Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates

› For the latest information on McGill's response to COVID-19, please visit https://www.mcgill.ca/coronavirus.

› For Faculty of Science FAQs (including S/U info), please visit https://www.mcgill.ca/science/covid-19.

Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the Faculty of Science

In addition to the questions and answers set out below, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the Faculty of Science are advised to consult the updates posted on the Office of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS)'s website at https://mcgill.ca/gps/covid-19-updates.

Will I still receive my stipend/salary during the shutdown?

Yes, all stipends and salary payments will continue.

I’m an international student. If I fall ill, will my insurance cover my medical care?

International Student Services has posted on their website an email address (international.health [at] mcgill.ca) specifically for students with questions about their international health insurance plans. https://mcgill.ca/internationalstudents/dropin.

I am required to complete one of my progress tracking milestones by the end of April. What if I miss this deadline due to the pandemic-related disruptions?

The University is aware that the current situation might affect the timeline for those milestones. The automatic overdue alerts from myProgress have been disabled, and GPS is working on policies to accommodate delays. See also the GPS web site for more general information https://mcgill.ca/gps/coronavirus-covid-19-update.

I have a [qualifying exam/progress tracking meeting/thesis defense] scheduled in the next couple of weeks. Can this activity proceed as planned?

GPS has published a list of the effects of the campus closure on grad activities. This information is available at https://mcgill.ca/gps/coronavirus-covid-19-update.

I have some ongoing experiments that are very important for my thesis. I could maintain them by simply coming in for a few hours a week. Can I do so, provided I maintain an appropriate social distance?

We realize that this shutdown will mean the interruption of experiments and possible research setbacks, but you should not be coming in without specific approval. Note that this approval must come from your department Chair, not your supervisor.

I live alone and my family is in another city/country. I feel overwhelmed and scared, and worried about being isolated by myself. What do I do?

In periods of anxiety like this, self-care is really important in managing stress. Getting some (socially-distanced) exercise, participating in (socially-distanced) activities you enjoy, and reaching out (virtually) to your network of friends and colleagues can help.

If you find yourself struggling and you need more help, Keep.meSAFE, a mental health counselling service offered to students in partnership with SSMU and PGSS, provides 24/7 access to licensed counsellors through telephone and mobile chat in more than 60 languages. To access this service, download the MySSP app from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

I am very concerned about the impact of this interruption on my lab work, my research progress, and my ability to complete my degree, and it’s really stressing me out. Is there anything I can do to keep moving forward?

Make a plan. We recommend that students and supervisors work together to draft an individualized plan for what they’ll be doing during the shutdown. A good plan will address multiple scenarios, e.g. getting back to work in May vs. July vs. September. We realize that this might be very hard, and might seem impossible if your project is lab- or field-based. But the goal of this exercise is to think outside the box, to find ways to be productive during the shutdown, and to be ready for restarting when it’s over. And of course just going through the planning process may provide a sense of stability during this difficult time. Most importantly, when planning, you and your supervisor should remember to be realistic and to be kind to each other. We’re all in this together, and doing our best to adapt amid the stress and uncertainty of this major upheaval and its impact on our professional and personal lives.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what you can put into your plan:

Write a paper about the data you already have. Maybe at first glance you don't think you have sufficient data, but upon further inspection you realize that you do in fact have the key data necessary to write something interesting. If it’s a smaller paper than you had hoped, publish it anyway or build on it later. You might also find some unexpected “holes to fill” when you get back to the lab.

Revisit old data. Your research group might have old data that hasn’t been analyzed, or data that might benefit from being revisited with a new perspective. Newer grad students might gain valuable experience from seeing and working on raw data from previous students or other projects.

Work with publicly available datasets. These could provide material for a new project, or inspiration for a new proposal.

Write a review article. This sounds challenging but it can be done, either individually or with colleagues (e.g., the professor and 2-3 graduate students) for more interaction and brainstorming. Such an exercise could do double-duty as a thesis introduction.

Write a grant proposal. Some of the above ideas (writing a paper, working on data) will naturally lead into a set of new questions. These questions can be profitably transposed into a research proposal.

Learn a new skill. This could be learning Matlab, Python, a new program, or any new analysis approach that you have heard about and find interesting but have not had time to pursue until now. Still stuck? Consider looking for interesting and relevant non-credit courses and online professional development courses. Some of these might involve a fee, but the fee could be reimbursed to the student by the Faculty of Science (within reason — check with us and/or your supervisor first).

Get involved in science outreach. There are lots of opportunities out there, and scientists are needed in this uncertain time to help citizens navigate many important issues. For example, check out platforms like Skype a Scientist that match scientists with schools, describe your research in Ten Hundred Words of Science, learn science storytelling techniques with Confabulation or Massive Science, start a blog, or explore others ways to share your science with others. Search for other sites, like one we found at forbes.com, with ideas for ways to use your science expertise to help out.

For other ideas, see Scientist Without a Lab (https://twitter.com/zjayres/status/1239983524259737606).. 

I’m having a hard time being productive while working from home, and I’m stressed about how I’ll be able to advance in my research. What actions can I take?

It’s normal to have to readjust to working in a different setting. Here are a couple resources to help create a productive working environment from home:

Productivity, and your mental health, can also be impacted by the constant stream of information from the medias. Here are some tips to help:

For grad students with children or dependants, working from home will be even more of a challenge, productivity-wise. Here are some more helpful tips:

My laboratory has been granted an "exemption" that permits me to come to the lab periodically. Social distancing measures mean that I might be working alone. How can I stay safe?

As per McGill’s “Working Alone Policy”, if you are working alone you should ensure that others are aware of your location and that someone will check in with you from time to time, by messaging or phone. https://mcgill.ca/ehs/laboratory/lab-safety-manual#cli_1.5

When will research operations resume?

The current closure is scheduled to continue until May 1, but the situation is very fluid and it is possible the closure may be extended. Updates will be communicated by email and online at https://mcgill.ca/coronavirus/.

I am feeling isolated from my colleagues, friends, family and peers, and am looking for ways to connect remotely. What can I do?

There are many free and trial services available to you. The maximum number of users for the following apps are: Whatsapp ‑ 4, Facetime ‑ 32, Google Duo ‑ 8, Google Hangouts ‑ 10, Skype ‑ 50, Zoom ‑ 100 (40 min of free access). It is also worth contacting your supervisor to see if they have premium access to certain paid services such as Zoom.

Other options are hosting a Netflix watch party (https://www.netflixparty.com/), and if you are looking for additional free streaming services, CBC has a free service to stream both Canadian and International (mostly UK) content (https://gem.cbc.ca/).

This experience has been challenging for my mental health and I would like some support. Where can I turn?

First off, know you are not alone! Although McGill’s Wellness Hub is currently closed, many online and phone resources are available to support you. See the PGSS Newswire of 16 March 2020 for a complete listing, but here is a summary:

Maple: 24/7 online virtual health service connecting you to a Canadian doctor, covered under the international student insurance (Blue Cross Insurance)

Keep.meSAFE: 24/7/365 e-mental health service: Free for all students at McGill. Download the MySSP app from the Apple App Store or Google Play on your mobile device and set up your profile prior to usage.

McGill Nightline: 514-398-6246, operates 6:00pm – 3:00 am, 7 days a week

Suicide Action Montreal Hotline: 1-866-277-3553

Centre d’intervention de crise Tracom: 514-483-3033

Therapist-Assisted Online: Interactive online program offering coping tools and skill-building exercises for mental health. Sign up with McGill as your institution.

Empower Me: 1-844-741-6389. Covered for all PGSS members.

Have there been any extensions to the thesis submission deadline, given the current circumstances?

GPS has extended the April thesis deadline to 11:59 pm on April 30. Additional information will be posted at https://mcgill.ca/gps/covid-19-updates on Friday March 20.

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