Graduate Student Supports COVID-19 Projects
Posted on: September 16, 2020
Volunteering has a special meaning to B. Celia Cui. She learned the value of helping others after a close family member dealt with a severe illness, and Cui saw first-hand how caring for others can make an impact. As a Ph.D. student, Cui has spent the last several months giving of her time to help with the university’s COVID-19 testing and research.
Cui earned her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UofSC. At the time, she was conducting research under Michael Shtutman, Ph.D. in the Functional Genomics Core (FGC), part of the COBRE Center for Targeted Therapeutics in the College of Pharmacy. “Dr. Shtutman asked if I would like to continue my education under his supervision, and I knew it was a great opportunity,” she says. Cui is pursuing her Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences with an anticipated graduation in two years.
I love to do my part and provide something tangible back to the community that has provided so much for my growth, my education and my career development.
B. Celia Cui Ph.D. Candidate, College of Pharmacy
She decided to volunteer her time to help with the COVID-19 projects because of a deep sense of community and an unquenchable curiosity for learning. “When I heard I could help out health care providers, I jumped at it,” she says. “I love to do my part and provide something tangible back to the community that has provided so much for my growth, my education and my career development.”
Cui has a variety of roles related to the college’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since May, she has picked up samples from Prisma Health Richland to bring to the college where she isolates RNA, after which Diego Altomare, Ph.D., and Max Chen, Ph.D., check for the COVID-19 virus. Seeing her interest in the project, Michael Wyatt, Ph.D., who lead the Prisma Screening, asked if she would consider assisting Carolyn Banister, Ph.D. in the newly CLIA-certified lab, where she supports the university’s saliva assay free expedited (SAFE) testing, loading samples into the Opentrons robotic liquid handlers.
I am reinvigorated about the importance of science and the importance of trying to answer questions using a scientific process so that we can find answers to solve our problems.
Cui has a strong interest in bioinformatics and biomedical science, so the opportunity to participate in the COVID-19 research with Dr. Shtutman as well as the clinical diagnostic saliva assay free expedited (SAFE) testing with Carolyn Banister, Ph.D. have been rewarding for her. “The Prisma samples are being studied to research the evolution of COVID-19 virus, while the SAFE testing is conducted for diagnostic purposes to keep our UofSC community safe,” she adds. “Being able to experience two completely different lab operations, and to observe my professors in how they troubleshoot and solve problems in setting up a system where they can effectively implement a process have been eye-opening.”
While the pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, Cui realizes it has presented a unique opportunity for her. “I am reinvigorated about the importance of science and the importance of trying to answer questions using a scientific process so that we can find answers to solve our problems.”