Kaley Jean ’21

New Challenge Brings New Opportunity
UNH student Kaley Jean '21

Kaley Jean ’21 is a genetics major and Classics minor from Merrimack, NH who is working as a a clinical lab assistant in UNH's COVID testing lab. "While a pandemic isn’t the best way to end my undergraduate career," she says, "I think helping others is."

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

Kaley Jean: I work as a clinical lab assistant, so I uncap incoming samples, vortex and scan the samples into the computer system so we are able to keep track of whose results belong to whom, and then I also run the Integra machine that pipettes samples onto plates, which are given to the lab technicians for pooling.

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

Kaley: I wanted to be a part of the testing effort at UNH for the lab experience, as well as to see the process in full and to feel like I am doing something to help the community. As a student I am able to see the tests being taken and how my peers are responding to the new protocols, and as a member of the COVID lab I can see how the tests are run behind-the-scenes.

COLSA: How has this experience been valuable for you?

Kaley: It is definitely great lab experience, which will be nice for my resume, but it is also a great to be part of the community of people working in the lab, both students and full-time workers.

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

Kaley: Aside from practical skills, I’ve learned that even when the work you’re doing is serious, and things may seem scary and a bit bleak, it doesn’t have to be all encompassing. Even though we follow strict safety protocols in the lab, we also can joke around and have fun together.

COLSA: Has living though a pandemic changed your perspective regarding the future of human health?

Kaley: I have been looking into a career in public health since before the pandemic started, and I think that the pandemic may have brought about some changes regarding how we respond to health crises that could be beneficial. There are people in a few countries that were already in the habit of wearing masks when they were sick as courtesy towards others, and maybe people will wash their hands more often. I think I’ll probably continue washing my hands every time I return home for a while after the pandemic ends!

COLSA: What does it mean to you to have this opportunity to be on the frontlines of helping to manage the spread of COVID-19?

Kaley: I love the opportunity for hands-on lab experience, but I also love the opportunity to tell people about what I do and to educate them on what happens and why. I also enjoy knowing that I am working towards something that is helping not only myself, but others as well. While a pandemic isn’t the best way to end my undergraduate career, I think helping others is.

COLSA: What role do you think having an on-campus lab has played in UNH's ability to manage the spread of COVID-19 and keep the campus open?

Kaley: I definitely believe we have made it this far because of this lab. While social distancing and mask use has also been a part of it, those things are very hard to enforce. Having the on-campus lab has helped us keep track of positives so people know when to isolate or quarantine. The lab is a reminder of how privileged we were to be able to be here, and that helped us stay motivated to follow the new protocols.

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