The COVID-19 pandemic has made its mark globally for disrupting life and The Graduate School of the Stowers Institute is no exception.
The Graduate School has focused on maintaining academic progress while prioritizing the well-being of predoctoral researchers during this time. While the pandemic has had far-reaching effects including the cancellation of the 2020 graduation ceremony and the 2020 Stowers Summer Scholars Program, the GSSIMR program, faculty, staff, and predocs have adapted and continued to progress.
Shortly after quarantine orders were implemented, Zanders Lab Predoc María Bravo Núñez successfully defended her thesis by videoconference on March 19. She plans to begin her postdoctoral position at Harvard University in July. Two additional thesis defenses are scheduled by videoconference in June, and more are planned for later in the year. Other predocs are progressing by holding virtual meetings with their thesis committees.
And as the scientific community adapts to the current social distancing norms, many courses and conferences are being transitioned to virtual events. GSSIMR predocs plan to attend the American Society of Mass Spectrometry Annual Conference and short course in June, and the Society for Developmental Biology 79th Annual Meeting and the International Caparica Conference in Splicing in July.
A self-directed study program was implemented for the predocs in rotation labs to maximize their learning during the shutdown. Many are taking the time to strengthen their scientific writing by working on proposals based on their rotation project, contributing to papers, or developing protocols. They continue to stay engaged with their rotation lab by attending weekly lab meetings and having one-on-one meetings with their mentors.
GSSIMR Dean Matt Gibson, PhD, conducts virtual meetings with the predocs where he emphasizes the importance of maintaining well-being and of having realistic expectations for productivity during the shutdown. He explains, “This is a good time for our predocs to step back and think about their data in terms of the big picture.”