Two biology majors from Orange County are now at the epicenter of coronavirus testing, working inside one of the first labs in the nation to develop the test. They are using their skills as scientists but with compassion.
Hannah Hopkins and Anna Chao were roommates at Concordia University in Irvine when their campus closed. They realized they wanted to finish out the school year together. Now they are working side by side in a lab at the University of Washington.
Chao, a 20-year-old junior and Hopkins, 22, and a senior, are living in a Seattle area hotel, courtesy the University of Washington.
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It's where they spend their nights, 40 hours a week consolidating COVID-19 specimens. Lab officials say they arrive in so many different types of test tubes they must all be made uniform before they can be tested.
"That's where we need manpower,"said Alex Greninger, the lab director. "We don't have instruments that can do that readily."
The virology lab does about 2,500 tests a day from across the country. The students realize what they were hired to do may be the ultimate science lesson.
"You're checking names and realize, 'oh, this is a person and this is their life,' and sometimes I'll say a little prayer as I'm pouring their test off for them," Hopkins said.
Added Chao: "But when you're thinking about 100 people, then it really just makes you think your part of the process that might help them get treatment or bring them peace of mind or something."
Officials at the school of medicine agrees the tests will help on many fronts.
"So if you do test positive can enroll in a trial," Greninger said.
Both coeds admit they never expected their school year to end this way. Each is grateful for what they've learned so far as they wait for what's to come.
Hopkins is graduating this year and will work on her Ph.D. at Baylor in the fall.
Chao has one year left and hopes to be able to return to her Irvine campus to continue her studies in biology.