Even an underground experiment 4,600 feet below a mountain in Central Italy, and a telescope instrument more than a mile high atop an Arizona mountaintop could not escape the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the virus spread around the world, many laboratories and experiment sites entered a period of partial shutdown and imposed restrictions on site access. Berkeley Lab researchers participating in international science collaborations quickly transitioned to working from home, in some cases with a shift in duties.

Construction and preparatory testing of some not-yet-complete projects abruptly halted, while some experiments were already designed for remote operations and continued to run smoothly. In some cases, a small number of scientists were asked to continue visiting sites to perform necessary maintenance and repair tasks – and to follow a newly required regimen of safety rules and protective wear.

Below are video interviews with a Berkeley Lab scientist and two Berkeley Lab-affiliated researchers who shared their experiences of working in international science collaborations during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Fabio Cerutti, a Berkeley Lab staff scientist and ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) group member who was working at CERN in Europe, quickly transitioned to working from home after the COVID-19 pandemic led to a stoppage in most activities at the CERN site. Cerutti talks about his continuing work in this video. (Credit: Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab)

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In International Physics Collaborations, Working Remotely Is Nothing New


Laura Marini, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley and a Berkeley Lab affiliate who serves as a run coordinator for the underground CUORE (Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events) experiment in Italy, shares her experiences of visiting CUORE and living near Gran Sasso during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Credit: Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab)

Read a related article:

CUORE Underground Experiment in Italy Carries on Despite Pandemic


Robert Besuner, Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) project manager and a Berkeley Lab affiliate who is an engineer at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, has found ways to contribute to the DESI project – which is on a mountaintop near Tucson, Arizona – from his home in the Berkeley, California, area. He has worked with other engineers to design parts that he has ordered from small machine shops and 3D printing companies to be installed on DESI even during a time of sheltering-in-place. (Credit: Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab)

Read a related article:

DESI Team Prepares for Telescope Instrument’s Restart after Unexpected Shutdown

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Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Lab’s facilities for their own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.