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UKIC / International Student Scholar Services / Engineering senior researches wastewater to improve early detection models for COVID-19

Engineering senior researches wastewater to improve early detection models for COVID-19

Thursday, November 12, 2020 | By Maria Murra and Andrea Gils

Tamunoemi Braide, an international UK senior student from Port Harcourt, Nigeria majoring in chemical engineering, is working under the Hobbs Research Lab group investigating the degradation of the SARS CoV-2 (also known as COVID-19) RNA in wastewater. There are many opportunities available for students of all different interests to be a part of research labs university-wide. The University of Kentucky’s research expertise allows students to explore possibilities in solving real-world, serious global issues, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Braide got involved with undergraduate research in her sophomore year and joined the Hobbs Research Lab in the summer of 2019. Tamunoemi has worked on investigating Agricultural Runoff in Belize River Watershed and was selected to present her research finding at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR2020), which was unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19. Currently she is working with the department of mechanical engineering, and the UK College of Medicine researching the RNA of COVID-19 spiked wastewater.

“Research in its entirety never ends, but what we hope to achieve is to get a clearer picture on how fast the SARS Cov-2 RNA degrades in wastewater, which could be a piece of information necessary to update models for more accurate simulations and monitoring of the coronavirus in the water environment; and in developing more accurate early detection models,” Braide said. “We are doing this by subjecting spiked SARS-CoV-2 wastewater samples to environmental stressors and running analysis using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.”   

Braide said that having research experience not only showed her the vast application of her degree but it has also greatly improved her knowledge and passion to add to research. She explained that studying engineering has changed the way she thinks through problems, helping her brainstorm solutions. Braide also shared that her research experience is opening doors in finding additional research opportunities in the future.

“As an aspiring engineer and lifelong problem solver, I have found that creativity and adaptability have been most beneficial skills to have,” Braide said. “I learned to never give up on my dreams, and to work hard for what I believe in.”

Braide’s plans to pursue her graduate degree in Chemical Engineering and her Professional Engineering License after completing her undergraduate studies at UK.