Welcome to the new reality

Over the last 12 months, the University, just like the rest of the world, had to deal with the new reality of living in a pandemic. During the first lockdown, students were confined to their dorms, many having to cohabit small spaces with people they hardly knew. Our researchers could not come to the labs for weeks, even months. As soon as the lockdown was lifted last spring, students, as well as professors, had to get used to a hybrid teaching system with intermittent periods of complete distance learning/teaching. Our researchers were finally allowed back in the labs, but many had to start their experiments from scratch, and almost all researchers had to start working in shifts to avoid crowds in the laboratories. Those adjustments were not easy, but students, professors and researchers all made an exemplary effort to adapt to this new reality, which is unfortunately not quite over yet.

Interestingly, many of our researchers were able to put their research expertise to good use, and received funding from the FNR to carry out COVID-related research. In biomedicine, a couple of large projects led by Prof. Wilmes and Prof. Krüger, in collaboration with other ‘Research Luxembourg’ institutions aimed, to gain a better understanding of the disease and about risk factors that make people more susceptible to severe disease progression. In biophysics, Prof. Sengupta has been studying the virus-surface interactions in dynamic environments. Prof. Le Traon at SNT and Prof. Goncalvez at LCSB used their expertise in computer science, physics and mathematics to develop algorithms that allow to do projections of the pandemic timeline. Large projects around COVID have also been developed in Social Sciences, two of the major ones being the COVID-Kids project run by Prof. Kirsch’s group and the PANDEMIC study carried out by Prof. D’Ambrosio’s team. The former is an in depth study on the impact that the lockdown is having on children and teenagers, while the latter studies the impact of the pandemic on the mental and economic wellbeing of adults both in Luxembourg and abroad. While researchers received initial financial support from the FNR to start these projects, they were able to continue their work thanks to the support from private donors. Almost 2M EUR were given by Foundations and Industry towards COVID-research at the UL and national research partners such as LIH. Similarly, the University received strong support from private donors to help students in need. Within just a few months almost 500,000 EUR were raised to help students pay for their food, laptops, rent and medical bills.

I think that we can all agree that there is every reason for us to be proud of our University and of the Luxembourg society. As fundraiser of the University of Luxembourg, but also as member of the Amis de l’Université, it gives me joy to see how researchers, students, professors and donors worked together in order to make it through the hardest part of the pandemic and it certainly motivates me to support the University through fundraising for the years to come.

Philippe Lamesch | Head of Fundraising | University of Luxembourg