The lockdown period was tough from multiple points of view. First of all, as a PhD student far away from my family, I had a lot of anxiety and fears about their well-being. Additionally, as this is my last year of PhD, there was a lot of uncertainty about when I would be able to return to the lab to finalise some key experiments for my thesis. Not surprisingly, taking the time to think/analyse and plan key future experiments during lockdown kept me quite busy and was productive in a good way. After a long wait and postponing due to important safety measures, we were finally allowed to go back to the lab after more than 3 months. It definitely felt like coming out of a bubble after so much time working from home. Now, we were about to live life and work under unprecedented circumstances, adapting to a new style of living while being cautious about living through a pandemic and the risks associated with it.
The first few days were quite different and a bit uncertain, as we never worked in a lab with such stringent safety measures in place. The fact that we are at 20% capacity, we are all wearing masks, sanitising our hands all the time and keeping a safe distance when we interact with each other has made the social aspect of work very different, it just feels more isolating, cautious and does not allow as much interaction as before, but it feels quite safe. There is no place or time for the occasional coffee/tea meetings accompanied by interesting discussions in the kitchen area. However, we can still have lunch together while maintaining social distancing, which is very nice and brings back some normalcy to our work routines.
Working in morning/afternoon shifts is making me and my colleagues super focused on their task, permitting little or no breaks due to time constraints. On one side, this can increase some productivity, but on the other side, it feels quite stressful when experiments/cells do not entirely respect our schedule and we have to leave the lab. However, continuing my analysis/admin/planning experiments work from home after my morning shift is good, as it gives me the feeling that I can work in a safe environment and stop stressing for a bit about the potential risks taken when going out. The media and the news can be very overwhelming and confusing, so I still think about the risks for myself, other colleagues and family and would like to be cautious while trying to finish up my PhD as normal as it can be during this pandemic. I feel grateful that I could return to the lab and still be able to do the experiments I needed, it feels very reassuring and normal to be able to go to previous routines. Returning to the lab helped to relieve some of the stress and anxieties that I often felt during the lockdown period.
14th August 2020
Ana Maria Cujba
(last year PhD student @ Sancho Lab)