Living with Corona
The Corona crisis is changing the world of work. Science is also affected by it. LIN scientists are finding new ways to continue their work under new conditions. Depending on each subject area and the research work involved, the challenges are diverse.
Psychologist Dr. Anni Richter talks about the challenges she currently experiences as a scientist.
As a psychologist, working with test participants is essential for your research. How would you describe your current work situation?
Currently, I work in home office and we cannot test volunteers at all.
What were the most relevant changes in your daily work routine?
While before Corona a lot of time and work had to be invested in the acquisition and testing of young and older study subjects, my work now focuses on the evaluation of the data already collected. We are lucky that we had already made good progress with our study.
Now our sample is already sufficiently large to finalize or test some analyses. So now I can really dive into the depths of statistical data analysis. Sounds exciting, but at first it seems to be a lot of work to check tables and evaluation scripts - which fortunately I like and enjoy. Furthermore, I'm giving my first lectures this semester. – of course in a digital format. It's a special challenge, but the premiere last week went well, which I'm very proud of.
What is the biggest challenge for you?
The biggest challenge for me is to relax after work. Even before Corona I had problems with this sometimes and the fact that professional and private space are not separated does not make it easier.
Are there also positive aspects for you?
Everything has advantages and disadvantages. While I used to sit in an office with up to three colleagues before Corona, I am currently sitting alone at my desk. Before, there was often a lot of hustle and bustle, but now it is more peaceful and quiet and I can concentrate much better. However, I really miss the tea breaks and the exchange of views with my colleagues.
Haydee Guadalupe Garcia Lazaro defended her doctoral thesis at the end of March under very special conditions. In this interview she gives an insight into how she experienced the situation.
You defended your thesis during the crisis. How was it?
I defended my Ph.D. thesis in the middle of the Corona crisis. It was not planned as such because when the examination committee agreed on the defense date, there was no sign that the SARS-COv2 would be a very fast extending pandemic.
Approximately two weeks before my defense, I was informed by my supervisor that due to the lockdown, all exams and thesis defenses were cancelled by the University until further notice and only in certain exceptional cases, they could be carried out. I was shocked because I had plans, and this disruption affected all, especially the one related to moving to my next Job. Fortunately, with the help of my supervisor and the chair of my examination committee, the Faculty Council approved running my defense as an exception. The defense took place on the 30th March in the Main Campus “as planned.” “As planned” refers exclusively to the date and time previously set, but honestly speaking it was kind of a weird situation. First, the entire two weeks before my defense, I was worried about my health and the health of my committee because I knew that in the case somebody would get sick, the defense must be cancelled.
The day was atypical in general, according to the health regulations the defense was closed for the public, only the committee and the secretary were allowed to be in the room. We had to keep the distance between each other for at least 2 meters (now we are becoming more familiar with this, but at the beginning, It was hard not to approaching people when explaining, listening, or asking something). Of course, there were no guests or celebration afterwards. Even offering a glass of water was not permitted. I was sorry for that because I knew that the Committee managed to be there, and I could not provide anything afterward, but the health was the priority.
What were the challenges for you in that situation?
I successfully defended my thesis, and I’m still happy about that, but honestly, during the preparation time, it was not easy to be focused all the time. I have family in México and Great Britain, and it was hard not to think of them many times a day. This pandemic is affecting many countries. My internal drive to get in contact very frequently with my relatives and friends to check that all of them are fine and healthy was sometimes hard to stop. I dealt with that, and I learned to be confident that they were/are doing everything to keep themselves safe and healthy. I learned that the best thing we could do is continue to do our work as well as possible, take care of ourselves and of course, take some time to relax. Eating healthy, sleeping well, and not worrying so much is the best way to keep our immune system in good condition to fight against the virus.
Working from home was not a big issue for me, even though discussing some questions with my colleagues and supervisor is easier face-to-face, the new technologies allow us to do that without any trouble. Through the years, I have also learned that having a comfortable place at home for work is very important.
I miss of course running my experiments in the LIN, I have an incomplete dataset from one very exciting MEG experiment, which I was running before the lockdown. As we work with human subjects, at the moment, it is not allowed to continue doing it, but I hope we can continue soon.
I confess as well that due to my scientific background, I have spent some time looking and reading some papers about the SARS-Cov2. It’s sometimes hard to stop paying attention to the updates about clinical trials, potential vaccines, treatments, and even dreaming about obtaining epidemiological data and running some analysis to contrast and compare them.
What positive effects do you take from this experience for yourself?
We take for granted a lot of things; this crisis has taught me that life and health are literally vital. There is no future if everybody is selfish. The only possible future is when we cooperate and make our community stronger. For example, in the LIN, it was possible to keep some things running because everybody took care and followed the rules for not exposing others.
Many LIN employees are in the home office because of the current situation. We collect and publish pictures of LIN scientists with the tag #ScienceAtHome.
The corona crisis is affecting our everyday life in an unprecedented way. In addition to the efforts of science to get the virus under control medically and epidemiologically as well as economically, there are first projects that are also researching the effects on other areas of life. How does the crisis affect work and family life, mental health, consumption, eating and shopping habits, social cohesion or expectations towards politics and administration?
Join in CitizenScience projects of our Leibniz colleagues:
- The Citizen Science project "Living with Corona" by Prof. Dr. Tilman Brück from the Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops and ISDC - International Security and Development Center is researching life in times of the corona virus pandemic. The study is available at https://lebenmitcorona.org/
- At the Social Science Research Center Berlin, several researchers want to find out how the corona virus has changed the everyday life of people in Germany in a short period of time with regard to their work situation and family life. The online study can be found at corona-alltag.de
- An international study led by the EU Horizon2020 project DynaMORE (www.dynamore-project.eu) in cooperation with the Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research (www.lir-mainz.de) is currently researching the psychological mechanisms that can promote mental coping with this crisis. The study of the research network is already available in English and German (bit.ly/DynaCORE-C; bit.ly/DynaCORE-C-GER) and is currently being translated by an international team of scientists into 20 other languages, including Italian, Spanish, French and Chinese. The results will provide a valuable knowledge base for dealing with perhaps the greatest challenge facing the world community for many decades.