Student - June 29, 2020

Blog: 1.5-meter PhD


On Friday, 13th March, my supervisor announced that the lab would be closed until further notice, due to the coronavirus pandemic. From then on, we could only enter the building to maintain important experiments when no one else was around.

© Guy Ackermans & Shutterstock

Meanwhile, we work in shifts with a maximum capacity of people per room, keeping a distance to each other. It is great to work at least a few hours per day since science cannot be done in home office only. But I noticed that these restraints have made my time in the lab less pleasant.  

Not only is it difficult to plan experiments that fit in our limited time frames, but it is also harder to socialise. The 1.5-meter distance we must keep, of course, plays a role in this, but more importantly, we don’t have time to interact. We are eager to get as much done in the short time we get in the lab as we can, breaks for discussions are not included in our plans. Usually, I love to discuss results or give advice, but now I hear the clock ticking in the back of my mind when I talk to my colleagues. Though, I am approached much less than before the pandemic, because they are too busy to talk as well. This is especially bitter for those who are fairly new to the lab, as they often need help to settle in. Science lives off of interactions with- and input from- peers, thus the silence may even affect our results.

The strong group bond we once had, seems to have become weaker

Since we must keep our distance, we have fewer meetings and lonely lunches. There are some new colleagues with whom I barely had the chance to talk. This way, the strong group bond we once had, seems to have become weaker. Of course, I am grateful to work at all, as I do not want a delay from my graduation. But I miss the old days when the lab was busy, and we were having fun working together. We keep 1.5-meter distance between each other; the social gap this creates is much bigger.

 Katrin Heidemeyer came to Wageningen in 2014 to do her Masters, and started her PhD at the Laboratory of Biochemistry thee years ago. She hails from Germany.