Student - May 14, 2020

YOU (still) on campus: ‘The plants just go on growing’

Anna den Hartog

The sun is shining on the campus, and the bees buzz lazily from flower to flower. The Unifarm greenhouses are buzzing away too. Standing among the plants is Tamara Kalsbeek (30), an MSc student of Plant Breeding at Plant Sciences.

On her first day of working on her thesis for her minor in Entomology, Tamara collected about 200 plant samples from seeds sown earlier, so she could research their resistance to aphids.

In spite of the global lockdown, the plants just go on growing, and research continues. Tamara: ‘It was not clear whether I could start at first, and I’m pleased that it could go ahead. We have adapted the way we do research. I do as much literature study as possible so that only what is strictly necessary has to be done in the lab. We have also had to plan applied research more tightly, and it would be nice if everything went well the first time because there is not much room for manoeuvre in the planning. That means I check everything I do even more carefully than usual. You switch the automatic pilot off. The supervisor schedules everything to make sure everyone keeps to the rules and everyone gets to do their research’.

I do as much literature study as possible so that only what’s strictly necessary has to be done in the lab

Communication is being tightened up too: ‘In some spaces, only one person is allowed in each compartment, so you have to coordinate everything precisely before you go in.’

Tamara is conscious of the uncertainty of the situation. ‘No one knows what they can expect. You don’t know if the measures will be tightened further, and access could be denied if people don’t stick to the rules. So it’s nice that there are such frequent updates by email from WUR.’

She hopes to finish at the end of August. ‘For my own research proposal, I’m trying to pay more attention to back-up strategies. And it is also a good idea for everyone to ask themselves whether an experiment is really necessary or whether you’re just doing it because you enjoy it.’