Keeping labs stocked, campus supplied with COVID-19 safety items

Christian Gervasi manages the UO Science Stores

Editor’s note: Duck of the Week is a new section in Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

Christian Gervasi
Manager of Science Stores

How long have you worked at the UO?

I came to the UO as a PhD student in 2012. I have a part-time instructor position here at the chemistry department and teach general chemistry. I also switched over to being the manager here at Science Stores last September and have been working in this position for just over a year now.

In your own words, what do you do?

Science Stores serves the science community here on campus and provides laboratory supplies, chemicals, goods and a lot of the consumables needed to conduct research, do tests and teach classes. We supply the teaching labs for several disciplines and provide the science departments with the tools they need to do what they need to do. We have also become the supplier of all the PPE and sanitation consumables for the entire campus. Our staff took this on when the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading last spring. Half of our job now is making sure that the necessary people and departments have enough disinfecting solution, sanitation wipes, masks and face shields.

Jennifer Jess is an integral part of Science Stores, and I would say that she does even more than I do. Jennifer and I run this place together, and we are a team. We also have student workers who work in the stockroom with us, and Jennifer and I could not survive without them. We’ve become a main hub for deliveries, and that’s become a large part of what our student workers are doing. Alex Archer, Natalie Dunn, Lena Lamoureux, Scout Trom, Kayla Taylor, and Anna Wade receive, organize and distribute packages to the science complex here on campus.

What does your typical day look like?

I spend half my day in the store and my afternoons are spent preparing lecture material for classes. In the store, I manage a lot of the resources and take care of the billing and accounting duties. I communicate with people about getting their needs met, and Jennifer works tirelessly to keep us supplied in the back.

I have previous theater experience, so I really enjoy audience-performer interactions in any setting. I have a good relationship with the students I teach because I try to create a positive learning environment. These last several weeks have been a major learning experience for me in terms of how to interact with and elicit an engaging learning environment for the student when it’s happening online. I’ll have to admit, I’m not always succeeding, but I’m trying. I strive to learn from my missteps and see what I can do next time to improve my next online interaction.

What do you like about working at the UO?

I like the community. The other teaching and support staff have been very supportive of me. When I was a PhD student, several of them mentored me and gave me opportunities to teach at the end of my graduate career. This sort of community – where you’ve got older members mentoring younger members – doesn’t always happen. The university is a very supportive environment and I feel blessed to have relationships with and be mentored by people who are further along in their careers.

What keeps you motivated?

I am motivated by my kids and family. They keep me inspired, and I want to make sure that they have as normal of an experience as possible right now due to the pandemic. The community members in the chemistry department – in addition to other science departments as well – also inspire me. A lot of the researchers we have in various institutes and research units depend on us to make sure they have what they need to keep going.

We supply a significant amount of the needs and make deliveries for the COVID-19 Monitoring and Assessment Program, which is doing all the testing on campus. Those sorts of things keep me going because we are able to utilize the resources and knowledge of our people in the laboratories to do this testing and improve the healthcare provided to UO students and staff.

What is something people may not know about you?

Some people already know this about me, but I attended the New York University Tisch School of the Arts when I was younger. I was in their undergraduate performance program and wanted to be an actor in New York. I realized that I didn’t want to do that after a while, however, because being a performer is an extremely hard life. You have to want to be rejected a 1,000 times to get that one chance that maybe you make it big. Before I got out to New York and saw how rough it was in the New York performance and theater scene, I don’t think I realized how rough and tumble that could be. You really got to be willing to face a lot of rejection. And I was. And I tried, but then I finally said to myself: I want to have kids and a life. I have a wonderful life now, and I should be thankful for that.

Christian Gervasi is a part of Science Stores and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Do you know someone who should be Duck of the Week? Nominate a UO employee.