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From Lab Work to “Home Work:” Tips on the Transition to Work From Home

March 31, 2020

PhD candidate Adrianna Matos-Nieves shares tips for research employees who are suddenly finding themselves transitioning from the wet lab to their home office.

PhD students have a significant advantage when enduring coronavirus-imposed social distancing. We decided to do it voluntarily many years prior.

But in all seriousness, the transition to working from home can be difficult, especially if you are used to working in a busy wet lab. Here are a few things that have helped me shift work from bench to desk:

  • Create a space that facilitates working from home. I invested in a spacious desk and a comfortable chair (it was quite doable on a graduate student stipend). I also brought my lab plants home with me so I could be reminded of my second home. I get excited every morning to get to work in this aesthetically pleasing environment.
  • Create a schedule and stick to it. Grad students have the freedom to come and go when they are performing bench work. We also know that when your thesis advisor asks for weekly updates on your projects, you must be able to provide them. By creating a daily schedule and logging your progress you’ll be more productive and keep yourself accountable. I find that by employing the bullet journal method helps me the most.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of human connections. Humans evolved to use their voice as the primary method of communication. Although we might be restricted to being in separate spaces due to COVID-19 outbreak, we can use technological tools to our advantage to communicate ideas and voice concerns surrounding lab work. Weekly meeting with your team via Zoom and daily catch-ups via Slack have helped the Garg Lab keep in touch during this tumultuous time.
  • Be realistic. When you are away from your wet lab tools the most you can do is perform data analysis, read papers and write grants/manuscripts. Would I rather be pipetting away? Yes. Is it possible right now? No. Let’s make careful use of the time we have. I am focusing on drafting my manuscript and writing my thesis. By establishing weekly writing goals, I have been able to complete these tasks diligently.
  • Practice self-compassion. We were all thrust into this situation quite suddenly and with it comes a sense of grief. Reflect on your losses and come to terms with the things that are weighing heavy on you. Please take care of yourself during this challenging time.

 

Adrianna is a 5th year PhD candidate in Dr. Vidu Garg’s laboratory in the Center for Cardiovascular Research. Her research focuses on identifying novel genetic pathways involved in the development of the embryonic mouse heart. Outside of the lab, Adrianna is committed to ending science education disparities by facilitating community outreach events between scientists and the Columbus, Ohio, community. She is set to graduate in Fall 2020.