Scientist – The most valuable skillset in the COVID-19 pandemic

A Difficult Time For Scientists

By now the majority of academic STEM researchers have shut down their labs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a 5th year PhD student, this was definitely not the challenge I was expecting to be my last hurdle in earning my PhD. I have seen many stories that have shown the difficult reality that is being a researcher outside of infectious diseases these days. Young PhD students talking about how entire animal colonies had to be euthanized or months-long experiments being cut short and almost completely losing outcome measurements.

In response to this, I have seen an amazing effort by scientists trying to make the most of their dire situation. An article published in the New York Times highlighted several stories from around the world about how scientists are adapting to these tough times. The most notable (and relatable) story was about a 4th year PhD student at Vanderbilt University who had to “relocate” a dedicated analysis computer to her apartment to continue her stringent tissue analysis.

What can we do to help?

It certainly is a difficult time for scientists, but in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic we are the most valuable worker available to the world. A recent article by Forbes listed 10 ways that scientists can help during this crisis. I will let you read the article in its entirety between episodes of Tiger King, but I wanted to highlight a few points that I hope catch your attention.

#5 Volunteer your skills. This to me is the most important one of them all. The Forbes article highlights initiatives such as Crowdfight COVID-19 and the COVID-19 Pandemic Shareable Scientist Response Database. However, I think we can be doing more as scientists. For someone like me, in the prime of my pipetting career, we can go to our local DHEC office and volunteer as scientists to help transcribe data and run COVID-19 diagnostic tests. In fact, our current postdoc and I are currently in the process of setting up volunteer time to help run tests at the local DHEC office here in Columbia, SC. If you have the time and the skillset, please consider volunteering. Testing is the way we get more people into quarantine and get people to treatment faster. #VolunteerCOVID19Scientist

#10 Share your science virtually. I love this idea. With every school in the country shut down, virtual education has been called into action to maintain a standard of education during this lockdown. I have recently signed up for the platform Skype A Scientist. This program pairs me with virtual classrooms from around the world where I can share my research with young students.

Above all it is important to stay safe. Let’s set an example for the rest of the world and work together to make it through this crisis.

Have a story about how you are continuing your research during the lockdown? Or are you doing something to help as a scientist during this crisis? Please share below!

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