At Acadia, research opportunities are available to undergraduate students from all disciplines throughout their degree programs. Claire Spearns worked throughout the summer after her first year of study and part time during the second year of her Certificate of Applied Science in Dr. Jennie Rand’s lab in the K.C. Irving Centre on a COVID-19 monitoring project.
Dr. Rand’s lab is a partner with a Dalhousie University and LuminUltra Technologies project looking at environmental monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a part of the environmental monitoring program Claire used LuminUltra’s surface testing method for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to rapidly analyze swabs from high-touch surfaces for the presence of the virus. Weekly from September 2020 to the end of April 2021, Claire collected samples from key high-touch surfaces around campus, including entrance door handles and elevator buttons of residences, COVID-19 testing centers, meal hall and other high traffic areas. Swabs were then analyzed in the lab at the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre for presence or absence of the COVID-19 virus. No virus was detected through swabbing high touch surfaces on the Acadia campus.
Claire says “it has been an exciting opportunity to work fairly independently on a project that is relevant to our lives during this pandemic. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity as a second-year student”.
Claire is passionate about this project because “information from the environment can be used as indicators of human health. For example, in this project we aimed to identify a concentration of the COVID-19 virus before symptoms were identified in the population. The faster we can identify and address these types of human health issues with environmental monitoring, the faster scientific and financial resources can be dedicated to reducing impacts”.
Claire will be going to Dalhousie University in the fall of 2021 to continue working towards her Bachelor of Civil Engineering. Claire says “through studying engineering, I hope to be a part of solutions that mitigate negative human impacts on the environment and help us towards a more sustainable future”. Thanks to her work in Dr. Rand’s lab, she is taking with her unique research experience that also contributed toward protecting human health in a global pandemic.