job.

She is the laboratory safety and protocol manager at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. Flake is responsible for ensuring that everything runs smoothly and safely in the school’s labs. But what happens when all research shuts down due to a global pandemic?

“Our buildings are living beings,” Flake said. “We have cells that are alive and equipment that needs to be maintained. There were a lot of things that needed to continue to happen.”

For the first few months of the shutdown, Flake was part of a skeleton crew with Gena Reed, payroll coordinator and finance/facilities assistant, and Barbara Semar, who recently had been hired as lab manager for the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science.

Flake and Semar took turns walking through every engineering lab on a daily basis, following a checklist of things specific to each lab they needed to keep their eyes on, including incubators, freezers, refrigerators and chemical supplies. Their goal was to keep each lab in a state that it could restart without significant delay.

“Everyone gets it,” she said. “We’ve made a conscious decision to make science-based decisions. With the support of the infectious disease specialists at the medical school and the Environmental Health and Safety department, we have been able to respond unbelievably quickly to changing conditions because of the team we have here at the university.”

Read more on the engineering website.

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