The SDRC are continuting our series of blogs featuring Early Career Researchers who are sharing how COVID has impacted their research and career prospects. Today’s blog is from Tuuli Hietamies, thank you Tuuli for your contribution! Read the rest of the blog series here

I am a final year PhD student in University of Glasgow, having just completed my viva defence. I have spent the last few years researching the involvement of mitochondria and its potential as a therapeutic target in preclinical stroke models. This work was enabled by the Cunningham trust and my incredible supervisors, Dr. Lorraine Work and Dr. Terry Quinn.

This year was clearly planned in my mind, well before it came about. I was to submit thesis, sit my viva and dash off to California to start the next chapter of my life. But, as so many memes have put it, 2020 had other plans. Pretty soon after submitting my thesis early March everything was put on hold. My viva was rescheduled for mid-June as a zoom event, delaying any visa processes needed for the big move. I would be lying if I didn’t say frustration wasn’t an emotion, I felt a lot towards the end of my PhD journey. The post-thesis freedom I had worked so hard towards dissipated overnight. Instead, I found myself formulating contingency plans for managing both, the new situation and delays in entering employment.

Far from being in this situation alone and even less so left on my own devices, the extra miles that everyone at Glasgow Uni went to was incredible. From the get-go, the support and collective spirit everyone displayed has been irreplaceable. This has truly made me think the human nature depicted in disaster films is far from reality. I couldn’t help but marvel the swift development of teams and zoom channels, allowing people to share knowledge and skills they had. Additionally, my supervisors played a huge role in helping us get through the lockdown through both, by offering employment and setting up weekly check-ins to allow face-to-face contact with others.

These events led my lab-based life to transform into assisting university staff in moving all the final teaching resources online. This was followed by conducting a Cochrane dementia systematic review, joining a team reviewing remote measures that could be used to diagnose dementia. The aim of this is to assist clinicians in adapting to the post-pandemic times. These projects have given me a surprising opportunity to help during these weird times and the normality brought by scheduled working hours has been a welcome anchor in the lockdown life. Both of these projects are set to continue, with a second Cochrane review in the cards, as well as, additional courses needing online teaching resources.

My personal challenge throughout this has been accepting when things are out with my control. I have made it a daily exercise to try and see the bright side of things, where possible. My lab work might be on hold but, I have learnt a plethora of new skills in systematic reviewing and course organising. I might not be able to move to the US yet but, I get to have one last summer in bonny Scotland. We might not be able to reconvene with our friends and colleagues in person but, the community spirit resonates beyond in-person contact.

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