Tag: lab ethnography

The Work it Takes to Stop Working: Productivity in Labs and Sugarcane

In spring of 2020, thousands of scientific labs across several continents shut down. What was deemed “non-essential” research was ramped down and/or paused in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and in some cases direct resources to Covid-19 research instead. Speaking with scientist friends and interlocutors in both Brazil, where I was carrying out research, and the US, where I’m from and have worked in labs myself, there was much discussion about what work to do in the meantime to continue progressing theses, dissertations, and research projects—in other words, to maintain productivity. On Twitter, numerous threads under the hashtag #phdlife offered advice and encouragement to “scientists without a lab,” as one graphic put it: (read more...)

Research in Virtual Lab Worlds during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Heading into Steve’s[1] university laboratory for the first time, I anxiously waited to begin observing the lab members’ work with computational protein structure prediction and design. This lab was one of the first spaces for such work in the US. Gaining legitimacy and recognition after the rise of genomics, protein computation aims to model protein structure and its interactions with other proteins, enzymes, and surroundings. This has become crucial for biological, biochemical, and even medical research. Needless to say, I was excited to see leaders in the field hard at work, but then was shocked to walk into a plain, tan-colored office area with four separate desks, everything completely quiet. Because of their collaborative work with other research projects, I had expected to see a more vibrant and dynamic lab space. Sadly, my excitement and energy slowly dissolved away into boredom watching four students type code into their computers. As I observed lab members code and model proteins, I wanted to understand how so much excitement and a strong collaborative environment with outside sciences could come from such mundane computer work. (read more...)