COVID-19: Thoughts from our Scientific Advisory Board

COVID-19: Thoughts from our Scientific Advisory Board
4 years ago

COVID-19: Thoughts from our Scientific Advisory Board

We caught up with two members of our Scientific Advisory BoardProfessor Graham Collingridge and Professor Elek Molnár – to find out about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their labs, how they’re supporting their teams, and the challenges of remote working (we feel the same, Graham!) We also asked them to share their words of support for fellow scientists around the world at this time.

How has COVID-19 impacted your lab?

Elek: Our building will remain closed in the foreseeable future, which makes bench work impossible. However, we can still use excellent online resources such as the Genomics England database to continue some of our research projects using bioinformatics. Because we are not experts in this area, we are learning the required new skills as we go along. Hopefully, the data we extract from these databases will provide a solid basis and clear direction for future experimental work.

Graham: We are all working from home. I have reminded the lab that this is a great time to re-analyse and contemplate upon their data, read references and think about their projects If there is one thing I have learned during my career its that we all tend to do more than we think, and now is the chance to think more than we do. Read, read, read is the new motto.

It is also a time for the lab to become more organized and efficient. We are using the time to build up our databases, plan and purchase the supplies and equipment we need when things get back to normal, etc. with a view to increase the lab’s efficiency and productivity in the future.

Personally, I am using as much of this freed-up time as possible to tackle a large backlog of manuscripts that need to be completed and submitted.

What are you doing to support your teams at the moment?

Elek: We maintain regular communication, mainly via e-mail. The top priority is to stay safe and look after each other. It is also important to set achievable goals to feel productive. The team are discovering new learning opportunities and encouraging each other to develop additional skills that complement their research projects.

Graham: I have divided the lab into four groups of 6-7 researchers per group with whom I have weekly Zoom meetings, one each day. On the fifth day, we have a virtual lab group meeting followed by a virtual pub night, again using Zoom.

What's been the biggest challenge you've faced so far when it comes to remote working?

Elek: Setting up remote vivas for PhD students is challenging. One of our PhD students who is based in Cardiff will have her viva via a video link today with an External Examiner in Barcelona and Internal Examiner and Observer at two different locations in Bristol. Hopefully, the technology is not going to let us down. It is a shame that we are unable to celebrate together after the (hopefully) successful viva.

Graham: Avoiding the cookie jar!

How do you think this is going to change the way that they work in future?

Elek: While I miss the social aspects of working as part of a team, we now know it is possible to remain connected and collaborate effectively using online resources. I am sure that we will learn from each other what works for us and we will retain the positive aspects, such as the flexible nature of remote working.

Graham: I would hope that everyone in my lab learns the efficiency gains that can be achieved by being more on top of the literature and planning experiments more thoroughly before starting.

What words of support do you have for fellow scientists at the moment

Elek: It is important to stay focused on what you can control and remain motivated during these difficult times. Take this opportunity to work on those long overdue manuscripts and research proposals. Keep up your routine and plan your day carefully so you feel that you have accomplished something. Do not let the tsunami of e-mails distract you too much from your plans. Communicate clearly, succinctly and only when it is necessary, so others do not feel constantly disrupted. Remember, the current COVID-19 crisis will pass and some of the positive changes in our working practices will stick.

Graham: Be positive. We will get through this and bounce back stronger and more efficient.


Find out more about Graham, Elek, and the other members of our Scientific Advisory Board here.

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