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How does COVID-19 affect the work of student networks? Tobias, Stephanie and Jonas are part of the JungChemikerForum (JCF) Muenster and give an insight into their work and studies in this blog post for Networks@Evonik.

Hi there! 

we are Tobias and Stephanie, who are currently doing their PhD in Organic Chemistry, and Jonas, who is writing his master thesis, also in Organic Chemistry. In addition to our studies, we are also active in the JungChemikerForum (JCF) Muenster, the youth organization of the German Chemical Society (GDCh e. V.), where we organize various events, such as career fairs or workshops for students at all levels. We are also the three members of the speaker team and would like to give you, in this blogpost, an impression of our current work situation during this unusual time.

When we received the information that our university would be closed due to COVID-19 and that we should prepare for working at home, it was obviously a strange moment. Working at home as chemist? An awkward situation, given the fact that we usually perform a wide variety of tests and experiments, sometimes with dangerous chemicals, in our labs. There, we are usually equipped with safety goggles, coats and gloves and only reluctantly sit down in front of our computers to analyze data or to write a paper. 

However, as difficult as it seemed at the beginning, we managed to make the most out of it. Digital video conferences are now on our daily to-do list to keep in touch with our professors and colleagues. Since we are also not able to carry out any new experiments, Jonas, for example, is mainly busy organizing his master thesis, researching literature and drafting the theory part. Tobias and Stephanie are also currently putting together the results of their research into an academic paper in order to publish it in a journal. 

The WWU Muenster supports us a lot by giving us access to our lab computers via Remote Desktop, so we can continue to use special software. Even though we are currently unable to carry out our day-to-day work, we need to look forward in this situation. Therefore, we are already busy planning future experiments and tests and coming up with further project ideas. So, in a sense, there is also a small ray of hope because we have now more time to read new articles and can, at least on paper, continue researching and staying productive. Nevertheless, we miss working and researching in our labs a lot and hope to return to the university soon.

The current situation also affects our work within the JCF. For example, we can no longer hold our monthly meetings, and, like many others, had to cancel our already planned events for the next months. It is a pity because our annual alumni event "Careers for Muenster Chemists" would have taken place in May, where alumni of our department talk about their career start, their current position and tips and tricks for job applications.

Moreover, the JCF conference, our annual spring symposium in March, was also cancelled. At this event, we would have exchanged ideas with young chemists about current research topics and would have had the opportunity to network with each other. This year though, we must postpone our reunion to next year. However, thanks to great digital opportunities, we were able to exchange ideas virtually and discuss the current situation for our organization together with our peers at the speakers' meeting, which, under normal circumstances, would have taken place in a large lecture hall in Cologne. The workshops, which were scheduled for the symposium, e.g., will be also offered digitally in the next few weeks. We believe that this is a great idea of our Federal Board of the JCF and maybe even an idea for future events! We are however, confident that we will be able to catch up on these and other events soon. Until then, we will continue to meet digitally, still a novelty for us, and maintain our network. 

All the best and stay healthy!
Tobias, Stephanie and Jonas

In the networks@Evonik blog, members from networks with which Evonik cooperates report on their experiences with the network and their work with Evonik.

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