Beyond the lab bench in a Covid-19 era

Shreya Dube delves into what social distancing means for science students returning to university

Shreya Dube
17th September 2020
Ahh Autumn. The traditional rush to Waterstones for last minute pens, pencils and a planner you promise you’ll use this year, accompanied by snaking queues and bent backs coming out of Blackwells after emptying a third of your student loan on textbooks. We loathe and love this annual ritual. Let's see how Covid-19 is going to disrupt this.

Dear reader, I have a feeling things are going to be a little different this year. Especially for science students with their second home (the lab) being out of reach. What are we to do? There is a balancing act between returning to “The New Normal” and maintaining the safety of the patrons of the University and the public.

The good news is that you’re still a scientist and a scholar, regardless of whether you’re sitting at a lab bench or in bed on your laptop. In the golden age of the internet, information is rife so make the most of it! The university library has overhauled its services to remain safe and in accordance to Covid-19 guidelines. If you’re feeling conscientious you can find your reading lists on your course page to get ahead (or caught up!) on the literature required for your course; you can then request these books to loan and pick up safely from the Philip Robinson Library. Returns are also contactless with the use of the drop off chute. Alternatively, the library can give you access to eBooks if that’s more your style. If you can’t find any book or journal you’re after - just contact them! They’re a friendly bunch and are more than happy to help with a variety of things such as maths, English and editing too.

If you’re a doodle in textbooks kind of person and would prefer to own your books, Depop, eBay, Facebook Marketplace and Blackwells (books with the green stickers!) are fantastic places to get second hand or nearly new textbooks at an often reduced price.

However, all books and no labs makes STEM students sad. Luckily, whatever discipline you’re in, there’s more than likely an app for it! Chemists can simulate lab experiments with reagents with the Chemist virtual lab app. Physicists can also simulate their experiments with the Physics Studio app. Lab4U is an app that claims to be a 'lab in your pocket' with smartphone technology allowing users to access a virtual colorimeter to determine the concentration of a solution! These are only a few examples, but there's a myriad to discover.

So how does this look for the immediate future? Will we have to wear lab coats on our zoom lectures? Will our experiments be socially distanced? Will there be cameras on hoists to film experiments? Whatever the future brings, I trust us to adapt with it and make the most of the journey. It’ll be quite a story to tell!

Featured Image: Pikist

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