Newswise — When we started on our COVID-19 interview series, no one knew how long the pandemic would last or the long-term impact it would have on our community. As we approach the end of a year of living in the shadow of COVID-19, we thought it useful to follow up with some of our interviewees. We learned that research, collaboration, teaching, and learning are continuing to evolve—along with the challenges of distance learning, meeting, and life.

When we spoke with Mark Orazem last spring about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was on a sabbatical that did not turn out as planned. Now he is back teaching at the University of Florida where he is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Back in the lab but not in the classroom

“I have been authorized to go back to the university. I’m allowed to be in my office. My lab is reopened. However, we can only do experiments. My students go to the lab for experiments, then return home. This semester, I’m teaching an undergraduate course on chemical process safety by Zoom. So most of our work is still being done remotely.

Zoom is never the same as being in person, but I think we’re making the best of it. I am preparing our first exam for the fall semester. Normally I’d be monitoring the exam in person. I can’t do that now. Obviously, there’s going to be a little a more of an element of trust now.”

Zoom still reigns

“Zoom conferencing is not ideal, but it’s the best we can do. I really think ECS did a wonderful job of putting PRiME together, especially given the circumstances. I ran a couple of live sessions that were really fun. I thought it was a lively interaction though I would have liked higher participation. I really wish I had recorded my live lecture (as given at another conference) because it was better than my pre-recorded lecture. But that’s the way it goes!

The real problem for me with a zoom conference is that I’ve got a lot of responsibilities with my day job.  If I go to Hawaii for a meeting and I’m forced to reschedule or cancel (my normal responsibilities), I do all that I have to do before I’m gone. But because I’m here, I find myself teaching the classes I normally teach, and then fitting in the meeting in between responsibilities. So, ultimately it’s not the model we want to go with.”

Collaboration road blocks

“Since about 1995 I have worked with my collaborators in France every summer–until this one. It just isn’t the same collaborating ‘long-distance.’ I expected the pandemic to go on for a long time. However, I’m eager for this to be over!”

Read about how the ECS community is adapting and even flourishing, both at home and at work, amidst the global pandemic, in The ECS Community Adapts and Advances.