Research in the Time of COVID-19

This pandemic has forced various challenges upon people all over the world. It has seemingly affected each and every person on the planet in very unique and strange ways as essential workers and their heroic perseverance lead us through this strange time. In a moment where the best thing we can do is stay home to protect ourselves and the rest of humanity, I have achieved a new perspective. For me, this time is one to reflect on my own journey through school and my research in particular. As an undergraduate student conducting research during this time, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to tackle recent challenges in new and exciting ways.

In mid-March when the number of COVID-19 cases started to skyrocket, my research was gaining momentum as well. All of my IRB information was up to date, approved, and ready to go, and I was in contact with my professors and a woman from the Tar Creek area who had agreed to help me with my in-person introduction to the place. Our plan was to make the approximately four hour drive from Norman, Oklahoma to Picher, Oklahoma over Spring Break. However, within twenty-four hours of making our travel plans, my university, the state of Oklahoma, and the country as a whole went into lockdown as shelter-in-place orders became the necessary (in)action to stop the spread of the virus.

More than anything else, the most difficult adjustment has been figuring out how to work from home. Now that I no longer have the option, I realize that my best work always involved late nights at the library surrounded by my closest friends. They held me accountable when I got distracted and helped me to accomplish my goals. Establishing a routine and sticking to deadlines has proven much more challenging as I try to wrap up the semester and solidify my adapted Summer research plan. However, in an attempt to find my focus, I have been spending a good portion of my time reviewing some of the techniques we learned as research interns last summer. I since revamped my Kanban board, rediscovered the art of micro tasking, and I even started a new book called Atomic Habits that has guided me toward some tools which have proven essential to constructing a productive working-from-home environment where I can keep myself on track.

In response to the new habits and perspectives I have gained in quarantine, I am shifting my research to a virtual approach. I began conducting online meetings and even adapted my research protocol to include virtual interviews moving forward. In a way, the limitations of COVID-19 can be an advantage for me as traveling to interview individuals will no longer be a factor. As I begin contacting people for virtual interviews in June, I choose to view our global situation as an opportunity to evolve and grow as a researcher.

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