Working from home during COVID-19
On March 20th the OEL shut down in lab operations due to the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak. Since then, everyone has been working from home. I asked them to answer
1) How are they keeping their science going?
2) What challenges have you faced and what has worked for you to overcome them?
3) What do you miss most about being in the lab?
4) How are you taking care of yourself?
See what they had to say below!
Kinsley Tate, Graduate Researcher
Working from home has definitely been an adjustment. It is strange to be working from my living room instead of a cell culture room. I am currently writing my proposal from my preliminary exam this Fall. I am also working on analyzing data related to Alzheimer's disease to aid in the development of our new in vitro model which we will use to study the role of fluid flow in this disease. While it is not ideal we are not able to complete experiments right now, I am thankful for the time I can now spend on literature reading and writing. When I first started working from home it took some time to establish a routine. I have found planning out my week really helps me to stay on task. While scheduling my tasks for the week, I also try to remember things may take longer than initially expected. I have learned a lot throughout this time, including it is ok to be less self-critical and in return more forgiving of yourself. This is a pretty big deal for me since I am a perfectionist. To go from working in a group setting to completely alone has made me appreciate my lab mates even more than before the COVID-19 crisis. I definitely miss our conversations both relating to science and life in general. I am excited to be reunited with everyone once it is safe. To reduce stress I have been exercising, gardening, painting and spending time with my husband and dogs. I also try to call one family member or friend each day to check in.
Caleb Stine, Graduate Researcher
Working from home has been a big transition that has been difficult. I don't like working from home because of all of the distractions I get into and it's been a long road getting to a schedule that works for me. There's been a lot of talk about keeping up productivity and figuring out what that means for me and ways to get my goals accomplished has taken some time. Mapping out all of the deliverables I have to do and setting deadlines for myself has helped a lot because I need those tangible accomplishments to keep myself going and feel like I am making progress. I've kept my science/research going is transitioning from experimental work to analysis, writing, and reading. It's actually a good time to get some of the work done which I've been putting off in favor of experiments. These have included fluorescence intensity analyses from imaging, cell counting, computational modeling work, and writing future papers. It's also an opportunity to catch up on some literature and start work on my prelim. I miss the interactions with my labmates a lot and the good conversations that being in lab always brings about. During the shutdown I've done a lot of different activities that I enjoy such as jigsaw puzzling, playing video games with friends/family, and getting outside for runs or bike rides.
Cora Esparza, Graduate Researcher
My main project during #wfh has been finishing up analysis that will hopefully be used in a paper! One aspect of the paper uses a lab-developed technique that shows fluid flow velocities in a brain tumor. I can pair immunohistochemical stains to these velocities to see if certain morphological features begin to change in regions of high fluid velocities. Something that I’m really excited about this week is exploring a clinical database like The Cancer Genome Atlas.
I have been finding it pretty hard to keep myself motivated, on task, and time efficient. For instance, I started reading a paper last week and spent two hours just diving into the references (it was an extremely good paper!). However, I had other more pressing tasks that should have been my priority at the time.
Something that really helps me stay driven and on task is having someone hold me accountable for data production.
It’s hard to say what I miss most about the lab. I would say the people, but I feel like Jenny has done a really good job at trying to keep us connected through lab socials and meetings. We also are all friends outside of the lab so we’ve been playing games online like skribbl.io, house party, and Jackbox. So my answer is: I miss sitting at my desk - for multiple reasons! The primary reason (and I’ve told him this multiple times so it’s not weird) is I have a great view of Krish at my desk. Krish is one of the post docs in our lab and he is always extremely focused. Seeing him working so hard makes me want to stay focused and work really hard. This is the same reason I like working at libraries - I work really well when I see other people working. Another reason I miss my desk is because I have two monitors. I had a family emergency right before we got quarantined so I’ve been doing all my work on my macbook air. Try opening up 3D slicer, matlab, python, and all the various internet tabs and let me know how long you last not throwing your laptop out the window!
What am I doing to take care of myself during the shutdown? Good question. After my mom passing away about two months ago (February 25, 2020), I’ve been trying to be hyper aware about how I’m feeling. I bought a really cute elephant journal that I try to write in as much as possible. I also have books that I’ve been reading about loss, grieving, and hope. I go on runs about 3 times a week and have been painting my nails, doing facials, and braiding my hair. As for COVID-19, I placed hand sanitizer at all major traffic areas in my life (car, entrance of house, etc) and wear a mask whenever I go into a store. My dad works at Kroger so my husband and I are ultra careful when he comes home. I hope everyone is staying safe. We’ll get through this!
Monet Roberts, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Associate
Since the pandemic, I have been working on data analysis mostly with a splash of reading and writing for upcoming projects and experiments that I am looking forward to performing. That has been keeping the excitement that being in the lab normally provides.
The challenges that I have faced has been my relationship to what true productivity is in this setting. Normally, I have conditioned myself to generating and producing data in the lab and that is what productivity looked like to me mostly. Since the pandemic, I have had to resolve that I can no longer "productively procrastinate" with lab experiments and data analysis, reading, and writing is just as productive and sometimes, even more productive because I have had time to just think and plan. The other thing that has been helpful in overcoming these challenges is a virtual writing group that I have three times a week with my friends from graduate school, Jessica and Josephine, who are writing their dissertations and preparing for their defenses. It has been nice for us to share what we are working on, work together (in silence lol), and then check in on our progress. Accountability with working with friends has been a blessing during this time.
What I miss most about the lab is being around my friends and working alongside each other. I am an extreme extrovert on the Myers-Briggs test, so this was a huge adjustment to not be working around people. We have had plenty of laughs and conversations in the lab and now we have had them via Zoom meetings and gatherings online, but it is not the same as being in person. I really miss that. Recently, I locked my keys in my car and Kinsley drove to pick me up from where I was to get my spare keys from home and it was stressful with my keys and sweating in my mask, but great to see her in person and have that human interaction once again. I'm looking forward to getting back in lab and seeing everyone.
Normally, I am not on social media, but I am doing instagram/facebook live workouts 5X a week at minimum. Before, it was so easy to say I didn't have time, but now it has been great to focus on being healthier, eating better, and taking care of myself in that specific way. I have also been taking work-life balance breaks to take a walk with my Yorkie, BJ, doing Zoom/Facetime calls/brunches with my little sister as well as friends (shoutout to my sister circle in the NRV, you know who you are!) and video game chats with my friend Jessica while playing PS4. Lastly, praying has been a constant source of strength before this pandemic, but I am continuing to grow in my faith and that really helps me to stay positive and hopeful throughout this time.
Krishnashis Chatterjee, PhD Postdoctoral Research Associate
How are you keeping your science going? What are you working on?
I am making plans and trying my best to stick to them. I also think this is a good time to read relevant articles/ papers and I am trying to utilize it.
I am working on building Agent Based Models of flow response of T cells in a lymph node environment.
What are the challenges you have faced and how have you worked to overcome them?
Not being able to interact with lab mates is one of the major problems, I have faced. I try to text them or talk to them over the phone whenever I can.
What do you miss the most about the lab?
I miss technical/ scientific/ work related discussions inside the lab and casual chats in the break room while having my 3rd cup of coffee.
What are you doing to take care of yourself during the shutdown?
I am trying to practice pranayama (a breathing exercise).