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Peer blog: Being in the midst of precedented, unprecedented times

Kate, PhD Psychology, Year 1 

Happy December! Congratulations, you are almost there! Cue the music from Chariots of Fire. Over the last three months, I have become fully engrossed in picking apart the meaning of the phrase “unprecedented times.” In March, the whole world agreed upon the fact that these were unprecedented times, but for how long must things remain unprecedented before they become… precedented?

As a student, it feels like we all unknowingly entered an alternative dimension. Navigating this semester has been strange at times. On the surface, everything seems to be running normally. Lectures get uploaded every week, assignments are the same. But every now and again, you stumble across a glitch in the matrix, like realizing that you still don’t know what your professors look like—even though you have now spent hours upon hours listening to them. One of my most jarring realizations has been that I have not had a face-to-face conversation with any of my lab mates or supervisor for nearly eight months now! Nevertheless, we trek on, knowing that this setback is only temporary. I commend you for carrying on! It has not been easy, but don’t let that prevent you from making the most out of this school year.

Speaking of “making the most,” I was finally given permission to work in my lab space at the beginning of November. Thus, my primary objective is now to get back into the swing of things, specifically, into the swing of lab work. Our lab just moved to a new location on campus, so the space is a little chaotic, but I missed it! Although the building is eerily quiet, there is something very comforting about climbing the four flights of stairs as I used to way back in March. Right now, I am analyzing rat brain tissue under the microscope for a colleague. I wanted to complete this analysis by the holidays, but because I was granted access to the facility only recently, I will likely have to carry this work over into the new year. In spite of this minor delay, I thoroughly enjoy just being back in the lab space and cannot wait to begin my own experiments.

So far, my progress on the research front has been steady. At the beginning of the semester, I stated that I was in the “gathering information” phase of the research process. To date, I have built up a pretty large library of resources. Before last year, I did not have a good method of organizing my literature aside from keeping a very large folder on my desktop labelled “Lit Review”. But then, I was introduced to Zotero and I am here to sing its praises. Zotero is a free tool that is compatible with both Mac and PC and allows for the seamless organization of journal articles. I highly recommend trying it out for any assignment which requires referencing. You can create separate folders for separate projects if you have multiple things on the go and, best of all, Zotero will create and update your citation list at the end of your document. That’s right, gone are the days of trying to, word-by-word, painstakingly follow some obscure set of citation formatting guidelines. Zotero is capable of formatting citations in dozens of styles (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) at the push of a button. You have truly never felt power until you click “Add Bibliography” in the Zotero “add-in” tab in Microsoft Word. If you take anything away from this blog, I urge you to try Zotero. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and you will never have to manually cite another article ever again in your life. Need I say more!?

At this time of year, it is the thought of the holidays (and break) that keeps me motivated! Although it is just slightly too early to decorate and play holiday-themed music, I look forward to the transition into December. I think we have all had enough of 2020, so, at the very least, I am looking forward to closing the book on this year. With good news of a vaccination not far away, I am confident that, as long as we all keep doing our part to stay safe and healthy, things will only go up from here!

p.s. My conference talk was finally uploaded to Youtube! See caption.

p.p.s. Make sure you try Zotero!

Kate presenting at a conference

Kate presenting her research at her first conference!