Regina Allen recently shared an important piece of advice with a group of researchers.

“You should learn your lab’s SOPs [standard operating procedures], so you don’t ever become a zombie,” said Allen, director of the Institutional Biosafety Committee Program and Institutional Biosafety Committee administrator.

And she was speaking from experience, kind of.

Allen had just spent the day playing a character on the verge of turning into the undead in the lab-themed escape room that occupied the first-floor auditorium of Steger Hall. About once an hour, Virginia Tech researchers, working as a team, took their best shot at following the lab’s biosafety protocols, unlocking clues, and retrieving the antidote needed to save Allen, and ultimately themselves, from turning into zombies.

“What we learned is that Regina is really very devious,” said Sally Paulson, associate professor of veterinary and medical entomology, crediting Allen with the room’s challenging puzzles.

The escape room was one of several activities that highlighted the university’s inaugural Biosafety and Biosecurity Day on Oct. 25. Sponsored by the Division of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance and Environmental Health and Safety, the day included various challenges, trivia, crafts, resources, and even a biosafety-themed photo booth. The event coincided with National Biosafety and Biosecurity Month, which was October.

Along with Allen, event organizers include Ling Chen of the Institutional Biosafety Committee program as well as Anna Kroner, Michael Miles, Roberta Polak, Allie Price, and Charlotte Waggoner of Environmental Health and Safety.

The organizers said the goal of the event was to both create awareness about biosafety and cultivate relationships between those tasked with the education and compliance of biosafety protocols and those abiding by them in the lab. Often, those involved with the oversight of biosafety compliance are viewed as being judgmental or unapproachable, but they’re mission involves supporting and guiding them through the regulations that exist.

Paulson said she brought her lab there to help cultivate that type of teamwork, which delighted Allen to hear.

“The whole idea is to make people realize that compliance is not about getting people, but it’s more about education, and learning can be fun,” Allen said.

Event organizers also share a few quick tips on biosafety:

  • Always wear your personal protective equipment when in the lab.
  • Always wash your hands before exiting the lab.
  • Keep your biological spill kit supplies stocked and easily accessible.
  • Do not keep non-research-related plants in the lab.
  • If you don’t know or aren’t sure about something, ask for assistance.
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