COVID-19: For students, life can’t return to the way it was – which is a good thing when it comes to stopping superbugs

11th June 2020

With Universities closed since March, the future has never been less certain for current undergraduates. But for many, argues Biomedical Science student Laura Seeney, the crisis has brought unexpected opportunities...

“The COVID-19 crisis is challenging the resilience and patience of students up and down the country, but we are responding with strength of mind and kindness of heart. Students are volunteering as NHS responders, tutoring children online, recruiting for and working as NHS emergency call-handlers and healthcare assistants, to name but a few roles. It is harder to stay in touch with our peers, but there is no shortage of positive news coming out of universities. As a Biomedical Science student, it helps to know that my lecturers – my role models – are in laboratories fighting to control this pandemic. I have a huge amount of admiration for these individuals, as do the public. There is a profound and collective respect for scientists across the world at the moment, and now is the time to take any awoken interest in science and turn it into something positive and permanent.

I have a passion for microbiology; microorganisms cause and control disease and are integrated into every aspect of our lives – our food, the climate, technology and of course, our health. Our own bodies have a relationship of mutual dependence with microbes, but COVID-19 is a microbe that is impacting society in ways we have never seen before and taking the lives of loved ones. I am fascinated by the contrast seen in examples such as these, and quite how inconceivable it is that these living organisms, that carry such huge consequences, cannot even be seen by the naked eye.

As we begin to overcome COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance will still be a very real and prevalent threat.  I enjoy talking about what I learn at University with my family and friends and I like to think that students – the scientists of the future – can be catalysts in gaining control of antimicrobial resistance by talking to people. Pharmaceutical companies left in the market need to expand their research into making new antibiotics available, and work towards avoiding antibiotic shortages which lead to the use of less effective treatments. The onus is on pharmaceutical companies to carry out the research & development; however, every single member of society can have a positive individual impact on antimicrobial resistance. I think it is vital that now, as the general population’s interest in infectious disease is at a peak, that the next generation of microbiologists begin our work to use our voices at home, on social media and when we eventually get back to university to inspire and educate.

Indeed, the future for students is uncertain and the prospect of an online term at university looms before us. The future of the NHS and its funding is unknown, the impact of this crisis on research in universities is complex, and employers will have to overcome the challenge of allowing for a generation of graduate scientists who had cancelled internships and less laboratory experience. Although, I am certain that if ever there is a time to be proud of being a science student it is now; scientists are coming together globally for a common goal. This pandemic may be the beginning of a stronger, unified scientific community all over the world and amongst all the levels of society.”

Laura Seeney, Biomedical Science Undergraduate, University of Birmingham

@laura_seeney

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