COVID-19: Science, Stories, and Resources

Member Perspectives

As people around the world are affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Biophysical Society is sharing stories from members about how their lives and research have been impacted.


Coronavirus Pandemic & Life in Social Isolation: A Tale from Lethbridge, Canada

As people around the world are affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Biophysical Society is sharing stories from members about how their lives and research have been impacted. 

Trushar R. Patel, Canada Research Chair in RNA & Protein Biophysics, University of Lethbridge

Lethbridge, Canada

Background: The recent global pandemic caused by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed our normal course of life for an unforeseeable period. The situation is entrenched globally and there remains unremitting incertitude for the near future. Although the outbreak was originally undermined by many across the world, it has now engulfed the entire world. Undoubtedly, we are facing the most difficult times in decades. Schools, libraries, universities, parks, sporting events, recreational facilities, etc. are closed and the community members are strongly encouraged to stay at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus.  

Impact: Such closures have a significant impact on various aspects of our lives and affect our physical and mental state as well as our personal and professional activities. From a mainly wet-laboratory based biophysics research group, we were evidently disappointed by the announcement that all the laboratories at the University of Lethbridge will require to end their activities on campus, similarly to thousands of research groups across the world. The critical experiments required to complete research publications, experiments to gather data for grant applications, collaborative laboratory activities, etc. unfortunately came to a grinding halt. Most importantly, the undergraduate students were affected due to the termination of the on-campus in-person classroom and laboratory-based teaching activities.

Mitigation Strategies: The Universities across North America and Europe are quickly adapting to online teaching strategies to minimize the impact of university closures on student education. Many universities are also changing their course outlines (as appropriate) designed at the beginning of the semester to reduce the burden of this pandemic on the undergraduate student learning experience. Schools in many Provinces have canceled the final exams for K-12 students.

Like many others, I am also teaching my class online. Since I am teaching a senior undergraduate course, my class size is relatively small. Therefore, all of my students can join a live class and interact with others. On the other hand, many of my colleagues have larger class sizes, requiring delivery of pre-recorded lectures. Since we are unable to perform any experiments in a wet-laboratory setting, our group is currently actively performing activities such as data analysis and preparing reports to identify critical experiments required to finish their thesis/publications. We are also going to use the work-from-home model to design experiments, such that we are more effective in wet-laboratory, once the situation is normalized. A few members in my laboratory are also working with computational tools that complement wet-laboratory data. Working from home is an ideal time to complete data processing using computational packages. Trainees in my group have started reading on topics related to their thesis to catch up with the immense literature out there. Each of the graduate student and postdoctoral researchers are also working on developing review articles, which can also be included in their thesis. I have started working on finishing the manuscript revisions and going through literature. As a group, we meet twice a week online to discuss the progress we have made and identify opportunities for upcoming funding agencies. Subsequently, I am currently working on developing two new grants and aim to submit them in early Fall 2020. Our weekly journal club presentations are also scheduled to resume online this Friday, March 27th. Overall, we have plans to work effectively from home for the next two months.

Personally, this is an opportunity to spend time with family and catch up with friends all over the world using online platforms. A few of us from the University used to go out on Friday evenings to pubs. Unfortunately, this is not possible anymore. Therefore, we have started to meet online (via on Friday evenings and are enjoying our Zoom pub!

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COVID-19: Science, Stories, and Resources

Header Image Credit: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS