Starting a PhD during lockdown

When you start a new job, you always have the first-day or even first-week jitters. For me, this was not any different. My first workweek was quite unusual as it coincided with the lab retreat. This week was full of meetings, workshops and the ongoing and upcoming research projects were discussed. This retreat was a great opportunity to get to know my colleagues and their research topics. If you are interested be sure to read our blogpost about the lab retreat. 

After this interesting and fun week, I was looking forward to my first ‘normal’ week on the job. Unfortunately, this was not a standard week either. It was cut short as SARS-CoV2 started taking over Belgium. Due to the corona crisis, telework became the norm. After cleaning out a messy room at home, I created a private office where I could work undisturbed. As for everyone, adapting was not always so easy, but it was the perfect opportunity to read literature, write a review and freshen up my bioinformatic skills. I learned the basics of the R programming language, improved my Linux skills, and made my first python scripts. Additionally, I investigated what bioinformatic tools could replace our current tools to identify and elucidate novel nonribosomal peptide synthetase clusters. These new skills and tools will be very useful during my PhD. 

As the regular contact with colleagues has diminished, our lab has organized weekly meetings in smaller groups per research topic. The PostDocs take lead of one the groups. During these weekly meetings, we discuss what we are working on, and what we hope to finish by the next meeting. It is not only a great way of motivating yourself and keeping track of your own work progress, but it also helps to combat the loneliness and lack of social contact that comes with telework. Currently, the corona lockdown measures are gradually being relaxed. Hopefully, we can all start working in the lab again soon! 

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