Eat, sleep, autoclave, repeat…

For several months now, my university is in code red due to the high cases of corona infections and deaths. In case you would have missed it, we’re in a global pandemic and that poses challenges for everyone. Code red means that theoretical courses cannot take place on campus and all students are following online classes. In this regard, I’m grateful that I still have the opportunity to get up every morning and go to the lab to perform my experiments. It is one of the few things giving me a routine and a sense of purpose in these strange times.

Though I really enjoy working in the lab, it is kind of odd, since there’s only half of the staff working. As a consequence, you can (not seldom) find us thesis students video calling our mentors to make sure we’re following the right protocol and we’re working with the correct tubes, boxes and machines etc. It is a bit of a weird sight, though! To limit the spreading of SARS-CoV-2, we are also not allowed to eat together or hold big meetings in the same room. Consequently, all co-workers are spread over the entire floor to follow the online meetings to discuss recent advances in our work and brainstorm about future possibilities.

A rare benefit of the current situation is that I can manage my course material better. Since I work a lot in the lab in Antwerp, and my courses would normally have been given in Leuven, there was no possibility to attend all the courses live and, in the meantime, perform all my planned experiments. Now, I can access all the recordings of the lessons online and process them at my own pace. So, in this regard, it is not all bad, I guess. Nevertheless, it can get quite lonely. Social isolation is real, for any age group and what I experience form my immediate environment it that it is taking its toll on students as well. All we really have to do is to perform at the moment when it is expected from us. And although we, as second masters, have enough maturity and study experience to make it work this way, without any form of relaxation, it gets pretty fast you, yourself and your books (plus your not easily transformable lactobacilli) for the rest of the year. As ‘proof of concept’, most of my classmates I have only recently met at the exam, which was the biggest social event this academic year since March 2020, thus that says a lot! Notwithstanding, health comes first, and we need to keep doing the same old until things get better and the virus loses its grip in the society.

All I want to say is that I’m looking forward to my vaccine and to more normal times, but isn’t that true for everyone?