KUEC Biotechnology Grad on Front Line of COVID-19 Testing

Justin Carroll, KUEC Biotechnology Grad

Justin Carroll, KUEC Biotechnology grad, attributes his on-the-job technical and problem-solving skills related to COVID-19 testing to his education at the KU Edwards Campus.  

It’s not unusual for college students to balance their classroom education with real-life workplace experience. For 23-year-old Justin Carroll, a KU Edwards biotechnology senior, on-the-job experience has recently taken on a greater level importance.

Carroll works for clinical laboratory company Quest Diagnostics™ as a laboratory assistant and is helping with COVID-19 testing.

“I was helping with testing as soon as it started at Quest,” said Carroll. “As a lab assistant, I am responsible for keeping the specimens stable – a big challenge with COVID testing – according to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.”

The guidelines instructed the Quest team to keep specimens frozen and then thaw them prior to testing. This required new ways for the organization to manage testing and Carroll helped develop those processes.

Carroll says the most interesting part of this experience is being behind-the-scenes of COVID-19 testing processes.

“There’s so much more than numbers that the rest of the world doesn’t see,” Carroll said. “There are intricacies to the tests and a science to them.”

For example, due to the scarcity of available testing kits, some specimen swabs hadn’t gone through the proper validating process before arriving at the lab. Carrol identifies unvalidated swabs and works with lab managers and directors to identify which are candidates for further testing.

Carroll attributes his on-the-job technical and problem-solving skills to his education at the KU Edwards Campus.

“In the biotechnology program, we learned laboratory skills, such as handling specimens properly, as well as finding solutions to real-life scenarios,” Carroll said.

The biotechnology industry is growing about 12 percent each year. Biotechnology is used in a variety of fields, including pharmaceutical research and development; environmental science; agriculture; and animal and human health and forensics.

Carroll’s professor, Randall Logan, Ph.D., professor of practice and program director for KUEC’s JCERT-funded biotechnology degree program, says Carroll’s recent practical experiences, combined with classroom studies, give him an exceptional advantage in entering the professional world after graduation.

“In the biotech program, we teach our students that good scientific work requires collaboration, ingenuity and technical knowledge,” said Logan. “Through Justin’s work with us, and his experience at Quest Diagnostics, he’s in an excellent position to have a successful career in this field.”

Learn more about the Bachelor of Applied Science in Biotechnology.