To all of our friends and colleagues from GEO-at-home

Friday, May 15, 2020

Room 10, Guyot Hall

Princeton sent the students home at the time of the spring semester break (13 March) and soon we were all working and teaching from home.  Now that classes are over, and only finals and grading remain, we can evaluate our adaptation to the changed circumstances and start to look ahead.

Both students and faculty adapted well to online teaching, with creativity and resilience.  Although we all agree in person teaching is more fun and less stressful, we were able to complete our courses and keep engaged.  The lab classes probably suffered the most, as they were forced to turn to mostly computational labs, working up data collected previously in class or in other classes, rather than doing actual hands on lab experiments. It was lucky – and unusual! – that we had no class field trips planned for the spring break. We are all sad, however, that the planned departmental field trip to Cyprus had to be cancelled, especially for our seniors who have missed this opportunity, as well as many others, in their last year at Princeton.

The research endeavors of the GEO faculty and students have continued, however, for some seamlessly, for others with major redirection of effort.  Researchers whose main work is computational (geophysics, climate modeling) have continued pretty much apace, missing mostly the comradery of physically shared space and spontaneous as well as regularly scheduled meetings.  For others, all lab work has ground to a halt, so no new experiments are being run and no new data collected.  Most of us are endeavoring to and are succeeding in redirecting our research efforts towards computer based analyses and writing and revising papers and proposals.  

All of these teaching and research efforts continue to function with the outstanding and dedicated efforts of our GEO staff, who have all become expert at teleworking and handling Zoom.  We miss seeing each other, but appreciate their support all the more.

Schedules for graduate students, especially those facing general exams and planning their FPOs, have been seriously disrupted.  In the past week, we had four “remote” FPO’s and they all went magnificently!  Well done to all of our new Ph.D.’s!  These Zoom events were attended by 80 -100 people, including family, friends and colleagues who might not have been able to attend in person, so that part was a great success.  We all miss the in person celebratory aspect, however, we are planning to invite our new Ph.D.s all back to campus for a seminar and party when circumstances allow. 

Likewise, General Exams for graduate students and Junior and Senior independent work presentations have all gone virtual, and that season is upon us now.  Special thanks to Georgette Chalker and Mary Rose Russo for managing the remote FPOs, seminars and student presentations.

Class Day will not be the same without the opportunity to meet and congratulate and celebrate with the families of our graduating seniors.  Instead, we are planning an online celebration and awards ceremony – stay tuned for communications about that.  The event is planned for Friday afternoon, 29 May.

On the bright side, we are still planning for the future.  Plans for the new building are moving ahead and on schedule.  New faculty searches and hiring are underway, new Hess Postdoctoral Fellows are being hired, our seniors are landing jobs and graduate school offers, our new Ph.D.s are moving on to jobs and post doc positions.  Every time I hear of one of these successes, I realize that there is life after Coronavirus!  It will be different and it will actually be life dealing with, rather than after, Coronavirus, but deal with it we will.