Pandemic creates professional opportunity for UC undergrad

College of Arts & Sciences neuropsychology major lands role processing COVID tests

By Jenn Cammel 

COVID-19 forced millions of college students to study remotely this year, but for University of Cincinnati student Alex Powell, the pandemic meant a new job. In May, Powell joined the medical lab team helping process COVID tests at Gravity Diagnostics in Covington, Ky.

The neuroscience major in UC's College of Arts and Sciences plans to attend pharmacy school after graduation. He found the position online while looking for a summer job. At the lab, he prepared samples for testing and entered data, as well as other basic lab technician work.

“Gravity Diagnostics started as a small lab that initially did toxicology, sexually transmitted infections and upper respiratory testing,” Powell says. “When COVID hit, the owner purchased the equipment necessary for testing for the virus and it's been growing ever since.”

Powell and his coworkers had many precautions in place to help keep them and their work environment safe.

“It was pretty interesting seeing the pandemic firsthand,” he says. “Whenever the country had a strong spike in cases, we would see it firsthand in the number of samples received per day.

A&S Neuropsychology major Alex Powell, right, at work in a Gravity Diagnostics lab.

A&S Neuropsychology major Alex Powell, right, at work in a Gravity Diagnostics lab.

“It was scary when I first started. For protection, we wore a lab coat, gloves and masks. When leaving the lab, you had to be 100% sure you've taken off your coat and gloves. The lab gets cleaned daily, and we wipe down our workspaces with ethanol frequently.”

Powell says he’s thankful that UC has helped him prepare for the position.

“The work-ethic that UC's instilled in me has helped the most. School's tough for everyone and it forces you to mature as a person, so coming into my first real job with these skills helped immensely,” he says. 

Powell continued his work at the lab throughout fall semester, choosing to stay because he enjoyed his work and his co-workers.

“I love this job — it’s perfect for a college student," he says. "The best part is easily the people. They're all amazing and the camaraderie is incredible. Everybody there is like family. I would definitely do it again and I'm hoping to remain there for the rest of my undergrad experience.”

As a college student, you need to stand out from other applicants and the best way to do that is with experience.

Alex Powell, UC neuroscience student

For other undergraduate students looking for an enriching job or internship, Powell advises them to expand their search and to use all of the resources available.

“I'd recommend reaching out to as many places as possible. UC also has so many helpful resources if you're looking for a job or research, so use them!" he says. "If you're in the STEM field, there are many resume-building opportunities out there as well. UC has an insane amount of undergrad research positions, so does Children's Hospital.

“As a college student, you need to stand out from other applicants and the best way to do that is with experience,” he says.  “Be sure to have fun with it too. There are a lot of interesting businesses in the Cincinnati area — so spend a couple hours looking around for positions you think you'd have fun at.”

Featured image at top: Testing materials in laboratory. Photo/Pixabay

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