Many of our HDR candidates have together with their projects been thrown into uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Numerous candidates have had to rescope their project to fit with new restrictions that we are now all familiar with.

PhD candidate Bin Yang has been in China since early 2020, and hasn’t been allowed to return to Australia after commencing at UQ in 2019. He was able to continue his research remotely after rethinking his project.

How did you and your supervisors approach the idea of rescoping?

Due to the travel ban, I have been restricted in returning to Australia since February. We didn't know how long the ban would last. Therefore, my supervisors, Prof. Bernard Degnan and Prof. Sandie Degnan, set up regular weekly meetings for me on Zoom to discuss the progress of the project and how to adjust the content and schedule of my PhD project for the next period to minimize the impact of the travel ban on the progress of my project.

What were your key considerations when working on rescoping this project?

My PhD project consists of field work, lab work and bioinformatics data analysis. Since I am not able to return to Brisbane until the end of the travel ban, the fieldwork and lab work in my PhD project has to be temporarily suspended. My key considerations were to prioritize the work that can be done remotely, such as online writing courses and bioinformatic analyses, and after the ban is lifted, to focus on the field work and lab work.

Have you seen a significant change in your project? What are the key adjustments that you have made?

Yes, the content and schedule for my project have changed significantly. After I completed my Confirmation Milestone in May, I've been doing further and more detailed analyses of an existing dataset. In the meantime, I have learnt new bioinformatic approaches and tools, which not only facilitated my analyses of existing data, but also laid the foundation for my future analyses of new datasets generated by fieldwork and lab work.

Do you feel you have gained some benefit from this process?

Yes, while the process might be a little tough, I gained some benefits as well. The most notable benefit is the ability to use online resources for self-study. During this time, I have not only improved my academic writing skills through a variety of online courses and literature, but I have also acquired various bioinformatic approaches.

What was the most challenging aspect of the process?

From my perspective, the most challenging aspect was the uncertainty of how long the travel ban will last, which led to frequent adjustments of the content and schedule of my PhD project. Fortunately, my supervisors cared enough about my situation and gave me lots of helpful suggestions at every weekly meeting. In addition, I have been in regular contact with other members of the lab to discuss the analyses and results. They also have been very supportive.

Do you have any advice for other candidates and their advisory teams? Any resources or publications you would point people to in order to help them on their journey?

Keep calm, stay patient, and connect with lab members, especially your supervisors.