RESEARCH IN TIMES OF CORONA

Meet Ilse Eyckmans from the NERF Operations team

10 September 2020 - People

Meet Ilse Eyckmans, one of our Operations wizards. As our NERF lab manager, she has gone above and beyond over the last few months to help us organize and ensure we have a corona-proof, safe working environment for all of our scientists.

Ilse, can you tell us a bit more about your role at NERF?

I am part of the Operations team, which takes care of the administration and the day-to-day operations in the lab. My colleagues Ethel and Antonella take care of the NERF admin, such as HR and finance. Sofie and Frédérique are two lab assistants and I act as the lab manager. While Sofie and Frédérique are closely involved with the ongoing work, specifically animal care, I take care of the admin related to the lab facilities and am responsible for everything related to safety.

How did you experience the transition into “lockdown light” when the pandemic hit Belgium in early March?

I must say that within NERF and at the imec campus where we are located, the management immediately took action to make sure that all essential operations could keep on running, and that we could do so safely. The lab was never fully shut down. We have an animal facility and of course animal care needed to proceed.

Within the labs of NERF, a lot of activities were put on hold, but for some experiments this was not possible. So we have operated at minimal capacity during these first few weeks of lock down.

Like most people probably, we thought this would be temporary. Once it was clear that this was not a “pause” but we needed to prepare for a new reality, things got quite busy: we needed to prepare new procedures, make new arrangements etc. The next few months I spent the majority of my time arranging the practicalities of running the lab safely in a time of pandemic.

Week after week we needed to tweak and adapt our guidelines. Internal regulations about how many people were allowed on site changed gradually, so there was a lot of follow up and communication required to make sure everyone was on board with the latest regulations.

More recently we have been able to move into a more long-term perspective. Now the biggest challenge is to safeguarding the follow up of guidelines while the work continues, and on a personal level: to find a good work-life balance.

How has it been to work remotely more often?

Meeting online and working from home has gone surprisingly smooth. We can access everything and do everything remotely (kudos to the IT support). I am also pleasantly surprised that people in the lab swiftly took this whole change on board and were very collaborative.

Of course face-to-face social contact is different, but what I like about an online meeting is that you see everyone’s face immediately in front of you. It is sometimes even easier to get everyone’s opinion because you can see the facial expression of everyone in the room while you are talking.

One thing I did notice is that people seem to get the impression that you are less approachable when working from home, while this is not the case. Somehow there seems to be an extra hurdle, but people are welcome to reach out any time.

Noted, Ilse. We’ll do!

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