Cassandra Amarello '18

Doing Her Part to Keep the UNH Community Safe
UNH alumna Cassandra Amarello '18

Good news during the COVID-19 pandemic is often found in the stories of people coming together to create solutions and to protect people and communities. UNH’s state-of-the-art COVID-19 diagnostic lab, which represents both of those things, is one good news story.

The on-campus lab is the result of swift and decisive action this spring and summer by key members of the UNH administration and faculty, including COLSA professor Kelley Thomas whose expertise was instrumental to the lab’s creation. Now, current COLSA students and alumni, like Cassandra Amarello who earned her bachelor's degree in genetics in 2018, are among the employees working in the lab and helping keep the UNH community safe.

COLSA: What is your role in UNH's COVID-19 diagnostic lab, and what are your responsibilities?

Cassy Amarello: I’m a medical laboratory technician running downstream testing on COVID-19 patient samples.  I operate state-of-the-art equipment to allow for patient sample pooling, RNA extraction and RT-PCR, review the results of patient samples for possible retesting, and submit results for further review. I also complete general lab duties including taking inventory, making sample processing plates and troubleshooting any problems with sample processing.

COLSA: Why do you want to be a part of UNH's testing effort?

Cassy: I want to make a significant impact in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and help keep the general population of UNH safe.

COLSA: How has this experience been valuable for you?

Cassy: I have learned how a lab gets started from the bottom up and all the details that go into making a high-throughput diagnostic lab successful. I have also been able to use some of the newest, state-of-the-art equipment involving sample processing. I am a part of an amazing team that is making an impact on the history of UNH.

COLSA: What is the most important thing you've learned?

Cassy: It is easy to get caught up in getting everything done quickly, especially since we are testing approximately 5000 samples a day. At the end of the day, we all work hard to do what we can and to keep ourselves safe. Staying calm is the most effective tool for this job.

COLSA: Is there anything about being tested and/or UNH's testing program that you'd like the UNH community to know?

Cassy: Don't believe any rumors you hear about the status of COVID-19 on campus. If you are concerned about anything please each out to someone who is part of the testing program or with UNH Health and Wellness, with any questions.

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