Experiences in isolation

Meisam Hasanpoor

I am a PhD student and my project at Deakin University focuses on the degradation mechanism in advanced lithium metal batteries under the supervision of Profs Patrick Howlett and Maria Forsyth and Dr Robert Kerr.

I was sent to CICEnergigune (Spain) as a representative of the ARC storEnergy Training Centre and Deakin University to consolidate the collaboration between my group and CIC and to use the high-tech facilities for battery studies at CIC which could provide me with amazing results regarding cathode related degradation mechanisms.

Unfortunately, my arrival in Spain coincided with the Corona virus pandemic, so Deakin University instantly called me back to Australia.

On the one hand, I was worried about my research, my samples, the time I had spent preparing them and all the difficulties that I had to overcome to get to Spain, and on the other hand, I was confused about what life would bring next. The University booked a flight on 21 March! I woke up at 6 am on 19 March to a text from a friend that the Australian government had decided to close the border on 20 March at 9pm! I immediately called Sona at our group in Melbourne and asked her to change my flight. In order to save time, I decided to fly to Perth so I could at least enter Australia before 9pm. There was only one option – a flight landing in Perth at 6:20pm.

With my colleague Sneha, who had been working in San Sebastian, we caught a flight from Bilbao to Munich to connect with the flight to Australia. There to my dismay, we were told “You will arrive in Perth at 6:20 pm which will be 9:20pm in Canberra time, so you are 20 minutes too late.” It was like pouring a bucket of cold water and ice on my head. Now we do not know when we can return to Australia.

It was really hard to find a place to live here but the University has supported us and provided us with accommodation next to the Olympic park. We extend our accommodation every two weeks, until we can find a way to return either to Australia or Spain.

Finding myself after all this has not been easy; however finding a routine could help me get back to a semi-normal life. I am working on a paper, having meetings with my supervisors, talking to my friends and family and also working out pretty much every day to physically and mentally stay sound and sane, but believe me it is really hard.

I am just trying to stay focused on the good ddays that will come and stay away from all the negatives.