Imperial College London

Imperial staff reflect on a challenging year – and their hopes for the future

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In a new video, Imperial staff at the heart of the COVID-19 response share their thoughts on the challenges of 2020 – and hopes for the future.

It is now over a year into the progression of the global pandemic, and the lives of individuals across the globe have changed in entirely unprecedented ways. Here at Imperial, staff members people at the heart of the crisis have shared their thoughts on the past year, from their perseverance through the hardest of endeavours, to their hopes for a brighter, sounder future.

Click the video above to hear their insights.

Opportunity rising out of uncertainty 

Being able to work on a vaccine during this pandemic has been such a cool opportunity for all of us. Dr Anna Blakney

Many Imperial staff members said they were uncertain at the start of the outbreak – with hard facts about the virus proving difficult to find in such a rapidly-developing situation. The pressure mounting on key workers and individuals in the NHS and across scientific backgrounds as a whole was only increasing, and many found it difficult to manage the expectations of the public.

The necessity of working in environments where exposure to the virus was high further added to the fraught nature of the situation. Though the challenges were intense and the emotional toll heavy, many scientists and key workers found themselves finding silver linings in the opportunities they found.

Dr. Anna Blakney, formerly of the Department of Infectious Disease, who had been working on the Imperial vaccine efforts, said: “For most scientists, their ultimate dream is to work on a technology or medicine that would potentially have a positive impact on human health, and so being able to work on a vaccine during this pandemic has been such a cool opportunity for all of us.”

As the pressure and uncertainty grew, many found strength in bonding as a community and forging closer lines of (socially-distant) contact with those around them. Volunteering with the NHS, helping out with the local community, and engaging with others on a personal level were some of the coping strategies used by many to gain some sense of control over the situation, while contributing to the community at large.

Professor Sonia Saxena, who is a professor of primary care and a general practitioner, said: “I think that has been a real leveler; the fact that we were all able to rise to the occasion and become part of the community by helping people. It’s been a real source of strength.”

Watch our full ‘COVID reflections video below.

Covid Reflections from the Imperial response team

A better year ahead

It’s really a human story – and I really hope we can all learn to value what we need to value. Professor Sonia Saxena

More than anything, hope for the future remained a strong motivation for all involved. With the development of various vaccines for the virus being successful over the course of the past few months, many are looking forward to a better year ahead. With new technologies such as the RNA vaccine quickly proving to be more effective than older ones such as attenuated vaccines, many within the field are optimistic for a safe and efficient rollout to the public, bringing back a sense of normalcy within the year.

Although finding the results promising, Professor Graham Cooke, who specialises in infectious diseases and is a member of the Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT) study team, states that, “we shouldn’t underestimate the challenges that are ahead of us,” but does say that he is cautiously optimistic for the near future.

While the world has changed tremendously, it is apparent that the human spirit has endured and has led us to a time where many are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Taking a moment to reflect on the sacrifice and loss that has weighed heavily on humanity the past year, Professor Sonia says: “It’s really a human story – and I really hope we can all learn to value what we need to value.”


Jayamurali Balamurugan

Jayamurali Balamurugan
Communications Division

Lucy Lipscombe

Lucy Lipscombe
Communications Division


Health-policy, Drug-discovery, Coronavirus, Global-health, Healthcare
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