Lockdown stories: ‘Operation Air was quite a roller coaster’

A thesis involving data science was always the plan for master’s student Jim Smit. As he decides which application to focus on, Covid-19 has presented an interesting option.

Jim Smit is considering a master’s thesis on the second wave of the corona virus. (Photo: Heather Montague)

“There are four of us living in this house, all master’s students. It was very weird when the lockdown first happened. It happened quite fast over a particular weekend and I was worried after reading an alarming article and realised what was coming. Then my basketball practice was cancelled and the university shut down. Some teammates of mine are Italian and Spanish so they were like a week or so ahead of us. Some of them decided not to come to practice even before the lockdown happened. It was their choice and it turned out to be the right one because then they announced the lockdown.

It hasn’t really had a negative impact on my studies, doing everything online. I think it even helps you to concentrate because you’re forced to stay home and spend time on studying. Especially in the beginning when things were really strict there was really nothing else to do so focusing on studies was the thing to do.

‘It was quite tough for about five weeks’

In the beginning I decided to jump on another project because I had a light quarter. I joined Operation Air, a student project to make ventilators. I heard about it from some guys I knew from my bachelor’s programme. It was a good thing to spend my energy on. It was quite tough for about five weeks, spending full time on that and trying to keep up with the necessary things for my master’s. Eighty machines were manufactured as a result of the project so it was quite a success story. We got a lot of media attention so it was a bit of a roller coaster during those weeks. Now that that’s done, I’m back to working just on my master’s.

With things starting to relax and open up, I know that the Dutch hospitals are preparing for a second wave of the virus after the summer. I’m actually considering a master’s thesis on that subject. It would be something related to data from the intensive care unit at the Erasmus hospital in Rotterdam on the progress of a person with Covid-19. Based on data driven models which can predict how the disease will progress, it would be looking at how long you would be in the hospital, and all kinds of factors which are useful when preparing for such an outbreak. It’s about planning to be ahead of something like this. I was planning to do something in data science anyway, but the pandemic has made me consider this sort of application. I’m still collecting details to help me make a decision.”

  • In this special series, Delta takes a personal look at how Covid-19 and the lockdown have impacted the people who work or study at TU Delft.

Heather Montague / Freelance writer

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