Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance” – Bruce Barton

We are facing an unprecedented situation as regards the impact of COVID-19 on our lives. Nevertheless, this article is targeted towards medical physics graduate students and by extension individuals that are seeking to enrol in a graduate school post-COVID-19.

Apart from leadership, moral and emotional skills, the ability to investigate theories and hypotheses thereby performing interesting experiments are some of the things you will learn in a graduate school. However, significant portions of medical physics-related research are carried out in the university laboratories and hospitals, but due to the lockdown, it might be difficult to continue with the research plan especially if the experiment is laboratory-based and can’t be conducted remotely. In this article are seven tips that may help to improve your research productivity during COVID-19 lockdown.

1) Accept the change

As a graduate student, you need to understand that no one can avoid change because it is inevitable. However, the ability to acknowledge and accept change prepares us for what is to come. The first step in improving your research productivity is to accept that your research environment will change, pending when the lockdown is lifted. Some of the challenges that you will experience include delayed experiments, inability to go for seminars, and the inability to physically meet with your supervisor for guidance. However, if you accept this change, it will propel you to develop creative ideas for solving the challenges stated above. In Brian Tracy’ quotes, he advised that we should resolve to be a master of change rather than a victim of change.

2) Create a work plan or daily routine.

 Once you have accepted the change caused by COVID-19, the next step is to create a viable work plan that will keep you engaged during the lockdown. For example, create a list of laboratory-based experiments versus home-based activities. This will enable you to switch plans such as data analysis, thesis/article writing, experiment design and conceptualization to home activities. In this case, you will be more focused on finding novel ways to analyze your results using varieties of computational tools, hereby creating a cross-comparison study. To stay dedicated to this daily routine, I recommend that you should create a study area at home by setting up a comfortable reading table and chair. Also, make every effort to wake up as you would normally do before COVID-19 and assume that the study area you’ve created is the same workbench in your laboratory.

3) Increase fundamental knowledge of the research topic

One of the myths of doing a Ph.D. or a master’s in medical physics is that you should have the prerequisite knowledge of the hypothesis. This is not always true, although it helps. However, this is the best possible time to improve your literature review proficiency and understand some of the underlying principles of your research. The overall goal of the research is to solve a problem and to tackle this problem, you will need to understand the existing data. During this lockdown, identify the specific areas of your limitation and search for journals or textbooks that can further enlighten you on the technical subjects.

4) Increase supervisor-student relationship

I think that this is one of the best ways to improve your research productivity by constantly keeping your supervisor informed about the progress you have made. Specifically, you can create a report by extracting ideas from articles related to your research and forward it to your supervisor for implementation. It is important to note that your supervisor or course advisor is also going through the same challenge, so this might be an opportunity to constantly check up on your supervisor to offer words of hope or inspiration. Beyond the need to graduate and have a degree, the student-supervisor relationship should be a mutualistic-symbiotic relationship. Also, you can offer to help your supervisor with grant writing or manuscript editing.

5) Leverage on the ongoing webinar and online conferences.

This step is quite pertinent because organizations such as IAEA, EFOMP, ASTRO, AAPM, IOMP, ICTP, ESTRO, COMP, COURSERA, and several top-notched academic institutions around the world are currently organizing e-conferences, webinars and free online courses that provide valuable insights on the role of medical physics in fighting COVID-19 and other technical courses for professional development. Most of these courses are hosted on Cisco-Webex, Zoom, Google-hangout, Youtube e.t.c

6) Seek out opportunities

There is a tendency to be discouraged during these times, especially if you are preparing to graduate or still trying to figure out your research plan. COVID-19 should not stop you from seeking opportunities that will advance your career. For doctoral students, this perhaps is the best time to plan for your postdoctoral activities by getting in touch with Professors, Principal Investigators, Industry Captains on the services you can offer post-COVID-19. Also, for students enrolled in the Master’s course, you should plan for post-graduation activities. This will enable you to decide on the next steps to take in your career. Lastly, the COVID-19 lockdown stage is also the best time to prepare for professional certifications such as the IMPCB or the ABR.

7) Offer value and services.

Just like I mentioned in the opening statement, we are currently living in an unprecedented situation because the last time the world faced this type of pandemic was about a century ago. To stay relevant especially during this lockdown, an efficient way to improve your overall productivity is to offer value and services. As a graduate student, you can either create a platform for encouraging several students or write for scientific blogs and magazines. With this, you will be able to give back to the community, enhance personal productiveness and impact value to humanity.

Conclusively, every graduate student involved in medical physics related-research should take a clue from COVID-19 lockdown and begin to develop an affinity for machine learning because the next phase of our research will be largely dependent on this. 

Abayomi is a doctoral student at Hokkaido University, Japan and is currently involved in radiobiological studies.