Glen Ellyn, Ill., April 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- College of DuPage Biological Sciences alumnus Anthony Acevedo is using his expertise as a clinical laboratory scientist to assist with the state of Illinois’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Acevedo accepted a four-month position at an Illinois Department of Public Health lab in Chicago to help test the thousands of daily COVID-19 samples sent to the lab for processing.

“When I heard that Illinois was expanding testing to help contain the spread of the virus, I wanted to do my part to assist in any way I could,” he said. “State labs are working around the clock to process these tests, so when I saw that the department of health put out a call for applications, I immediately applied.”

A 2017 COD graduate, Acevedo earned his Associate of Science degree in biological sciences and transferred to Northern Illinois where he will be graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology.

“At Northern, I’m in the lab every day, but because of the pandemic, my research ability was taken away,” he said. “This new position is allowing me to use my passion towards a greater good. The lab director said my academic background and extensive lab experience made me well-suited for this type of work.”

Acevedo started his position at the health department last week. He’s currently finishing up training before he will be processing COVID-19 samples on his own.

“You have to be extremely disciplined and well-trained to understand the virus’s molecular biology,” he said. “We are using molecular testing technologies to help detect the presence of the virus’s RNA sequence. One little error could mess up hours and hours of work. You also have to be very careful with contamination with other samples, and you have to protect yourself since you are handling a sample of a potentially life-threatening virus. This job needs to be done by a skilled technician.”

Due to the fast spread of the virus, all new contract workers also are being trained to perform, analyze and report newborn screenings for the state to keep up with demand.

“Newborn screenings are the most essential testing component the health department processes,” he said “We get thousands of newborn specimens a day so that can’t get backlogged. I had no idea I’d be assisting in that way, but I’m so glad I can do my part to help. We all have to be cross-trained, especially if our testing capacity for the virus increases.”

While Acevedo is glad he can help during these trying times, he said working in a standardized lab reinforces his passion for academia.

“Academia presents new things every day,” he said. “You learn and grow. And you see big breakthroughs right before your eyes. It brings a lot of meaning to your work.”

Acevedo credits his passion for scientific research to his time at COD.

“I have to attribute my passion and upbringing in science to my experience at COD,” he said. “I didn’t want my courses watered down or simplified because I wanted to be ready to go to a university to tackle upper level courses. I got that challenge at COD. Before I transferred to Northern, I chose to stay at COD to work as a chemistry lab assistant, which is where my passion for research really started.”

Once Acevedo’s contract is up, he said he will look for opportunities to help research COVID-19 vaccines and antibody testing.

“Finding cures is what science is all about,” he said. “And with this virus in particular, there are a lot of unknowns that scientists around the world are trying to figure out. Why do some people test positive for the virus, but show no symptoms? Why are others dying so quickly? Little is known about this virus. I want to apply my skills and serve my state and community and make good use of this time.”


Jennifer Duda
College of DuPage
(630) 942-3097