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Challenges and opportunities in academia through COVID-19

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Published onDec 10, 2023
Challenges and opportunities in academia through COVID-19

I’m currently doing my master’s thesis working with intracellular symbionts of pathogenic parasites. Accordingly, I also studied during the COVID-19 pandemic and completed my bachelor’s degree at the time of the first lockdown in March 2020. Although I was fortunately able to finalise my practical work in the laboratory beforehand, the impact was still evident. It was a mentally challenging time, not being able to cope with stress by meeting friends and family, but also not being able to celebrate another important milestone of my education, nor being allowed to shake hands with my examiners after my defense. Nevertheless, the pandemic has made many things possible in science and academia that were previously unimaginable. Starting my master’s, lectures were offered exclusively online, which allowed several fellow students to move back to their hometowns and save money. To compensate for absences during exams and practicals due to illness, alternative dates were offered, or entire courses were postponed, whereas in previous years the course would simply have had to be repeated the following year. On the other hand, many areas were neglected, such as networking or maintaining a healthy work-life balance, since you never leave your workplace and colleagues are missing to remind you to take breaks or stop working for the day. In my opinion, the pandemic has facilitated a discussion about many entrenched patterns of behaviour in academia, such as remote working and more flexible working hours, which many students and researchers can benefit from. For instance, this could allow the combination of career and family many scientists struggle with.

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