Working from home, an inevitable experiment

by Kyriakos-Alexandros Chondrogiannis

In recent months, most things, we would normally take for granted, have changed. Our daily lives are different almost in every aspect. No more work from office, no more physical meetings, no more group lunch. And all of that, because of the pandemic, which threatens not only humans’ health, but also our psychology, leaving aside the financial part. However, as in most cases, not everything is negative, in the present conditions. Passion for continuous evolution, research and creation has not gone into a pause and never will. This might be one of the most important means of overcoming these difficult times, keeping our minds busy and creative. The field of research is probably one of the least affected areas during this quarantine period. In fact, one could say that several aspects of research possibilities have been enhanced, not overlooking of course the negative side.

As it could easily be foreseen, several negative points can be spotted under this situation. The most important, focus on the lack of communication between colleagues and researchers. Forced to contact people through digital means, not being able to knock on the door and discuss on a subject, communication becomes more impersonal and loosens the relations between people. As a result, exchange of ideas between researchers has been negatively affected. There is no need to deepen into the negative side of this crisis, as one can figure out plenty of such affected areas. One thing is for sure however; having always at the back of your mind the threat of this situation can never be considered to be a good thing.

On the other hand, there are several aspects, which are positively affected during this period. Home office can be proven to be beneficial for many people. Regarding efficiency, plenty of time can be saved, as there is no need for transportation, which normally consumes a considerable part of your productive time. Since there is more time available, it is a great opportunity to explore new areas and ideas that you were always planning to, but never had the time to do. Furthermore, since the need for collaboration does not stop and digital means take the place of physical meetings, there is a requirement to become even more familiar with the latest technology. This can possibly trigger new collaborations, resulting from digital meetings, which would not have taken place, even if there were no quarantine circumstances. In my point of view, the current situation can serve as an experiment, which can check on one’s passion for his/her work. Being still motivated for research, trying to come up with new ideas, will prove your enthusiasm and loyalty to the path you have chosen.

During this period, my attempt is to be productive and creative. I try to take advantage of the few positive sides of this situation. It is a good opportunity to explore ideas that I had for a long time or come up with new ones. The concept of metamaterials offers extensive room for creativity and innovation. In recent period, my focus is on impact dampers. Impact dampers have great potential in the vibration mitigation field. For the past months my main point of interest was the combination of multiple such devices in a chain, as shown in the figure below. The results were promising, thus extending the interest to this direction. During the quarantine period, I am studying different configurations, taking advantage of impact phenomena. There are plenty of potential designs, which are worth investigating. Taking advantage of the time saved, while in quarantine, I am investigating various different configurations. The main idea includes a container with an inner mass, which is free to impact on the boundaries. This creates interesting, non-trivial responses.

the meta-impactor concept

Apart from pure research, I am trying to use this period for learning several skills and subjects. This semester I am attending 3 courses offered in ETH Zürich. Normally, these would require physical attendance, however under these special conditions they are offered via the net. The subjects include Soil Dynamics, Soil-Structure Interaction and Uncertainty Quantification. Moreover, I have started working with a new software called REAL-ESSI, developed by Professor Jeremic, who is a visiting professor at ETH Zürich for this semester. It deals with Soil-Structure interaction problems and seems to be accurate for a wide range of conditions, while it gives great control of the input. I plan to test this software for my applications and hope that it will prove to be a very useful tool. Generally, I believe that extending your knowledge to different fields gives you a great advantage, enabling a wider overview of a problem from various aspects.

To sum up, I think that the current situation is as difficult as it sounds. Most daily things are completely different from what we were used to. Problems are created in almost every area. However, there are some positives to take away from these circumstances. Although in some cases productivity may be improved and some processes are more convenient, nothing compares to the peacefulness, while without any pandemic threat. It may be the case that in the future, after overcoming this pandemic, the world will be slightly different because of it. Let’s hope that there will be an attempt to retain the positive elements observed during the quarantine period. Let’s try to take advantage from the positive aspects, become better prepared and more mature for this new era.

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