Meet Natalie Pagdiwala
Natalie is a fourth-year Biochemistry Co-op student from India, who is completing her fourth Co-op work term with PlantForm Corporation as a Summer Research Student. Her work is focused on using software to design and optimize gene sequences for therapeutic proteins, specifically for SARS-CoV-2, with the hope that Platform Corporation may contribute to creating an available treatment for COVID-19 patients and front-line healthcare workers in the future.
Have there been any changes to your current job because of COVID-19? If so, what changes?
“The job posting for this position initially stated that the first month on the job would be work-from-home and the remaining time would be spent in-person at PlantForm's laboratories. However, it's since changed to be completely work-from-home, although there is still the possibility that they may be able to have me in the lab later on!”
What are some strategies you've used to adapt to these changes?
“My supervisor is flexible about when I do my work, but I still like to set clear work times for myself and start early in the day, which is when I feel I think most clearly! I repositioned some of the furniture in my bedroom to section off a mini "office" space, which I find helps to put me in that work mindset. I also prefer this new set-up for video conference calls, I don't think my supervisor wants to see my messy bedroom in the background!”
What have you learned while working in this time?
“I think most of us tend to easily get accustomed to a certain way of life, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shown me how important it is for people to quickly adapt to new situations! I also learned that if you can create and stick to a schedule for yourself, it is definitely possible to be very productive when working from home.”
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced while working during COVID-19?
“My work involves exchanging abstract ideas concerning DNA manipulation with my supervisor, and I sometimes find it difficult to explain certain abstract ideas without aids like a whiteboard to draw out concepts. However, I believe this has only made me a better communicator and a better researcher as I now have to be more thorough in my background reading and clearer when I describe my ideas to other people.”
How do you think the experience of working during COVID-19 will benefit/impact you in your future co-op terms/career?
“I feel very grateful to have gotten this opportunity to do meaningful work as a co-op student. I think the job search was likely the most difficult part- I only got the position at the beginning of June. While the job search was very difficult, and at times disheartening, I think this experience has taught me how important it is to be persistent in the pursuit of your goals and to use every resource available to you!”