Campus COVID-19 effort provides valuable experience for UNC Charlotte students

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Throughout the fall semester, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students as well as postdoctoral fellows in a variety of academic programs went to work in campus labs that are testing wastewater samples for COVID-19 and as contact tracers undertaking essential public health activities. Not only have they contributed to the campus’ efforts to mitigate the disease among the University population but also gained valuable hands-on experience that will inform their future research opportunities and career paths.

Nicholas Stark

M.S., Bioinformatics

Wastewater testing lab technician

“It’s very satisfying to work with a  group of brilliant people who are trying to help keep our campus safe by testing for COVID-19 in wastewater. I have learned more in a small amount of time than I could have imagined. Tying my studies directly to what we do in the lab has been a great way to connect conceptual knowledge to practical knowledge. This has solidified for me that this is absolutely the career direction that I would like to pursue.”


Public Health Sciences, class of 2021

Contact Tracer

“Most individuals we speak with are cooperative because they want to keep their community and loved ones safe. Reflecting on this, it reinforces the excitement I feel for this field. As we have seen unfold before our eyes this past year, public health officials are more important than ever. Without their expertise, the world would be a much different place.”


Ph.D., Civil and Environmental Engineering

Wastewater testing lab technician

“The first time we heard that the University took action based on our report about a positive COVID-19 case in a residence hall—regarding a person who did not know they were infected with the virus—I was excited and relieved that we were able to provide an early signal and stop the transmission of COVID-19 to other individuals. This was a great surprise to me: witnessing the instant application of my work, especially to human well-being. I am really proud to be a part of the wastewater testing team." 


Public Health Science, class of 2021

Contact Tracer

“One challenge for a contact tracer is explaining the seriousness of following quarantine and isolation guidelines to college students. We are social people but at a time like this, it is imperative to follow the quarantine guidelines in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I remind those that I talk to that this is to support the health and safety of themselves, their loved ones and their community.”


Postdoctoral research scholar, Bioinformatics & Genomics 

Wastewater testing lab technician

“Working with wastewater projects is amazing; it surprised me because I had never expected that we could test this virus at an early stage through techniques with which I grew familiar as a doctoral candidate in Biology. Application of the molecular technique to control the spread of the pandemic is a new learning experience—and a new discovery—for me. Through this experience, I have been able to develop data analysis skills, which will be useful for my future career whether I choose academics or industry.”

Ryan Buchmeier

Public Health Sciences, class of 2021

Contact Tracer

“The most rewarding part about working as a COVID contact tracer is knowing I can provide the UNC Charlotte community with vital information that will help keep themselves and loved ones safe. The overall goal of public health is to prevent diseases and promote healthy lifestyle choices among the community; knowing that I’m contributing to this allows me to feel that my work is important.”

Jordan Lontai

M.S., Geography & Earth Sciences

Wastewater testing lab technician

“This experience has opened up an interesting aspect of research for me. That is, what other disease- causing organisms may be present in wastewater that have yet to be identified, and how can we develop protocols to identify or prevent disease transmission in underdeveloped countries or even in areas of developed countries where inadequate wastewater treatment facilities may exist?”