When the call went out in mid-March for scientists at OSU willing to contribute to COVID-19 testing efforts, graduate students stepped up. To date, students from eight programs across four colleges have contributed at OSU Diagnostic Laboratory, a collaboration between the OSU’s Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (OADDL) and OSU Medicine in Tulsa. Many had to complete additional training as their research may not regularly involve handling human samples or wearing a respirator.
High praise for the graduate students assisting in the effort has come from Dr. Jerry Ritchey, who leads the coordination efforts. “The contribution of graduate students from across the OSU campus has been invaluable to our human COVID-19 testing efforts,” Ritchey said. “Frankly, we could not accomplish this important task without them. They have been involved from in-processing to the actual testing and have established themselves as irreplaceable members of the diagnostic team. “
Some of the students who volunteered to assist already had a relationship with OADDL, whereas others have experience working with plants or chemical engineering. But all recognized that they had lab skills that could be put to use in this time of crisis. Veterinary Biomedical Sciences student Samuel Pushparaj summed up the sentiment of many students saying “I am a researcher by training, but I am a human being and sharing my expertise to serve my community at this time provides me with a sense of purpose.”
The experience has also provided students “an insight into laboratory work, time management, and improvisation in a moment of crisis,” said Parna Ghosh, a Veterinary Biomedical Sciences student. “I have gained an invaluable perspective on how hard-work, effective communication and strong work ethics, can make meaningful impacts on the lives of people and in the community we live in.”
Staff and administrators from the Graduate College and the Office of the Vice President for Research are also a part of the effort. “Knowing that I had a small part to play in the OSU Diagnostic Laboratory processing more than 10,000 samples (to date) for the state of Oklahoma makes me feel less helpless in this unprecedented time,” said Dr. Carol Powers of the Graduate College. The OSU Diagnostic Lab is providing key testing capacity for the state, enabling a rapid test turnaround so that patients and physicians get the answers they are looking for.
Students from Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Plant & Soil Sciences, Integrative Biology, Entomology & Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Cell & Molecular Biology programs have volunteered, representing the College of Veterinary Medicine, Ferguson College of Agriculture, College of Arts & Sciences and the College of Engineering, Architecture & Technology. A number of faculty and staff from these colleges are also contributing to the effort.