Harvard University COVID-19 updates

Department News

Stay Connected_The Garner Lab

Stay Connected_The Garner Lab

Ethan Garner (PI)

“I’ve been working at home for quite some time (I have been on medical leave and fully isolating since early January as I am immune compromised). While this is quite a change, I find it actually to be fun. Like working on the weekends, all week long.  The most important thing I think is setting a routine, if not you kind of burn out. What I do is try to keep myself on schedule for all things – getting up, working out, working, breaks, lunch, and stopping working.  Like Jenny, I take targeted 10 min breaks every 1-2 hours. I also set a strict “stop working” time, where I cease all work and do something else in the evenings (like video games or watching the Expanse).  This photo is me at “my office”, which is my kitchen table or couch, as the office is claimed by my partner. It’s also important to get sun, so I go out on a walk or on the balcony at least for 20 min a day.

Aside from weekly meetings, I’m working to talk to each person (individually) every 2-3 weeks, more if they request it. Lab meetings are now “round tables” explaining what they have been doing for the week (rather than presentations). The shutdown is not affecting us all that badly, about 1/2 the lab is working on their papers, 1/4 doing data analysis, and a few others are working on a review. As far as other goals – mostly just remain physically and mentally healthy!“


Laura Bagamery (Graduate Student)

“The Garner lab has been having weekly Zoom meetings, as you’ve probably heard. People have started to dress up for them. Last week, the dress challenge was to put on an outfit that you hadn’t worn in over a year.

I’ve been using my isolation to finish my manuscript. It turns out that quarantines are quite effective for grinding through unpleasant tasks. Most of the experiments for my paper were already complete. I frantically performed the last set of experiments two days before the university shut down. I saved the analysis for last, and I finished the coding and rendering from home on my laptop. Mostly, I had been struggling with concentrating on the writing process, and I found being locked away actually somewhat helpful for that. I find writing extremely difficult, but under these conditions, it’s actually been an efficient process; there are no events, experiments, or other distractions to use as an excuse for procrastination.

I usually live alone with my cat, Caterine D., but my partner Kristian has moved in for the isolation period. I gave him the desk in my living room (left photo), and I work at a small folding dining table (right photo). We’ve been keeping a steady routine: wake up at our regular work time, wear non-pajama-based clothing during work hours, and take regular breaks. We do push-ups and aerobic workouts in my living room. We also try to go on runs outside when the weather is nice. I’ve started sewing face masks.”


Charlie Dulberger  (Postdoctoral Fellow)

“Working from home has so far entailed: writing grants, teaching an undergraduate genetics class and having zoom meetings with lab mates and collaborators.  Working from home is proving difficult with a toddler running around.  She wants to “help dada with computer”.  So we’re passing the time with new cooking projects like bread-making, yoga and sewing cloth face masks for the community.”

Madison working from home, baking, and sewing face masks with mom


Daniel Henthorn and Anastasia Repouliou (Graduate Students)

“(Un)fortunately, the two of us live together. So, work from home has retained some of the features of work in lab, like talking through science and our projects. We attend talks and happy hours online, eagerly participating in the unofficial challenge of best (or worst) virtual background. Our lab meets once a week for updates and costume contests.

Give us more excuses to go through our stash of alcohol. We also spend a lot of time with our other two housemates, Julien and Dani. We eat lunch every day at 13.00 – and face a very grumpy Frenchman whenever there are delays.

The house has been turned into a dedicated bakery; we miss our microorganisms so much that we constantly make bread, kombucha, and pastry to keep them busy. Too much pastry if you ask me. That’s why we are also figuring out alternative ways of exercising. We go running and biking outside and do ballet and yoga in the living room. We are writing up plans for when we run out of toilet paper – we are getting quite creative. (Completely unrelatedly) we have accumulated a lot more plants. Big leafy plants. This place will become a jungle before we get out.”


William Mallard (Graduate Student)

“It’s been hard being away from the bench, but I’ve been writing grants, making figures, and prioritizing experiments for when we’re allowed back. I made my desk more ergonomic, but I still end up spending most of the day by the window.

I go on bike rides through nature several times a week, and I’m watching David Harvey’s lectures on Grundrisse; I’ve been meaning to follow along all semester but never found the time. They feel especially relevant now that the global economy is falling apart under the weight of this pandemic.”


Jeff Offerman (Research Assistant)

“As the tech in the lab, my principle duties are very “hands-on”; making media and solutions for the lab, ordering and stocking supplies, assisting in experiments and the like. During this period where actual lab work is not possible, I have attempted to make myself useful by helping to coordinate our lab’s donations of PPE to hospitals and testing facilities. I am aware of what stocks we have on hand, and where to find them, and have been able to assist those who have permission to enter the building to obtain our contributions. To date we have donated several cases of gloves, petri dishes and centrifuge tubes. I also serve as virtual buddy for the two people from our lab who are authorized to enter the building to maintain liquid nitrogen stocks. I also “Zoom” into lab meetings to keep up with what everyone is doing. This actually has been useful as I will be better able to forecast the immediate needs of the lab when we all are allowed to return to work. I have also been updating protocols and recipes which were in need of revision to changes over time.

To stay sane during the ’great confinement‘, I have been editing photos I took when my husband and I visited Cuba earlier this year before all of this happened. We visited a number of national parks and focused on the amazing wildlife of that island, and just seeing it again brings a smile to my face.”

photos by Jeff Offerman


Devon Stork (Graduate Student)

“I’d originally built this as a gaming computer setup, and used my laptop and second monitor in lab for my scientific work. But with working at home, having a dual-monitor system ready to go with audio and video setup was great. Here I’m reading a paper from a new collaborator to help me understand the work they’ve been doing so I can write up an abstract in the background of their previous work. I’m using this time at home to build as many figures as I can, prepare conference abstracts and write up my big PhD paper.

Without being able to socialize with people in lab, in order to stay sane I reached out to new and old friends electronically. We’ve played video games and electronic recreations of tabletop games, as well as Dungeons and Dragons. It’s been nice to reconnect with college friends and do things with lab friends in a non-work setting. I’ve also started to take daily walks around the park – it’s nice to see other people enjoying the outdoors, even if you don’t get within ten feet of them.”


Jenny Zheng (Graduate Student)

“Since working from home, I have been keeping myself busy by reading papers, analyzing data, and attending virtual seminars when I can (as shown in the selfie).

Working from home has definitely given me the chance to delve more deeply into my research projects. I have started thinking more carefully about the field I’m working in by reading papers as well as starting analysis pipelines for research and experiments that I will want to do once I’m back in the lab.

One of the dynamic instability papers that I enjoyed is the following: Brown-Anderson, Hugo, et al. “Microtubule dynamic instability: a new model with coupled GTP hydrolysis and multistep catastrophe.” Bioessays 35.5 (2013): 452-461.

Some of the challenges I have faced is keeping my motivation up. To deal with that I moved my office to the window (so I can occasionally see some cute squirrels run by), started a routined schedule every day, and made sure I take breaks every once in a while (sometimes timed if needed).

The timed breaks strategy is the Pomodoro Technique described in this link.

Luckily, I’m not toughing this out alone and have been staying with my boyfriend. Even though I have been cooped up these past weeks, I have maintained parts of my sanity by cooking new dishes and dancing with my boyfriend almost every day. In addition, I have reconnected with some of my college friends and played some online multiplayer games (Stardew Valley and Keep Talking and Don’t Explode). In this time, working hard and playing hard has been keeping me going! Have fun with the staycation!