We would like to thank the whole MCO/MCB communities for their support and engagement during these uncertain times. We continue to work hard to provide timely information on the changes the program is implementing in response to the rapidly evolving pandemic. We have worked together to write the statement below summarizing what we have been up to as a program and also personally during the pandemic.
What have we been doing as a program?
- We are staying in touch with our students through both the various MCB channels that have been set up (Slack, check-in meetings, etc), but also through weekly “Office Hours”. On some weeks, we are just available for students to stop by, ask questions, hang out, vent, whatever! Other weeks, we invite “special guests”, such as Ethan Garner and Andrew Murray to share some ideas on how to survive self-isolation, while still being a student and a scientist. They have shared a bit of their lives and challenges, but also have provided some fantastic insight and advice. One thing we are finding is that in spite of all the challenges and difficulties, it feels like we are breaking down barriers between us, students, faculty, and other staff, and really connecting as humans within our community.
- We stay in touch with each other through weekly check-ins, and messaging each other with funny things we’ve seen or encountered.
- We also meet every Thursday with Ethan, Craig and Victoria as part of the MCO Leadership Meeting to discuss programmatic issues and come up with solutions.
- Issues that we have encountered:
- Students (particularly those who are not computational-based), are finding it challenging to remain productive when they are not able to do experiments. Andrew Murray in particular spoke to this during our office hours, advising students on how to make progress while away from the bench,
- G1s without labs yet are having a harder time feeling connected to a community, and are stressed about finding a lab during this time of disconnection. We are working on ways to keep them connected to support them in deciding on a lab to join.
- Students are stressed about deadlines and academic progress. We are being very flexible with their timelines, and are focusing more on supporting everyone and their individual needs, while also not letting things get too far behind.
- We worked heavily on transitioning our Candidacy Exams, DAC meetings and defenses to virtual formats, trying to make the process as seamless as possible, while dealing with issues such as Zoombombing. So far, things have gone very smoothly!
- Finally, we are dealing with the anxieties of our incoming class of graduate students. As we all are, they are wondering whether or not Harvard will be open in the fall. Many have questions about lab rotations and lab joining, classes, funding, and housing. Further, international students are even more concerned about not being able to join in the fall due to visa issues, and are faced with potentially having to defer their admission. We have been communicating with our new students as much as we can, and are doing our best to be helpful and supportive during these stressful times.
- MCO Summer Program: With the cancellation of on-campus summer programs, we have been working closely with the GSAS to offer the program virtually. This is ofcourse a challenge as interns will not be able to enter labs physically to do research. As such, we are engaging faculty to explore
What have we been doing personally?
We have each been trying to keep sane whilst being at home by doing a diverse set of activities.
Lindsay has kept her sanity by staying with a structured work schedule (9-5), and keeping a morning routine. She and her boyfriend Dan work separately in different rooms and even have created their own Slack channels, which often prove to be more entertaining than productive. She (and Dan) have also been finding new things to cook (and eat), going on walks (while avoiding people as best as they can); and holding each other accountable with staying active – Dan does a home workout while Lindsay runs (as far away from people as possible) or does yoga. Lindsay has also kept busy by sewing masks for friends, and even starting a puzzle swap in her neighborhood!
Katie’s typical day during quarantine always begins with a large cup of coffee! She has been keeping busy doing all kinds of workouts (lifting, spinning, running), reading and watching her favorite YouTube channel, Bon Appetit. Even with all this time on her hands, she still is a horrible cook!
Fanuel has used the additional time to think deeply about how the MCO program can continue to support both current students and incoming students given the pandemic. One of the things he worries about is student mental health given the heightened levels of uncertainty they are all facing. As such, he and his team continue to brainstorm on new ideas and strategies to better support students. For example, the MCO nanochat platform is one tool he is carefully looking at utilizing more as social distancing continues. One particular worry that Fanuel has pertains to the next academic year which will look very different in comparison to previous years especially for the new G1s with respect to rotations. As such, this will present many new challenges for the program. As information becomes available, he wants to make sure students are as informed as they can be, especially on the resources that are available to them. Personally, Fanuel loves to walk and so he has taken advantage of working from home by taking occasional strolls down to the Spot Pond near his local town of Melrose. Of course, he makes sure to wear a mask and maintain distance from others!