Doing physics research from home
Today is Easter. Today is also a month since the last time I was at CERN and met my colleagues in person. Like the rest of the world, CERN is in a safe mode with the site shut-down to non-essential activities and the majority of personnel staying at home. For me this is just across the border in a French village.
Being a theoretical physicist is one of these few occupations, which can be done confined in one’s house or even in one’s body, as was the case for prof. Stephen Hawking. So for me moving to teleworking was relatively easy. Our group quickly switched to virtual meetings and ‘coffees’. As the conferences are being cancelled worldwide, on-line seminars from top institutions have become available to everyone. While for many the everyday life has probably slowed down to a grind, for me it feels that it is speeding up. With 3-5 video meetings per day I can spend hours discussing with colleagues from CERN and collaborators elsewhere. I think I have always been rather bad in my work-life balance, but this also means that working from home does not feel so strange.
I am completely aware that I am very fortunate in my current situation. My colleagues with small children or family members to take care of, certainly do not have the freedom to continue working normally. Nor I am completely unaffected by the pandemic. I am spending Easter away from my family and my job interview has been postponed. There is a lot of uncertainty now and nobody knows for sure how we will return to normal or what the new normal will be. But I have one wish—that people rediscover their trust in science and scientists. There are other challenges facing humanity, like climate change, which is as non-negotiable as the spread of the virus. And now we see clearly what are the costs of acting too late.