Mentally Preparing for My Return to the Lab: A Grad Student’s Perspective

Today’s guest blog is written by Sophie Mancha, a global marketing intern with Promega this summer. She will be starting her 4th year as a PhD candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying pancreatic cancer.

Graduate students are used to working. Not only during regular work hours but also well into the night to finish readings or work on data analysis. Ripping graduate students away from their research as they desperately try to produce useful data may be as hard as finding toilet paper during the first few months of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. However, across the world graduate students saw their research come to a screeching halt. The pandemic took over and everyone suddenly went into quarantine.

I clearly remember my first virtual lab meeting. We all frantically tried figuring out what video-conferencing platform to use and how to share our screens. We kept repeating “stay calm” as we naively thought this would only last a couple of weeks. As the months went by, I began to panic. I realized I had finished analyzing the last remaining data I had left and was no longer being “productive”. This quickly spiraled into thoughts that I may never earn my PhD.

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How to Train Your Instrument Service Team in a Pandemic

Service engineers engaged in remote instrument training.

When the Spectrum Compact CE System launched in June 2020, all the instrument service engineers that are part of the Promega Global Service & Support (GSS) Team needed to be trained on using and fixing the instrument. This is a challenging endeavor in the best of times, but the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more difficult. Thanks to the work of some dedicated teams and individuals, Promega service engineers around the world were able to receive remote instrument training. But how do you teach someone to repair an instrument when you can’t be in the same room?

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Biotechnology Teaching Online: A New Way to Look at Scientific Notebooks

This post is written by guest blogger, Peter Kritsch MS, Adjunct Instructor BTC Institute.

When I was in the middle of my junior year in high school, my family moved. We had lived in the first state for 12 years. I had gone to school there since kindergarten. Although it wasn’t a small district, I knew everybody and, for better or worse, everybody knew me. Often the first reaction I get when I tell people when we moved is that it must have been hard to move so close to graduation. The reality is . . . it really wasn’t. In fact, it was quite liberating. See, I didn’t have to live up to anybody else’s expectations of who I was based on some shared experience in 2nd grade. I had the opportunity to be who I wanted to be, to try new things without feeling like I couldn’t because that wasn’t who I was supposed to be. 

As long as I refrained from beginning too many sentences with “Well at my old school . . . “ people had to accept me for who I was in that moment, not for who they perceived me to be for the previous 12 years. Now, the new activities were not radically different. I still played baseball and still geeked out taking AP science classes, but I picked up new activities like golf, playing basketball with my friends, and even joined the yearbook. I know . . . “radically different.”  The point is that the new situation allowed me to try something new without worrying about what had always been. 

Peter teaches about biofuels in his virtual classroom.

The pandemic has forced a lot of us to move our classrooms online. In a short period of time, everything changed about how education was done. Our prior teaching experience, including the experience I had with doing blended learning (ooops . . . “back at my old school”), was helpful to a point.  But we quickly found out that being completely virtual was different. And as science teachers, how do you do more than just teach concepts when online? How do you help students to continue engaging in the crucial parts of science – observing, questioning, designing, analyzing, and communicating?

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