Paul Bump is a graduate student in the Lowe Lab at the Stanford Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey, CA, where he uses the indirect development of the hemichordate worm Schizocardium californicum as a model for how one organism can develop entirely different body forms under the regulation of the same genetic code. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Paul has a work-from-home situation that may feel familiar (with some unique co-workers), but he has also filled his time volunteering with COVID testing at his local public health laboratory.
Let’s start with your Name: Paul Bump
Location: Monterey, CA
Position: PhD Student
Are you able to work? If you are working, where and with whom are you currently working?
I can’t currently access the lab, so my PhD work has been removed remotely to home. All my roommates have left, so it’s just me here! I also currently volunteer at the Monterey County Public Health Laboratory with their COVID testing.
What is your daily (or weekly) routine? Any regularly scheduled meetings or activities? Anything you really enjoy or really dread?
I try to walk every day usually around sunset and listen to “Spiegel im speigel” by Arvo Pärt. We also have a weekly meditation that some of the graduate students from my program have been doing that has been a balm during troubled times.
What are your daily distractions?
The kitchen, there is always something to make, which ends up leading to something to clean…
Do you have any strategies that are helping you stay productive (or sane for that matter)?
Trying to build in some routine and schedule!
I also want to add that the podcast “On Being” has been producing some really lovely material such as this one. Generally a fantastic, mindful show, but particularly helpful during these times.
Is there anything you have time for now that you previously kept on the backburner?
Maybe I’ll eventually get to this point, but for now it’s mostly just been trying to absorb all the news and still be productive! Lots of fermentation projects in the kitchen.
What are your favorite things to make in the kitchen at this time?
In the kitchen, I’m in the midst of all sorts of fermentation projects (very inspired by Brad Leone from Bon Appetite YouTube series “It’s Alive”). I currently have my own yogurt, sourdough starter, kimchi, and other assorted veggies fermenting away. I also started my first dive into serious homebrewing last weekend, a great project for a molecular biologist sheltering in place at home!
In light of recent events, is there an initiative (or multiple) in which you have taken an interest or active role?
Similar to a previous answer, but the main thing was after reading this story, I reached out to Donna Ferguson, who is the Public Health Laboratory Director at the Monterey County Public Health Laboratory, to see if there was any molecular biology bench work that they could use volunteer help with.
What does a typical day volunteering at the Monterey County Public Health Laboratory look like?
Typically we get in before the patient specimens arrive from the local hospitals to start decontaminating the lab. As samples start to come in, the microbiologists begin processing the swab samples in a separate BSL3 room, and we help to start entering all the patient info. Next, the samples get passed off for RNA extraction (just your standard Qiagen RNA extraction kit), and then master mix is made for running the RT-PCR assay to test for the presence of two nCoV specific genes and one control gene. There is an incredible number of double-checks along the way (makes me realize how much more meticulous I could be), and then test results are reported back to the physicians.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Nope, hope everyone out there is being kind to themselves and others!
About the Author:
Kira Heikes is a graduate student in Bob Goldstein's laboratory at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is currently studying embryonic development in tardigrades. Twitter: @KiraTheExplora Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.