PhD Life in 2021…

…by Doireann / from Ireland / studying PhD Precision Medicine / 2nd Year

2021 has been the longest year ever recorded, and it’s only February. Whatever ray of hope we had with the conclusion of 2020 was quickly extinguished by a new and improved coronavirus (is “improved” the appropriate word?), lockdowns, and the impending closure of Jenners. While it might seem strange to mention Jenners, the last closure of a historic department store in 2015, Dublin’s Clerys, coincided with a deterioration in the world’s overall condition ever since, from the mass death of celebrities to climate change and an apocalyptic 2020. Does this second closure signify an end to this particular series of unfortunate events in the world’s history? Or does it represent the beginning of a new, even worse era? Only time will tell.

Nevertheless, research must continue since we have had the luxury of being classified as essential workers. I felt this status was a curse as I returned to the lab on January 5th, grumbling and complaining as I waddled my way to work, full of Christmas chocolate, wine, and cheese. Despite my misgivings, it’s been a blessing to go to work and see friendly faces. My favourite aspect of being able to go into the lab is seeing other people in real life, providing reassurance that I haven’t gone entirely mad and delusional.

Alongside the new year and third wave of the pandemic, Brexit became official. As an Irish citizen, I’m lucky enough to not have to worry about applying for settled status, but as a researcher, it has become an irritating hindrance to my project since orders are severely delayed. Although this can be a good thing, as it forces me to plan well, and think about what can be done with the available resources. On the other hand, using up expensive antibodies in a failed experiment and then having to wait another month before more arrives makes every failure just a little bit worse.

But to compound the feelings of the existential crisis and using up hundreds of pounds worth of reagents for failed experiments, I’ve been playing more video games in the evening. My boyfriend and I have been playing a lot of Overcooked, a multiplayer co-op game where you have to work together to run a kitchen and deliver orders to customers within a time limit. It’s a chaotic game that involves a lot of (often aggressive) communication, and is an excellent way of getting rid of stress (possibly by being so stressful that you forget everything else).

While none of us can say what surprises the next month will bring, I’m looking forward to being able to continue working on my PhD, Takeaway Friday (the “I’m going to be healthy!” new year’s resolution was quickly forgotten), and watching the Six Nations (ideally with Ireland coming out on top!). Have a great month!

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