Class of COVID-19: Jessica Beard

Jessica Beard is a graduate student in the Swager Group.

Who are you quarantined with?
I’m quarantined with my roommate, who’s a Harvard grad student, and my cat, Hera.

a cat sticks its face in a coffee cup.
Jessica’s cat, Hera, investigates a cup of coffee.

How have your days changed since physical/social distancing became the new normal?
My days are completely different now. Before all this, most of my days were spent in lab and I had different meetings to go to or experiments to run every day. Now, every day is just me at my computer in my apartment, so most days feels the same, and it’s pretty easy to lose track of what day it is. I’ve heard the sentiment “time has no meaning” from a lot of people recently, and I certainly relate to that. I’ve spent more time in my apartment than ever before, and it’s really reminded me why I need to find a new place, and also why cats are awful coworkers.

What do you miss most about the MIT Campus?
Interacting with people! I miss everything from impromptu discussions with my labmates about research problems, to casual chats with people in the DCIF while waiting to submit samples. Zoom meetings can’t substitute for spontaneous interactions.

A work from home space with two monitors and a keyboard.
Jessica’s work-from-home space.

What are you most looking forward to about the return to the “regularly scheduled program”?
It’s a toss-up between interacting with people again, and being able to just get back to my research. Right before we were told to prepare for shutdown, I was gearing up to tackle my project from a different angle, so I’m anxious to get back to that.

What are some aspects of this moment in time that you are grateful for?
As much as I want to be in lab, I’m grateful for this chance to get more into the literature on less-project-relevant topics without feeling like my time would be better spent at my bench. I’m also glad for the extra time with my cat, although I think she’s pretty ready to have the apartment to herself again.

What are some new or preexisting activities/hobbies/research ventures that you’ve taken on while being in quarantine?
I’ve gotten back into pilates and yoga because they’re both easy to do in an apartment. I’ve also started getting through my backlog of books to read for fun. I also do a ridiculous amount of Duolingo for German now; I’ve been doing it daily for years, but now I have even more time for it.

How have you been maintaining social connections while practicing social distancing?
Mostly via texting/messaging people, with the occasional video call from my phone (my laptop’s webcam is apparently broken, which I didn’t learn until after social distancing started).

A cat looks out the window.
Hera gazes out the window.

What will you remember most about daily life during this global pandemic?
I think it’s a toss-up between the pervasive anxiety, and the fact that seemingly everyone is now really into making bread? Like a week into it, suddenly most of my friends were baking bread, and it was just out of nowhere.