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Andrew Jones MSx’21

Students and employees at UW-Madison share their insights onto what being on campus during a pandemic is like.

Niki Denison
October 14, 2020

A graduate student and TA for Geoscience 335: Climatic Environments of the Past, Andrew Jones is also an accomplished musician and member of the tadada Scientific Lab, which uses the arts to help people cultivate an emotional connection to science.

How is the pandemic affecting you?

I feel very lucky to be in grad school and still be able to teach and do my research. Things have been pretty darn good, all things considered. … I was very fortunate to be accepted into the music department this semester as a PhD minor in jazz studies. It’s really a major blessing that they’re letting me do this. Now I have bass lessons every week at school, and I’m in a jazz ensemble online.

What has changed?

I find that my days are bleeding out longer than they used to. … What happens after work is a weird sort of like continuation of work in some ways. The work-life balance is just a little bit trickier. The lines get blurred more in a way that is not ideal. [Also], I cook lunch every day because I don’t have to bring it. I have a hot lunch.

What hasn’t changed?

The Aldo’s Café is near the geology building, and it’s so good. Sometimes at 3, I would just take a little walk around the building and see if anyone else wanted to go grab some coffee. That was like my favorite thing on earth. What I’ve found that has not changed is [that] desire — like, half of going to drink a coffee is just the act of getting out of the house, like you’re stepping out of the office at work. I’ll walk down the street to go buy a cup of coffee if I’m having a hard day, even though I could just make it. This hasn’t changed for me.

Have you used the time at home to accomplish any long-term goals?

I did finish [an independent] solo-project album. It was definitely like a quarantine fever dream. I had just been procrastinating for months and months. It’s something that you only would be able to complete when you have a bit too much time on your hands. It’s like, oh man, I don’t want to work today, gosh, let me see if I can finish this. It just sort of clicked. I just got tired of my work and was like, it’s Tuesday at 1, I’m going to go do this now. So that should be coming out at some point under the moniker Candy Andy. I submitted it to the Sad Cactus record label.I was able to collaborate with all my friends way more than I had been prior to the quarantine. As a musician, you like being in the room with someone, and it feels so important. But given the circumstances, we had to make do with the situation. I was like, boy, I really want my friend Mac to play drums on this song. And because I was doing this digital recording, I recorded something, and I sent it to him and was like just go for it — here’s the track, I’ll just call you and see what you come up with. It ended up I played a bunch of music on his songs he played on my songs. I was able to collaborate with a lot more people than I ever thought I would be able to, which ended up being just so great. It opened up a world of collaboration that I thought wasn’t there. Because you just assume, like, I’m in Wisconsin, I can’t do this with my friends like I would back home, but you actually can.

What’s a typical day like?

Oh, man, it’s gonna be pathetic. I usually wake up a little bit later than I would for school, just because we’re at home, right? I probably get up at like 9 or maybe 9:30, get a cup of coffee and slowly get ready in my house. When you don’t have somewhere to go, it’s hard to really get yourself moving. Maybe sit down, do some work at 10, 10:30. Obviously, email has been blowing up even more than usual because we’re doing all our communications online. So if I’m having a good day I’ll read through my textbook with my coffee for the class that I TA — I try to keep up on the reading. On a day that I’m teaching, I’ll probably do some prep work, so the professor lectures, and I just assist and I try to make an active learning component. I told the students the goal is to pass the laundry test. If you can do your laundry while being in this class, then we failed the laundry test. My job as a TA is to keep the material engaging enough — to make some activities or facilitate longer discussion in a breakout room or ask some question or make a small quiz, whatever it is so that they kind of have to stay awake and also just get them to learn themselves.

I think everyone I know needs to, like, decompress after teaching. So maybe I’ll have another cup of coffee, maybe get some food. At some point, I just have to do my research. So maybe after class I’ll bike on in to campus. We have a sign-in sheet that’s for contact-tracing purposes and to make sure that no one else is in there. I go in the room and I’ll work on my samples. I’m processing rock samples. I have to crush them with steel-plate crushers, and then I have to do a bunch of chemistry with them to dissolve the rock. I do that in my lab, and that takes a very long time. It takes weeks and weeks. A typical day varies. Some days I’ll stay home the whole day and do more teaching administrative type stuff, and some days will be a lab day and I’ll just go in 10 to 6 and do lab work all day.

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