Empty lab

Many of us find ourselves without the ability to perform experimental work as a result of the current College closure. Here we highlight some ways in which PhD students can maintain contact with their groups during this period with a view to reducing stress and anxiety, maintaining productivity and improving overall wellbeing.

Tip for working outside your lab

Write an introduction

You will at some point in the future be writing an ESA, LSR or PhD thesis. Take this opportunity to brush up on your reading, review the current literature and put your work into context. All electronic library and journal resources remain open and accessible.

Reflect on your experimental plan

Take time to revisit recent results, take the opportunity to reflect on these and the current direction your work is heading. Engage with your supervisor and group to discuss your work and get guidance on where to begin when we return to the lab.

Prepare quality figures

Posters, presentations, publications and PhD theses require good quality figures. Use this time to work on some attractive, informative figures – they will be useful in the future.

Upcoming papers or presentations

Talk to your supervisor about preparing a draft paper, this always takes more time than anticipates. If it’s your first time, engage with others around you for virtual support; if you’re an accomplished author take the time now you don’t normally have to get writing. If your results are incomplete a draft is a good guide on what to focus on in your return.

Consider coding

Learning to code could be of tremendous benefit when you return to College, assisting you with data acquisition and analysis. Don’t worry if you haven’t coded previously, there are lots of free online guides…if you are a proficient coder why not learn a new language or reach out to those who may be learning. 

Stick to schedule

As a community of scientists and engineers we love to plan, we love to be productive and we enjoy working hard. Remember to allow time for you to relax, to get away from your computer and take a break. It is easy to get immersed in work and forget to take regular breaks – your schedule should include much needed rest.

Stay connected

Online tools such as Microsoft Teams allow face-to-face contact with your supervisor, other members of your groups and the wider Imperial community. Plan a virtual coffee, an online lunch and keep in touch with those that are normally with you in the lab. Remember that others may be in different time zones so coffee could be replaced by a bedtime cocoa for some.

Planning for your return

Everyone will be keen to restart when College reopens, use this time away to think about scheduling your experimental work. Consider shared lab resources and how they will be accessed, how can you and your group help each other be most productive.

Follow government advice

Many of us will now be in different countries so please ensure you follow the local guidance issued and remember this may change. In the UK please maintain social distancing, keep washing your hands and stay-at-home…this may not seem like much but if everyone does this infection rates will fall, lives will be saved.

Take time for you

Abrupt changes to our lives can take a physical and mental toll on us. Take time for yourself and as far as possible try to enjoy the things you normally do. Your health and well-being are the most important things you have – look after them. If you are struggling during this time reach out to friends, supervisors, tutors and well-being advisors.