COVID-19: Science, Stories, and Resources

Member Perspectives

As people around the world are affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Biophysical Society is sharing stories from members about how their lives and research have been impacted.


Sing out to the enveloped viruses, which are sensitive to soap

by Karen Fleming, Johns Hopkins University & member of the BPS Committee for Professional Opportunities for Women (CPOW)


Coronaviruses, like the current one ravaging the world, SARS-Cov-2, are expelled from cells in a package that is wrapped in a lipid membrane envelope. This greasy encapsulation means that this virus can be deactivated using a simple household chemical that we all have: soap. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control state that cleaning your hands often is a key step you should take to protect yourself from infection. The preferred method is to Wash Your Hands using soap and water.

Although this advice sounds like something your mother would say, she was right. Lipid membranes are dissolved by soaps, and this will deactivate the virus. The guidelines state that you need 20 seconds of suds to be effective.


How long is 20 seconds?

Here’s where the singing comes in. You can gauge a minimum 20 second hand wash with any of the following songs:

  • Happy Birthday Sing it twice (to yourself, not the virus).


  • The Alphabet song, as long as you include the chorus, e.g. Now I know my ABCs…


  • Gloria Gaynor’s I will Survive starting at:

You’d think I’d crumble,

you’d think I’d lay down and die.

Oh not I. I will survive

As long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive.

I’ve got all my life to live.

I’ve got all my love to give.

And I’ll survive.

I will survive.


  • Dolly Parton’s 9-to-5: the first verse and chorus

Tumble outta bed

And I stumble to the kitchen

Pour myself a cup of ambition

And yawn and stretch

And try to come to life

Jump in the shower

And the blood starts pumpin’

Out on the street

The traffic starts jumpin’

The folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

 got a lot farther by working a lot harder by being a lot smarter by being a self-starter…

Workin’ 9 to 5,

What a way to make a livin’

Barely getting’ by

It’s all takin’ and no givin’


  • The chorus of Queen’s We are the Champions

We are the champions, my friends

 And we’ll keep on fighting till the end

We are the champions

We are the champions

No time for losers

Cause we are the champions

Of the word.


  • The opening passage of Hamilton

How does a bastard, orphan,

son of a whore and a Scotsman

dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean

by providence impoverished, in squalor

 grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

 The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father

got a lot farther

 by working a lot harder

by being a lot smarter

by being a self-starter…


  • If you pace it correctly, only four lines are required from Les Mis√©rables’ I Dreamed a Dream:

              I dreamed a dream of time gone by.

             When hope was high and life worth living

             I dreamed that love would never die

            I dreamed that God would be forgiving.


  • And as a member of CPOW, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman. Twenty seconds only gets you half way through the first chorus, e.g.

I am woman, hear me roar

In numbers too big to ignore

And I know too much to go back and pretend

‘Cause I’ve heard it all before

And I’ve been down there on the floor

No one’s ever gonna keep me down again


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COVID-19: Science, Stories, and Resources

Header Image Credit: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS