Living through Lockdown – A Graduate Tale

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This article has been written by Grace Russell, an inspirational woman who has shown us in this article just how achievable things can be if you stay resilient in spite of obstacles that come our way. We hope you enjoy the read and that it gets you thinking about how you can progress in your own life.

Interruptions and Resilience

Eighteen months ago, I was embarking on my final year project, completing the MSci programme in Biomedical Science. I had a vision of the future. Both the future and my vision were interrupted by the Covid crisis – “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”, to paraphrase the late, great Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796). Thankfully, the project was finished before the lockdown in March 2020. However, myself and the student cohort still had to finalise and hand in several pieces of work.


It was strange not being able to meet up with my contemporaries, we usually got together every Friday, discussing our progress and intentions. We also missed out on our Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) certification, as this was a physical hand-in, which we had arranged for the end of March – a week after the first lockdown began. On top of this, our tutor also caught the infection and became terribly ill; this showed me early on that this virus could have serious implications for us all. And so, the knocks came early on in this pandemic.


Nevertheless, showing resilience in the face of adversity, under the great guidance of my mentor and supervisor, I was encouraged to continue writing and, what better subject than the focus of our previous project: molecular hydrogen and how this could benefit communities facing this unprecedented pandemic (for access to these publications please click here).

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina from unsplash.

Progression


The first few months of lockdown passed quickly. I emersed myself in work, writing academic papers, job applications, and applying for research funding. Then, around the end of July, the wheels fell off, just like a clown car! I had hit the proverbial wall. My student finance had depleted weeks ago and I’d had no success applying for a position that suited my qualifications. Time to adapt.
I felt my career status was in limbo. I’d applied for a PhD, using an awkward route, involving part-funding, match-funding and an awful lot of paperwork! Whilst tentatively waiting to see whether my application was accepted, I secured a part-time position in retail and am lucky enough to have worked with a great team here; friendly, supportive. On top of this, having the extra time at home gives me the freedom to survey the landscape, both literally and figuratively.

Photo by Lindsay Henwood from unsplash.

Productivity – Creativity

Next came the second lockdown, more time on my hands. It’s difficult not interacting with people on a daily basis and I came to realise that my motivation is inextricably linked with the social aspect of humanity.
As company and sharing was limited in a George Orwell-esque fashion, I thought I should perhaps reconnect with some old hobbies. Collage was always something I have enjoyed, so I gave it a shot, but nothing ventured…! I now find collaging time consuming, messy and wholly unsuccessful, (see left). Although it was a catastrophic attempt at art and one destined for the fire pit, it did inspire me to try a different medium, paint. Painting, as a pastime, is not something I have indulged in since I was a young mum in the 90’s.

As I didn’t feel experienced enough to freestyle a landscape painting, I thought I’d look for an online class. This is where I came across the wonderful Bob Ross, a renowned landscape artist and 70’s icon famed for his “happy trees and happy clouds.” And in just one evening, I managed to produce my first landscape painting (right). Admittedly, it looks nothing like the example the YouTube tutor created, but I’m proud of it and wouldn’t turn down a holiday to my fictitious location; I could see myself camping here!


A week or two later, I thought I’d pick up the paintbrushes once again; I’d stocked up on supplies after all. I began to channel my inner bohemian and tuned in to the dulcet tones of Bob once again (see left). Another snowy mountain scene was emerging; I like to think of it as the approach to the allegorical camping ground. However, I’m not naturally one to tackle the same task twice, so after following my mild-mannered mentor for most of the picture, I decided to freestyle the last part of the painting; this involved using the mantra ‘depth, perception, darkness and light’. I managed to form a boat, a means to escape the wilderness, should the weather take a turn for the worse!

With two relatively decent paintings done, I thought I would challenge myself further and try to create a self-portrait – possibly one of the most difficult undertakings of any foundling artist (see development below!). This small project has developed into a longer-term study of human form: lighting, angles, skin tones, textures, all need to be considered. Although there is still a long way to go before the portrait is complete, it does at least bare some resemblance to myself.

Final words


In other news, I have now secured both the funding and the PhD, and another publication, in the European Medical Journal.
Oxy-hydrogen Gas: The Rationale Behind Its Use as a Novel and Sustainable Treatment for COVID-19 and Other Respiratory Diseases – European Medical Journal (emjreviews.com.)
So, for now it’s time to put down the paintbrushes and pick up the pipette.
I hope you have enjoyed this little snippet into my world. Keep safe, well and sane, and don’t forget to let wonderful things happen!

Grace Russell
Msci Biomedical Sciences, PhD Researcher, Department of Applied Science (UWE)

Edited by Jessica Griffith

Grace Russell

Grace graduated from UWE in 2020 with distinction after studying Biomedical Science (Msci) for a total of four years. She lives and works in Somerset, UK, where she has set up her own company – Avalon Research Consultancy Ltd, providing editing, manuscript formatting and proofreading and publication services. 

Grace’s research interests include natural and sustainable healthcare products, including the new and emerging medical gases, molecular and oxy-hydrogen. Much of her academic focus has involved investigating the molecular mechanisms and downstream cellular effects associated both culinary herbs and the aforementioned gaseous compounds.

Grace is still waiting for the world to open up (fully), but, she has started her PhD!!

From the editor: Honestly – this is such a good read. It’s always great hearing how others are progressing as, often times, it produces fuel for the things we are also trying to accomplish. Another one from Grace!

It would be great to have more contributors, such as this one from Grace, so please do get in touch if you have an article you would like to release, or join our team of writers. Interested? Please get in touch via email – ScienceFutures@uwe.ac.uk. Also connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!  

Keep well and stay safe. 

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