We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 316: Internships in the pandemic

Distance learning

For those of you not in academia, summertime means we get interns in the lab to learn about how research works in a real-life setting. We typically have them help with things that require basic skills, but lets them see how research really happens. This year, we are doing everything virtually thanks to COVID-19. This is a great thing because it really means we’re doing what we can to stop the spread while still giving students a chance to experience research.

Not all labs can do this, but because we do a lot of data processing, we can. We also happen to have a lot of extra data that we use for teaching, so our lab has been teaching twice weekly courses to the summer intern group using the same dataset in different applications for a few weeks now. It also means getting creative in how we teach.

Normally we do everything in the lab because we have computers for everyone that we know can run the programs needed. More importantly the programs needed are preloaded on the computer so we can dive into the teaching without worrying about technical issues. Thankfully our school has copies of the software for the students while they are in the program, so the only major issue is the students personal computers.

Unfortunately, not much can be done about that, but we try to minimize the computational requirements of the dataset we use to help. Being as accessible as possible is important. For example I am teaching a course on solid modeling this term and while we have some heavy duty software for this, SolidWorks, I will be using a free software completely based online so there is no requirement other than an internet connection to run the program and because it’s free there is no cost to the students (it’s the same one I am teaching here for all of you!).

It also means getting creative with experiments! I’ve been planning a set of experiments for one of the undergrads I’m mentoring long-term (as in until she graduates). It WAS going to result in her first publication and with luck by the time she graduates we would have a journal paper for her (as in she would be the first author). It was an ambitious plan on my part, but COVID and what not. We’re still doing it, but we had to get creative so she had to check out lab equipment and we’re going to be coordinating the data collection part of this first conference paper from home.

The synthesis of my academic plan for her would be a whole other post on it’s own and that may or may not happen since she reads my blog and I don’t want to brag too much, but I’m very excited for her to get started. I’ve basically planned out everything she’ll be doing for the next couple of years with respect to her research career and she seems excited so I don’t have to reevaluate my plan! Which is good for me and for her, because I honestly think it was the best I could do with the power I have as a grad student.

In any case, it’s been an interesting summer. The Black lives matter protests are still going strong, so get out there and show your support! It’s time to tear down the system and build something better and we cannot do that without your help!

Also, COVID-19 is still killing far too many people so wear the damn mask, if you don’t and have no good reason for it other than you’re being selfish, you could literally be killing people. Do you really think that’s okay?

But enough about us, what about you?

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