(Dis)placement in the time of the coronavirus

It was during the Edinburgh summer school when I learnt that one of my collaborators couldn’t host me during a planned research exchange. I was very concerned about how this would affect the future of my PhD research. Happily other ESRs were around. If anyone, they were the ones that could definitely understand and even help in these situations. In this story, luckily both were true. Thibauld, one of my colleagues in Plant.ID,  commented that he planned to analyse his data with the guidance of Mike Martin in NTNU.
And so panicking and distress were averted and after some emails, I was officially going to spend two months in Trondheim from March (we’ll come back to this interesting month later, promise) to May. The goal was to analyse the genomic data I produced in the lab processing historical barks, seeds, and modern leaves. After this secondment, I would then have the necessary working pipeline to analyse historical genomic data for the Cinchona genus, the main topic of my PhD research. 
Right before getting our access cards for the museum buildings.
The date was March the 2nd. Thibauld and I were welcomed by Mike and we settled in our temporary offices at NTNU. For 10 days we progressed well on our analyses, and as well spent time discovering this fairy-tail like city: Trondheim. But then, what had been far away news, almost impossible to think about in terms of its potential worldwide impact, hit us in Trondheim: the Covid-19 crisis. On March the 13th, we were forced to leave our standing desks, and take our office gear to our homes to set up a ‘home office’. In my case, this meant occupying the main table in my  BnB’s living room. I was sharing this new “office” with the landlord and his 7 year old kid.
A regular walk hunting for gelato or espresso looked like this. And they were all highly needed!
Over a period of time, virtual meetings became the norm. I was supervised remotely, and even presented my research to the Museum department at NTNU on video calls. Given I was dedicating all my time to data analysis, not many things changed in terms of what I wanted to achieve scientifically: I was still sitting most of my day in front of a screen cursing at the terminal and intensely googling for answers.
Sonoran desert
A woman does not live by bioinformatics alone. We had the amazing opportunity to get lost in the Norwegian forest too.
News and stats were overwhelming and caused a certain degree of stress. However, art, walks, and dear ones helped immensely in keeping me sane and relatively focused. After some weeks, the end of my secondment was near. A week before the official end of my stay, I was contacted by my home university. I was advised to take a plane the next day as flights among Scandinavian countries were suddenly being cancelled. Soon after, I rushed to several apoteks looking for masks, imagining the journey back home. I pictured the airport terminals empty, and a stressful and uncertain atmosphere dominating it. I also had in mind the work that I had achieved, and was looking forward to returning home after nearly four months abroad. I took solace in these last thoughts while speed-walking for the last day in the streets of Trondheim.
Another stunning view, 15 minutes walk from my BnB
Published June 24, 2020 3:21 PM - Last modified June 25, 2020 9:13 AM