‘I feel we’ve been left in the dark’

| Rense Kuipers

In this series, Through the Looking Glass, photographer Annabel Jeuring stops by at student houses to portray students in their current, isolated reality. This seventh episode: PhD student Alfredo Rates Soriano.

‘I live together with my wife Catalina at the Calslaan. I just started here with my PhD at the Complex Photonic Systems research group, after working as a research assistant in Delft. We feel lucky to live on campus with its beautiful surroundings and we’re trying to make the best of it. We have our exercise routine, we go out for walks and bike rides. Even if we get into a small argument, we can just blame it on the virus. So no, we’re not suffering all that much at home. I have family living in Spain, Chile and Scotland. Especially compared to Spain, I know we’re not in the worst situation over here.

What I am struggling with, is my research. I’m an experimentalist, so I need to be in the lab to prepare and conduct experiments. I haven’t been able to continue my research, so for the past few weeks, I’ve felt kind of abandoned by the UT. I understand the health issues and I take the situation seriously, but I feel we’ve been left in the dark and that the university doesn’t fully grasp the importance that the continuation of our research has. Even when we made a plan as a group to continue research while sticking to the rules – even keeping it to a minimum of one person in a lab for two hours a day – we were still put on hold. I also think it’s strange that universities have different policies. I heard from friends in Delft that the TU Delft still allowed two people per research group in their labs. Not saying that one policy is better than the other, but it’s weird that the policies are that different.

Since I can’t work on my research, I’ve mostly been occupied with an online Dutch course. Still, in this quarantine situation, there’s one feeling that sticks by me, which is that we are not working. We are trying to work in this other environment, but it is stressful. We cannot have the same output as usual, even though we’re pushing ourselves to the limit. That’s something an employer has to understand.’