Indian Institute of Technology Mandi has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Government Medical College and Hospital (SLBSGMCH), Ner Chowk, Himachal Pradesh, on April 11, 2020, to help tackle COVID-19 in the Himachal Pradesh region. Under this MoU, the Institute has extended its support to set up a real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) laboratory for diagnosing Coronavirus at SLBSGMCH.
For this purpose, IIT Mandi has already provided a real-time PCR machine along with few other types of equipment as well as trained personnel to SLBSGMCH. This is to set up the real-time PCR reactor and data analysis, which is one of the crucial steps for diagnosis, after Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) isolation. This sophisticated instrument will be solely used for COVID-19 diagnosis and will help in ramping up the testing process by analysing 100 samples if run for 24 hours continuously. If required, it can be increased to the capacity of conducting up to 1000 samples per day for the detection of COVID-19. SLBSGMCH will start analysing the COVID-19 samples after getting approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Apart from this, IIT Mandi will be conducting a training session for SLBSGMCH on the real-time PCR setup and data analysis. All the activities in the PCR lab for COVID-19 diagnosis will take place with mutual consent and each organisation will nominate one coordinator to oversee the functioning of diagnostic facilities.
In line with advisories from the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, the Institute has suspended all classes and extracurricular activities for its students until further notice.
Speaking about the safety of the students and online classes, Professor Timothy A Gonsalves, Director, IIT Mandi, said, “IIT Mandi is taking all safety measures to protect its students, faculty, staff and their families. The Institute has arranged online classes for the students, in order to minimise the impact of the disruption on their learning, until classes resume on campus. Faculty are extensively using the Moodle course management system to share study material, notes, audio files and so on. Students are accessing the study material on their computers or smartphones. Depending on the nature of the course and the Internet access of the students, some faculty are supplementing online data sharing with assorted social media and online platforms. In this time of crisis, the IIT Mandi community has come together to handle it as a team. Faculty, staff and students are contributing and cooperating remarkably.”
Moodle (an open-source application) is a content management system that supports quizzes, assignments, polls, and other activities. The download feature of the Moodle application is especially useful for offline study for the students with intermittent network access. Faculty are available online during interactive sessions for students to clear their doubts.
Speaking about the facilities and arrangements for students residing at the campus, Dr Manoj Thakur, Dean Students, IIT Mandi, said, “The Institute is providing all the basic facilities to the students who are residing at the campus, with the help of staff members present at the campus. Advisories regarding maintaining social distance and keeping hygiene are being circulated to the students on a regular basis.”
The Guidance and Counselling Service (GCS) at IIT Mandi is also providing active support to all the students by reaching out to them through emails and social media platforms. “Keeping in mind the mental health of the students during the lockdown, the GCS has prepared guidance material in the form of motivational posters and is frequently circulating it among the students. Apart from this, a help desk is being set up by the Institute to address all academic and personal concerns raised by the students. This help desk will consist of faculty members,” said, Ms Lishma Anand, Junior Superintendent, Guidance and Counselling Service, IIT Mandi.