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A conversation with Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital researcher Cathy Garcia working remotely during COVID-19

April 02, 2020

What kind of research does your lab generally focus on?

I am a researcher in the Muzumdar lab, where we study pancreatic cancer.

How difficult was it making the switch from working in the lab on campus to working remotely? What were/are some of the challenges you're facing?

Most of my work involves the use of animal models, which are very time sensitive and take months to develop. Therefore we have to make sure that while we are not actively doing experiments, our colonies are still being maintained.

One of my biggest challenges during this time is staying motivated. I'm worried about my family that is on the West Coast. It is very easy to lose myself in "what if" thoughts.

Have you ever had to do this before?

I have never experienced this before, but it does remind me of going through my qualifying exam. That’s a 10-week period when graduate students are not allowed in their lab so they can read and prepare to defend their thesis project proposal.

How are you staying connected with your co-workers from your lab?

Dr. Muzumdar came up with the idea of having tea time at 2pm Mon-Wed. This allows us time to video chat with other members of the lab and catch up with how others are doing. There is also an institutional video chat time that takes place on Fridays at 4pm via Zoom. There we can chat with other people from the Cancer Biology Institute. I believe these chat times really help because, at least in my case, it makes me feel a little less isolated from everyone.

What are your biggest worries concerning your ongoing research/future research?

As a graduate student, my biggest worry is losing progress in my project and valuable training opportunities. I am also worried about how this will affect my timeline as a graduate student and the time required to attain my degree.

Are there any advantages working remotely?

Yes, my project is going into new directions so a lot of the work I need to do can be done remotely. This gives me time to read articles and learn about new hormones and proteins we want to look into. Furthermore, I want to apply for a grant in the Fall/Winter, so working from home gives me the time to read and begin writing.

What advice/words of wisdom would you have for other researchers now?

We are all in this together. While we are in isolation, try to talk to your co-workers and friends as much as you can via text, phone calls, Facetime, Skype, or Zoom.

Submitted by Anne Doerr on April 02, 2020