Research delayed: Ellie Weise

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Ellie Weise collects sea lamprey to be used in laboratory testing.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories about how COVID-19 derailed the research of many aspiring Great Lakes scientists. It is edited for length and clarity.

By Claire Moore

Ellie Weise’s research at Michigan State University involves collecting young sea lamprey and analyzing their DNA,  But the COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered the MSU lab that she conducts tests in.

“Stress-wise, I’ve been up and down. It’s a lot, and I want to help in any way that I can. We’ve been making tea. It’s hard just being stuck at home. I go from where I’m at right now, feeling pretty zen — I’m like, ‘I can get through this!’ — but every once in a while, I freak out about what’s going on.

“I’m actually the only grad student with my adviser. We’ve maintained our weekly meetings. He’s been really good about helping me talk through my own anxieties and he’s been understanding. His mentality is definitely ‘Hey, make sure you’re thinking about the things you can control.’ Our funding source isn’t clear, but he made it very clear that he’s going to help us figure it out and I’m going to be okay. It was good to have that reassurance right now.”

“My specimens and my field work were completed last summer. But the big thing that’s delaying my work right now is the sequencing facility at MSU is closed. I have some sequences that need to go through there, so I’m waiting on that.

“My old lab work is considered non-essential, so I’m not going into the lab until [Michigan’s] stay at home order is lifted and some of the university business is allowed to go back to normal. I have an early round of data completed that I’m able to work with, so I’m finishing up the publication for that right now. But rounds two and three are delayed until we can get back on campus to do lab work, and I don’t know when that’s going to be.”

“I’m trying to plan for all the possible outcomes. Every time I think about all of the things I can’t control, it’s incredibly overwhelming, because I’m just one grad student. I can only do my own work. I can help my friends, I can help my collaborators and let them know we’re trying our best to do things with this situation. Ultimately, that’s what I can do. Help the people around me.”

“Working from home took some transitioning, figuring out how to make it work with so many people in the house. I’ve been trying to make decent progress on my research, despite some delays. I have some data on hand that I can work with.”

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