This document is intended as a guide for planning remote, educationally valuable experiences during the pandemic shutdown. Below you will find some suggestions to consider and discuss with your mentor(s). For first year students, your rotation or independent study advisor and your program chair will serve as mentors.

A thoughtfully composed and flexible plan may provide a welcome feeling of control in what can be uncertain times. While BGS will not be collecting these plans from students, crafting such a document for yourself could be very useful to you in the future, for example to show external funding agencies and / or prospective mentors how you can take command of extraordinary circumstances in a thoughtful, personally enriching manner.

Note also that this ‘QuarantineIDP’ asks you to consider some of the very same issues as necessary for your annual BGS IDP.  Therefore, taking care of this now will give you a head start on filing your usual IDP, which is due August 1st.

Organize your time:

  • Structure your days, blocking time to work on specific activities.
  • Stick to your schedule.
  • Don't take on more than you can handle. “No” is the best answer sometimes.
  • Structure in ‘self care’:  Balanced nutrition, good hygiene, frequent exercise, and (virtual) social connection times.
  • Make the effort to remain connected to your lab, your program, your friends and family

Hubs and Affinity Groups:

  • You are *not alone* in this, and you should not feel you need to do everything on your own.
  • Form Affinity Groups with your peers to accomplish tasks that you have in common.
  • Use Slack Channels to enable communication & planning around such groups.
  • If you have an idea for an activity, consider being a Hub around which an affinity group can form; reach out to your peers to organize activities around that idea.

Develop an Action Plan: 

Pick what is appropriate to you from the suggestions in each of three broad areas outlined below
(1. Academics & Scholarship; 2. Skills enrichment; 3. Community Outreach & Communication). In choosing, consider: 

  • The goals you hope to achieve.
  • What you need to do to achieve that goal.
  • How your choices will integrate with your return to the lab.
  • Re-evaluate the plan with your mentor regularly

Areas to target for your Development: 

Treat this like a “Menu” – you select only a few items that are tailored to your research and career goals.

1. Academics / Scholarship (this is your main focus)

  • Reading Research papers relevant to the project area 
    • Install a mechanism to summarize & organize resulting ideas. 
    • See the section below on writing a “Review” of your project area.
  • Is there a local (a Penn lab) or more distant collaboration that you are contemplating?
    • Draft a pitch of your idea to that collaborator.
  • Data analysis and Experimental Design for a manuscript
    • For data already in place, develop a plan for its analysis.
    • Assess the rigor of this data, and (re-)consider critical controls or whether you should plan out a complementary / supporting approach.
    • Assemble a figure for an eventual manuscript, even if you do not yet have all the necessary panels.
    • Develop a plan to fill in experimental gaps and figure panels.
    • Outline your Results sections, and write ‘to’ the assembled figures.
    • Write up the Methods section & ‘Resources Table’; that will make things easier to edit later.
    • Assemble a folder of key literature for Introduction and Discussion
  • Fellowship Proposal:
    • If you do not yet have an individual fellowship, is it appropriate to craft one?
    • What would be the fellowship topic? 
    • For what agency?
  • Scientific Writing:
    • Are you close to preparing your written thesis?
      • Read the guidelines for thesis preparation
      • Outline topics you want to discuss for the introduction
      • Assemble key literature for the introduction sections
      • Begin writing that section
      • Join or form a writing group
    • Does a gap exist in the “summary” literature in your field, calling out for a review, or a feature on the “outstanding questions”?
      • Prepare a pitch for this review that would raise interest from an editor.
      • Prepare an outline of the review.
  • Future Scientific Meeting:
    • Seek out relevant meetings that will advance your science and career goals.
    • Draft an Abstract for one that you wish to attend.     

2. Skills Enrichment

BGS has collected a curated list of websites representing many of the potential activities listed below. Please make us (BGS) aware of additional sites that you find particularly useful.

  • Technical:
    • Learn to code, whether in R, Python, Matlab, or other:
      • You should have a desire to learn one of the common software/coding interfaces. How can you accomplish this?
    • Image Analysis
      • If your work is image heavy, how can you improve your skills in post-acquisition analysis?
    • Big Data / Bioinformatics
      • Are you generating or analyzing large data-rich sets, such as ChIP Seq, RNASeq (any of the myriad “Seqs"), Single cell work, GWAS, etc?  How can you work to improve your skills in this area?
  • Professional:
    • Skills to develop further: you might tackle an area below together with some of your peers, or be a hub and organize an affinity group around one area.
      • Writing
      • Communicating skills
      • Virtual teaching
      • Leadership skills (team building, organization)
      • Mentorship
    • Lead or participate in Responsible conduct of Research seminars/workshops/lab meeting
    • Lead or participate in Scientific Rigor and Reproducibility seminars/workshops/lab meeting
  • Career Development
    • Check out online resources at BGS, Penn and beyond.
    • Reach out to someone in a career of interest to you to receive input on the career of interest.
    • Participate in workshops on skills needed for the career of interest.

3. Community Outreach & Communication

  • Crowdfightcovid - Offer your skills in a crowd-source platform to speed research into SARS-Cov2
  • Skypeascientist - Offer your skills & experience to High School or College teachers (perhaps from your own High School or College?)
  • ScienceSketches - Prepare short video+drawings of your work