Graduate Division

Anteaters Stay Resilient in Face of COVID-19

Section 1

Anteaters Stay Resilient in Face of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in this country, but with struggle comes the strength to go on and the will to become resilient. UCI graduate students have become the epitome of strength and resiliency in such uncertain times. Whether it’s been conducting research in search of a cure for the virus or students making adjustments to allow their research to be done while physical distancing, it’s become obvious that the future is in good hands with our Anteaters leading the way.

Second year ICS graduate student, Lucretia Williams has been doing her part to be optimistic and as flexible as possible with the virus.

 “It’s been tough, but I feel like I’ve been lucky for the most part,” said Williams. “Most of my research is on the computer and can be conducted remotely.”

Williams’ research focuses on developing health technology for people of color.

“My research absolutely has been more challenging, because obviously with everything happening in the world right now, that’s the stuff causing anxiety and affecting people's health,” Williams said. “This is life though, as reality changes, our research needs to, or else what’s the point?”

Second year PhD candidate Colleen Brown is another student who has had to make drastic changes to her research. Working out of the School of Social Ecology and pursuing her PhD in Psychological Science, Brown’s research focuses on finding more practical ways to discipline our youth in the justice system. Instead of sending them to prison or a juvenile detention center, Brown is working to develop a program where an offender is closely monitored and checks in frequently with the court, instead of automatically being locked up.

“There are obviously some exceptions, but I believe most people deserve a second chance,” Brown said. “My research shows that given a second chance at real life, most of these people actually learn their lesson and aren’t as likely to commit a second offense.”

There’s just one problem, with the courts shutdown due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, how do these people check in with the people they need to?

“It’s certainly an issue, but we had to get creative.” said Brown. “Instead of having them physically check in, we’ve started providing them each with iPads in order to conduct physical check ins to keep on track.”

In reality, most of these people didn’t have vehicles to travel back and forth to court with anyway, so they would uber. In some ways, the pandemic has relieved some financial burden.

While some students have had to adjust their research, some have admitted that the pandemic, while at first was frustrating, has actually been good for the practical use of their research.

Third year ICS PhD candidate Jazette Johnson is a perfect example of that. Coming out of the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences, Johnson is pursuing her PhD in Informatics and her research centers around developing effective communication methods for people suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“It was really frustrating at first and I almost wanted to give up at one point,” Johnson said. “After collecting myself I realized, my research would be more practical than ever before. As people get older, it’s naturally harder for them to move around, whether there is a pandemic going on or not.”

Johnson shifted her focus and is now working on physically distanced methods for Alzheimer’s patients to reconnect with loved ones. It won’t be easy, but she’s determined to make it work.

 “Life is all about rolling with the punches and making adjustments,” Johnson said. “It’s not easy all the time, but anything that matters in life shouldn’t be easy.”

There are many stories like this across UCI’s now virtual campus. Some days are better than others, but for our Anteaters, the research never stops.