Canavan Group Making Masks

April 13, 2020 - Kim Delker

kits assembly
Mask assembly pieces

Heather Canavan, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, is taking the University’s “distance learning” model in a literal direction. When UNM announced that it would go on extended break, and then change its instructional model to a remote one, Canavan moved her lab operations to her garage. From her home office, Canavan and her team can view the face shields and masks for healthcare workers being printed in her garage to minimize the number of people in the same area. She’s also distributed the materials and equipment needed to sew fabric masks for non-healthcare workers in our community.



kits ready
Kits ready for delivery
Canavan has partnered with a local brewery, Broken Trail Brewery & Distillery, which has been shut down since the governor’s “stay at home orders” were put into place last month, to produce and distribute hand sanitizer. Distilleries such as Broken Trail are capable of making large batches of sanitizer, which they can also test for purity. All of these efforts are organized under what Canavan is referring to as “ScrubHub ABQ.”

“Right now, we’re seeing so many people who want to contribute, they want to help, they want to show support for our essential workers,” she said. “They are learning how to sew, how to make hand sanitizer, and how to make personal protective equipment. But we need to make sure that they’re able to comply with the ‘stay at home’ order and continue social distancing.”

ScrubHub will provide stipends for volunteers who operate the printers, courier the materials necessary to make PPE, and distribute the PPE to those who need it, just like delivery companies such as Grub Hub and Uber Eats.

Finished face mask
“This is possibly the most important aspect of ScrubHub. So many people in our community have been laid off from their jobs as waitresses, bartenders, and other jobs, and they are worried about how they will feed themselves and their families. By providing these volunteers with money, we’ll be able to help them find some financial stability as everyone waits to receive their unemployment checks or start a new career,” she said.

Canavan has donated equipment from her own laboratory and has created a Go Fund Me account to pay the volunteers. ScrubHub ABQ was recently awarded $7,500 from the 2020 Pitch In Social Enterprise Challenge.

“Everything that is donated will go directly to supporting our community—we’re not going to take a dime. I know it’s a terrible business model, but it’s what we need to do,” she said.