University Grad Students Step Up To Fill U.S. Coronavirus Testing Void

Universities around the country are revamping research labs to help process the backlog of coronavirus tests, thanks to help from student volunteers.

3/29/2020 7:51:00 PM

UC Berkeley is using donations and other university funding to revamp a research lab into a COVID-19 testing center. 'In theory, we should be having funding from the CDC and from the federal government,' a director says. 'But ... it's nowhere to be seen.'

Universities around the country are revamping research labs to help process the backlog of coronavirus tests, thanks to help from student volunteers.

John Moore/Getty Imagestoggle captionJohn Moore/Getty ImagesUniversities across the U.S. are gearing up to run coronavirus tests, much like the virology lab at UW Medicine, which includes the University of Washington's medical school and hospitals, started doing early on in the outbreak.

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John Moore/Getty ImagesAcademic science labs around the U.S. are rapidly gearing up to run coronavirus tests for patients in need. They're drawing resources from across campus: technology, chemicals and a formidable workforce — graduate students."Normally, when people say they need someone in an emergency, it's not a science grad student," says Katie Cabral, a bioengineering Ph.D. student at the University of California, San Francisco."But in this case, my particular qualifications are exactly what is needed."

Cabral is volunteering at a new testing center organized by, a biomedical research collaborative in San Francisco. Facilities normally dedicated to cutting-edge researchare being switched over to coronavirus testing and they put out a call for student help.

"I was at home, just sort of stressing about the world," she says."Being able to come in and do something tangible to work towards this goal of increasing testing, it just felt really important."Early effortsby the University of Washington were crucial in expanding patient testing in the Seattle area. Undergrad Peter Ch'en has been volunteering on the 6 a.m. shift at UW Medicine's specimen processing lab, unpacking hundreds of samples.

"Every single day, there's so much news about COVID-19," Ch'en says."Really being able to participate and do something about it, I don't think it's every day that you get an opportunity like that.""I am just astounded by the willingness of people to go the extra mile," says Julia Schaletzky, executive director at UC Berkeley's Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases."We see a lot of scientists working literally around the clock."

Schaletzky is helping set up atesting center at UC Berkeley. The machines for reading patient samples, which use a technology called PCR, are common in some university labs. UC Berkeley professors quickly offered to share 30 of them."Technically the challenge was very solvable for us," she says."That's why we and other academics across the country got into this."

She says around 800 students volunteered to help, so many that they closed the signup list.Getting government approvals has been a lengthy task, she says, with federal and state requirements changing rapidly. Their effort is relying on donations and other university funding to buy equipment and materials.

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"In theory, we should be having funding from the CDC and from the federal government for this," Schaletzky says."But I can frankly say, from my view in the trenches, it's nowhere to be seen." Read more: NPR »

Use automation. africaupdates In Kenya we have closed universities Just send them to the companies that can automate the process. Let these idiots watch as automated systems do for us. They're just wasting our time. Oh. Btw NPR You took money for yourself even though it was targeted for people that might die. Yes. You're disgusting.

So... when you don't listen to scientists from the start, you have to turn to student scientists to save the world? (Fortunately, they're up to the task!) United we stand. We are at our best when we are helping each other get through dark times. I love stories like this one where the graduate students end up being the heroes.

Be careful of Chinese spies, they may do something with the samples. Thank you, students! CDC is chaotic. Need to eliminate it and safe money. Betting my taxes built the original lab Lesson: Private action much faster than government. Free market rules. 👍 in theory? Ask the musicians at the Kennedy Center.

the govt is mostly concerned about their take of the bailout. NPR should donate the money they got from the stimulus package to the homeless. Chameleonbreakdance boogywoogy breakdancechallenge slothisnext UC Berkeley needs to step away from the trough. We don't need to study this for years. We need REAL solutions NOW. So, thank you President Trump for real leadership. Choosing the right people to 'get things done NOW ' ...Your methods do work UC......(ahem).....eventually.

nice! IBJIYONGI Divided by borders, united by governmental under funding. Citizens of the world, unite... Your a liberal campus. Get it from your liberal state. More from the publicly funded Democrat Party Press Office calling itself NPR. Yes! The private free market works. Getting the government out of the way should be the top priority.

Take matters into own hands seems to be the trend. Thanks UCBerkeley 👍🏽 🖖👏👏👏👏🖖 Thank you!! Donations? More unseen Heroes. Thank you grad students! Hope the Universities are Appreciative of this effort. sciencetwitter 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

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