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UF/IFAS CAIP Graduate Student Overcomes COVID-19 Setbacks

COVID-19 has caused plans to change, canceled experiments and delays in projects. However, this crisis has resulted in unforeseen educational opportunities, better virtual communication and, in some cases, allowed scientists and graduate students to dive deeper into topics they may have otherwise only scratched the surface of.

Jacob Thayer is a first-year graduate student in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences majoring in agronomy and working with the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. While he is enjoying the time spent with his family, Jacob said his transition was not exactly a smooth one. With a spouse working full time and a baby boy at home, he has had to work hard to juggle his new personal life and work realities.

However, Jacob has been able to adjust to his new normal with the assistance of his advisors. He and his graduate advisors, Assistant Professors James Leary and Candice Prince have been able to adapt his assistantship work and thesis progress to fit the current crisis situation. Jacob said has been able to explore datasets more intimately and take more time to plan out his experiments.

“I think I am diving deeper into datasets and writing more than I would have otherwise,” said Jacob.

Prince said even though he has had to delay the start of his experiments, there is a silver lining. The team has had time to revisit their original experimental design and think more deeply about how they want to conduct the experiment. The group participates in short weekly meetings checking in on work progress and Jacob’s general well-being.

“I feel like this time will prolong my time as a graduate student, but may actually improve my technological capabilities,” said Jacob.

Leary said the main difficulty the team is currently facing is the inability to start new research, but that this shift in work will help Jacob become more intellectual in his scientific thinking. Currently, Leary is working with Jacob to develop important geographic information system (GIS) skills that will help inform his graduate work. The team as a whole is focused more on developing the written side of their work.

“Instead of working on experiments, we’re working with him to write extension papers and articles for Aquatics Magazine, with the goal of submitting at least one article within the next month,” Prince said.

Adaptation and productivity may look different to everyone in this time of uncertainty, but this team is still working hard to make everyday count when it comes to turning science into solutions.

Funding graduate student research and supporting students interesting in invasive aquatic plant management are two of the many goals of UF/IFAS CAIP. Any questions should be directed to Shelby Oesterreicher at 352-273-3667 or soesterreicher@ufl.edu. For more information about the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, please visit https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu. Be sure to follow us on social @UFIFASCAIP.