Overcoming writer's block together (and apart)
When we talk about student research, we most often feature the work that happens in the lab or field. We’ll share photos of students knee-deep in mud, operating lab equipment, or focusing a microscope to show what a scientist does. However, there is more to science research than lab and field work. The life of a graduate student includes many hours of writing. There are journal articles, thesis proposals, scholarship applications, and dissertations to write. Writing may not be quite as photographic as field work, but it is an equally important part of being a scientist.
Shadaesha Green, a Ph.D. candidate who is studying the red deep sea crab in the lab of Dr. Sook Chung, realized that she was struggling to sit down and write. To encourage herself and to build a supportive community among the graduate students, Green formed the Graduate Student Association (GSA) Writing Group. Starting this spring semester, a group of students has gathered for coffee, snacks, some study music, and writing every Monday afternoon.
The format of the weekly sessions is very flexible, with students working independently on papers and asking for help in the form of peer editing or feedback on presentations. Green said, “I knew I couldn’t be the only one going through this process, so I wanted to bring everyone together.” It’s been a great success, leading to lots of good writing and a strong sense of community. With this time set aside in her schedule, Green has finally been able to return to a manuscript she started several years ago and lay out a plan for completing her dissertation.
The GSA Writing Group, like so much of our daily lives, has had to adapt to new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. All of IMET is currently tele-working and tele-learning. Nevertheless, the students quickly moved to an online format, gathering remotely from their homes. At the usual time, everyone logged onto their computers, checked in with one another, and started writing. Perhaps more than ever, it’s important for students to come together and support each other.