I looked down at a box-like scientific instrument, called a transilluminator, glowing with ultraviolet light. On the viewing panel was the representative product of my whole semester of study: a single, floppy, square piece of polyacrylamide gel with a few blue-stained bands of proteins on it. An experienced laboratory technician probably runs several of these acrylic gels a week in a process known as SDS-PAGE, but this was the first time I ever did this technique myself. The Fall 2021 semester marked the beginning of my junior year here at the University of Delaware, as well as an exciting part of my course work in molecular biology: upper-level laboratory classes designed for hands-on learning. As insignificant as this gel was in the grand scheme of things, I still remember the accomplishment I felt at that moment and how the career path I had picked out my freshman year finally started to unfold before me.
With the current fall semester well underway, it’s hard to believe how quickly time has passed, with days upon weeks upon months since March and summer blending together into one purgatorial blur. I truly could’ve sworn that everyone was exchanging frog bread recipes and sharing other spring quarantine hobbies just the other day. However, staying at home for such an extended period of time can definitely have an impact on your behavior, inducing a monotonous cycle of waking, eating, working, and sleeping, akin to how the carefree, do-nothing quality of summer encourages rejuvenating laziness. What’s more, the adjustment period between the end of summer and the start of the school year is only exacerbated by the dull routines of quarantine, in which the sudden mountain of assignments, exams, and projects creates an abrupt change of pace that can leave just about anyone suffering from the whiplash of it all.
Therefore, as we emerge from this blurred, purgatorial mindset and hit the books to do our best to muscle through this virtual semester, here are (in no particular order) the Seven Deadly Sins of Working from Home you may need to watch out for:
1. Improper Zoom Etiquette: A Lesson in Hubris
Listen, we’ve all been there, but let’s just cut to the chase: please remember to mute yourselves. There’s nothing worse than to be listening in on a lecture only to hear the feedback noise of a classmate talking to their roommate—or in rare cases, cooking in the kitchen—ultimately drowning out the voice of your instructor. What’s worse is when your professor either mishears it to be a potential question and patiently takes the time to wait (only to be greeted with silence) or stresses for everyone to mute themselves, while you are none the wiser. Wow, I can’t believe people still need to be reminded to mute themselves, one may wonder. We’ve been virtual since March, you may think. Pride cometh before the fall.
Keeping in touch with people when they’re not in the same room as me has never been my strong suit. As a senior, I was already worried about maintaining long-distance relationships with the people who have been walking distance from me for the past four years. Now that our time together has come to a screeching halt months earlier than planned, I am at a loss for how to salvage these friendships, some that were just beginning to grow. However, with one text from my roommate, I began to think hope might not all be lost.
Freshman year, my roommates and I stuck around for winter session. Along with some other scattered friends throughout our floor and others in Redding, we got caught up in an epidemic of our own creation: an obsession with Words with Friends. I don’t remember how it started or how it ended, but I can clearly picture drawn out meals in Kent dining hall, sitting across from friends who became my virtual opponents. Meals would last hours as we got caught up competing for the longest word, while making every effort to block the triple word spaces that could be used against us. One game per friend wasn’t enough either. We each easily had two or three games between us at a time, and we would immediately begin a rematch each time a game ended. The individual games were impossible to keep track of, making it hard to remember who won and who lost. The perfect combination of luck, strategy, and skill, Words with Friends kept our minds sharp as we procrastinated those long winter days away.
Like I said, I don’t know how it ended, but in the past three years since that first winter session, I haven’t even thought about the game. In fact, when my roommate texted me in the first week of the quarantine, asking me if I wanted to start up the addiction once more, I had to redownload the app. What started as a friendly game between my roommate and me took on the same momentum it did our freshman year. As the games and opponents started to increase exponentially, spreading contagiously throughout households and across state borders, the expectations kept rising. While ten and twenty-point words were acceptable at the beginning, I now find it hard to settle for anything less than thirty. There’s a sort of excitement that comes with breaking forty, fifty, sixty points, accompanied with not seeing your opponent in person but feeling them exact their revenge in a torrent of tiles overlapping with your own. Continue reading