Work in the Time of COVID

CIEMAS building
GCB News

Work in the Time of COVID

By Alissa Kocer

The last 12 weeks have been anything but business as usual. Our new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything from what we are working on and how to who we are working with, and it has caused us to rethink the normal we once knew. While the uncertainty of this time has been stressful, some of our team members are sharing how they have been managing the changes and the lessons they’ve learned.

Shifting Research

Research continues in GCB. Some labs have incorporated COVID-related research into their labs, and others are figuring out how to keep their research moving forward.

Shen lab members in masks with cake
Members of the Shen lab kick off new collaboration with cake

Xiling Shen is collaborating with Chris Woods, M.D., associate director of the Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine, in two COVID-19 projects funded by the Department of Defense/ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). They are analyzing samples from patients with COVID-19 as part of a collaboration with Mount Sinai and Princeton University to design a new COVID-19 test that could potentially identify carriers before they become infectious and spread the disease.
Read more from The Guardian: US germ warfare research leads to new early Covid-19 test

The Lowe lab has begun collecting publicly available COVID-19 samples and is using them to test some of their recently developed comparative genomics software. All students in the Lowe lab have at least some research focused on software development and computational analysis of genomes, so they are able to continue parts of their research from home. 

Lingchong You meets with each of his lab members every week online. The lab has also started having Zoom lab meetings every Friday. Like the Lowe lab, You lab members are focused on the computational aspects of their research.

Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi pushed out an online survey to the 2,000 twins in their Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study to ask about their experiences with COVID-19. They have also started their own weekly newsletter for their lab to help keep everyone in the loop and connected by sharing research and personal updates.

Shifting workspaces and Coworkers

In accordance with Duke’s Coronavirus response, much of our team is working remotely, which means several of us have new coworkers around.

fish in an aquarium

Arthur Moseley, director of the Proteomics and Metabolomics core facility, enjoys the view of his 220 gallon aquarium with discus fish.

kid doing science experimentRaluca Gordan's new “coworker” is her energetic, curious five-year-old daughter, Martha, who also enjoys conducting science experiments. “I’ve recently learned a lot about planets, stars, constellations and space flights,” Gordan said. “My daughter wants to be an astronaut, or firefighter astronaut or scientist astronaut.”

three men and a dog

Holly Dressman is enjoying the extra family time with her new coworkers, who include her husband, two sons and dog, Jasper.

baby chewing on paper

Alissa Kocer has a new editor-in-chief: her eight-month-old daughter, Andrea.

Craig Lowe now has three coworkers under the age of seven. “Explaining to them what my lab is working on has forced me to become better at describing DNA,” he said.

Xiling Shen is also enjoying his new coworkers: “It’s great to work alongside my wife and two kids. We are all productive.”

Shifting mindsets

From running in the woods to researching places to travel once it’s safe, to leaning on faith to just figuring out how to not feel completely overwhelmed all of the time, we are learning new ways to center ourselves and take in the lessons the pandemic is teaching us. Other words of wisdome from faculty:

“I’m learning to enjoy the simplicity of life, importance of family and friends and how to be still,” said Holly Dressman.  

peony flower
Dressman uses gardening to help keep her centered.

Craig Lowe: “Big changes can happen very quickly.”

Raluca Gordan: “Don’t take anything for granted.”

Xiling Shen: “We can spend more time with our family. Zoom meetings work remarkably well.”

Terrie Moffit: “The preppers were right.”

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