Year Review of Li Chen
Captured on 2020-02-01 12:56:20
GPS location: 45.270521, -111.398907
Description: While we are skiing in the second-largest ski resort in the United States, people in China were having a stressful time fighting for the virus. Few people foresaw it was just the starting of the terrible pandemic, and the trip to Big sky was the last flight I took this year.
Captured on 2020-08-15 08:26:00
GPS location: 47.912766, -122.087604
Description: A 30-mile-long bike trail with Popeyes for lunch.
Captured on 2020-12-27 14:31:00
GPS location: 46.771264, -121.743675
Camera: Apple iPhone XR Focal:4.25 ISO:25 Shutter:10.46
Description: Cannot find a better day in Mt. Rainier with clear weather and new snow. Photo credit: Shabby
Similar to last year, new year of 2020 starts from a ski trip. In the dazzling lights of the Salt lake city, we wish a fortunate year of 2020, a year with same two digits repeated itself, not likely to happen again in my life. I was quite excited about the ski pass (IKON) I bought this year. Unlimited Crystal mountain (local), and wide range of options in Utah and Colorado. Despite the best quality of snow in Alta, the long queue in lift and crowded crazy people made me realize the population for skiing (or affordability of skiing) was not the same as all these passes came out years ago. Returned from Utah, I was busy preparing my general exam. I took it quite seriously, and nearly recited all the sentences in the 45-minute presentation contents by repeated practises. Luckily, both of my advisors were quite helpful in the presentation and Q&A, and few tough questions were asked by the committee. As a sudden relief, I took two weekend ski trips to Whistler and Big sky, and enjoyed Chinese new year with old friends. Meanwhile, the Chinese new year in China became awful. With the lockdown in Wuhan, nearly all the people stayed at home in this greatest time for family gathering. But to me, it was still far away, even though the first case in US was reported (and well taken care of) in Washington State.
After hearing the good news that one of my abstracts was accepted as a power pitch presentation in ISMRM (finally an oral presentation after 8 submission in recent three years), I was quite excited about the dream trip to Sydney, Australia. Flight tickets were already booked, and now got the valid reason to attend this conference, so I submitted the Australian visa application right away. For the virus in China, I was surprised to find each day the positive cases was increasing, at one day there were three thousand new cases. In addition to worring my family and friends in China, I felt the virus was still unrelated to us, considering the travel ban from China was effective in early February.
Things suddenly changed at the end day of Febrary with the news-breaking event of dozens of COVID related deaths in a nursing home in Kirkland, just the other side of Lake Washington where I lived. I was shocked when I got the news when I was skiing happily in Cypress, Vancouver, BC. The virus was spreading quietly and virus was just around us. Everything changed dramatically in March. Working from home started, grocery stores were 'looted', restaurants were closed, masks/sanitizer/even toilet paper were sold out, even the busy Interstate highway 5 was clear in busy hours. At first, I am considering staying at home increases productivity, as with fewer meetings and disruptions, I am able to focus on my project. For example, I was surprised at my efficiency in preparation of the MICCAI 2020 submission due in the middle of March. The whole project was finished within one month.
But soon, routine schedule makes life boring and creativity decreased. The Sydney conference was resceduled to Paris in August, which gave us hope that the virus could be controlled within months. Refreshments on weekends made life better, . Meanwhile, finding an intern in the summer was not easy. Both because it was within pandanmic and I started finding the intern position too late due to too many distractions. It also reminded me that I was approaching the end of the PhD, and the serious question was which job I am looking for after graduation.
I got the summer intern offer from United Imaging, which was closely related with my current research direction. My supervisor was quite confident when my intern started in June, it would be safe to travel to Boston to work. However, that was just the beginning, from hind sight. The continuation of the virus also triggered a series of political arguments, especially after the death of George Floyd due to police violence. Wearing a mask or not demonstrated your political stand. The capability of the president was also questioned repeatedly due to his unscientific claims like injection of disinfections will kill the virus. Meanwhile China got rid out of the pandemic and thing were turning favorably. My new life pattern became working from home on weekdays, and short trips on weekend. Hiking this year started even earlier than usual. And I found more people were hiking this year, perhaps hiking was one of the handful outdoor activities available this year. Small group gathering with close friends also returned after nearly no contact with them for months. A crazy road trip to east Washington just for watching grassland attracted two cars of people.
In June, what also returned was our traditional birthday party within friends and the annual cherry-picking event (with more people getting involved, good quality cherries were gone within the first day of opening, so we have to literally “cherry picking” for decent cherries). Also included in the activity list was back country (would rather say it is hiking on the snow instead of skiing without lift). Although tiring, seems it is a perfect way to keep social distancing (avoid the long line waiting for the lift) and explore terrain with new/less touched snow. Along with the increase of activities, people were tired of being cautious about the virus, which means more danger was coming.
July 4th holiday was the trigger of another round of spread for virus. It was frightening to find the number of cases in US in a single day was comparable to the whole case in China, while nearly every country was having a hard time fighting for the virus. No conferences were held physically any longer, even for the MICCAI in October (my second looking forward trip this year to Peru, even if I finally got my paper accepted).
Summer is always enjoyable in Seattle. Despite the virus, we still had several memorable biking, hiking and kayaking trips this year. However, the pressure from enjoying summer life, being a productive intern, publishing repeatedly rejected papers (this was really an unlucky year for publications and also for grant submissions in our lab, maybe resulted from my giving too many negative comments as reviewers), and supporting the lab squeezed my time and it turned out I cannot satisfy everyone.
The forest fire became a new usual each year on the west coast, and it was especially terrible this year. Heavy air pollution declared the early ending of summer, with carefully planned Coeur d'Alene bike trip and the Enchantment hiking trip canceled. However, it was also a good chance to finish my remaining work in United Imaging and continue my work in the lab. It was a good switch of mind by trying something different when working on something for too long. I also foresaw it would not be easy for me to transfer my work to next student in the lab.
I was adapting to the previous life pattern, working from home on weekdays, and hiking at weekends before snow covered the trails. I was eager to find some changes in this routine life. I started work onsite once a week for changing environments. I spent more time on cooking, as all of my roommates now had lunch and dinner together. For example, exploring how to best cook steaks and tasting the differences between different steak cuts. Costco became a more friendly place for groceries as food will not be wasted when preparing both meals for four people. Chasing (literally running to the store as workout) for good deals from fast food chains made life exciting (you will never know what toy you will get from the free McDonald’s happy meal).
November means winter is coming, and also the virus is spreading. With surging cases, the Washington State governor finally ordered the suspension of all dine in options. Our planned dinner participating in the Seattle Restaurant Week was canceled disappointingly. Thanksgiving this year was also different. Usual gathering in Dr. Hwang’s house became a carefully prepared virtual party, with Gather Town (a chatting room in a game setting) and IPL version of Family Feud (a game of two teams answering questions for scores). The traditional Black Friday outlets shopping was canceled as precautions. The job hunt was not easy this year, but fortunately I still got some chances. Hope the economy can get better when the virus is gone.
It was not surprising to cancel the trip to Florida booked months ago during the optimistic assumption that a significant amount of vaccine can be distributed before the holiday. Another bad news, but the new ski along with the new snow came very early this December as a gift for Christmas. In a series of ski trips and parties with fixed members (“bubble”), we hoped a better year of 2021.
It was a hard year in 2020, the year of rat in Chinese calendar. Everything changed unexpectedly because of the virus.
It has caused huge losses for many families, business and countries. The pandemic was also a trigger for the escalations of long existing fights on science vs ignorance, party division, police violence, racial discriminations, relations between countries, and so on, with endless protests and further divisions in people.
For me, despite of getting used to seeing many good things canceled, the most difficulties came from how to adapt to this new life. Barber shop closed, so we started learning how to make haircuts. No restaurants opened for dine in, so we cook more ourselves. Social contacts were limited, so people within the “bubble” became better friends. The most challenge was how to maintain calm and have a good work/life in this uneasy world. Staying alone in the same room is easily driving me crazy, I am especially grateful for my roommates who dine, chat and watch TV with me every day during this difficult time. Perhaps we have spoken more words in a single month this year than the whole last year.
With the completion of general exam and PhD approaching the final year, future is becoming clear. Internship this year was virtual but still allowed me to know better about the medical AI industry, which made me believe the career development in industry might be a better choice considering the current situations and my personal interests. However, finding an ideal job is not an easy task.
With gym closed, I was focused on at-home ab exercises and running (500km, doubled from last year). I found running was an easy way to avoid staying at home for a whole day, while helping refreshment on brain (really I found creativity and the ability to focus on one thing decreased if working from home for too long). Overall, despite fewer steps per day, it turned out the total recorded calories burned this year was even 35% more than the last year.
Hope things will get better with more vaccine distributed and the change of new leadership in US.
Find an ideal job
A memorable trip