Pandemics and the Post-PhD Phase

Or Academic Job-hunting in the time of COVID-19

So you may be aware of the pandemic currently sweeping the globe. I am currently experiencing shortness of breath but I’m not sure if that’s due to my asthma or spending too much time on twitter reading all the COVID-19 stories that are currently dominating the news feeds.

The universities are shutting down (and rightfully so). We need to protect not only our most vulnerable but also our healthcare systems and its workers. There has been a lot of talk about #flatteningthecurve.

I fully support this measure. Right now, within universities, we are focusing on the immediate in order to facilitate social distancing and self isolation.

How can we get our classes online quickly?

How can we change our assessments?

How can we adapt our research?

What do we do about this conference?

There has been some discussion of how this will affect PhD students. However, for those of us in limbo (i.e., post-PhD but not with a position yet) this pandemic will probably have long reaching consequences.

I’m worried that if our collective economies tank due to this disruption, universities will be forced to make even more cuts to their staff – leading to less positions for us to apply for. 

I’m worried that grants and funding will dry up – leading to less research assistant or postdoctoral positions to apply for.

This era of enforced isolation might be fantastic for some. Carbon emissions have dropped significantly. Perhaps this will change how we view employment – people might not need to commute for work anymore and remote working may become more established. However, there are many things to consider if this is to become the new norm.

It might change the education sector permanently. Perhaps this is the death of the traditional lecture. Although I can appreciate the convenience of online learning (and the fact that many more people could access it this way), I still think we need face-to-face learning and I’m worried that this will disappear.

I have no coherent message. Just a lot of worried thoughts. What do you think will be permanently changed due to this pandemic? What concerns, in terms of employment or research, do you have?

~ Alessa Teunisse (anxious, washing hands, and being socially distant)

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