Back to the lab: A return to research on campus
21 Jul 2020
Rhys Thomas, a Research Associate from the Department of Materials, reveals what it's like to return to campus after lockdown
"I’m a Research Associate working in the Department of Materials at the University, currently funded by the MIDAS EPSRC programme grant. As part of the zirconium alloy research group, I’m investigating how materials in a nuclear reactor degrade during operation, in an effort to improve their safety and reliability. Although a large part of my job requires work in the laboratory, the inability to do this over the past few months has allowed me to catch up on other important parts of my role including analysis and writing.
"In our Research Group, we form a very close-knit team and running our weekly meetings, coffee mornings and even a few social quizzes via online conferencing has helped retain routine and social interaction. Additionally, we’ve had more talks and discussion with industrial partners and other universities, including other researchers on MIDAS and even from Australia.
"Having been a user of the electron microscopy suite since starting my PhD 6 years ago, I was one of the first people to be allowed back. As well as doing some of my own work, I have been helping other PhD students and postdocs, in an effort to restart research and make use of equipment. Due to the nature of microscopy, maintaining physical distancing has felt quite natural. Additional rules for entering and navigating the building, contacting staff and hand sanitising were communicated during an induction and on signage, making it feel like a very safe place to work.
"It’s great to be back, thanks to the staff at the University, especially those at the electron microscopy suite and the cleaners who are helping keep everyone safe. Although it’s difficult for PhD students, especially those having just started or almost finished, a lot of work is happening behind the scenes to make the return to the lab as safe and as fast as possible."