Meet the Marine Biologist Helping Create COVID-19 Test Kits

April 20, 2020

Samantha Mascuch, is a postdoctoral scholar at Georgia Tech. She's a marine biologist with a focus in marine natural products, who flies planes in her free time and isn't afraid of a challenge. During the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia, Mascuch and fellow Georgia Tech scientists are producing Coronavirus test kit ingredients.

Go behind the scenes with Mascuch to learn how the test works, and how Georgia Tech biologists and chemists are helping create it.

Watch the video: Meet the Georgia Tech Marine Biologist Producing COVID-19 Test Kit Ingredients

Video Transcript:

Mascuch: “As you can see, it’s pretty empty in here. Normally we have a lot of people working, but not now.” 

Mascuch leads test kit formulation efforts to increase the supply of ingredients needed for COVID-19 tests.  

Mascuch: “So, in order to test for this virus, what happens is, you give a sample, they swab your nose, and then we take it, we extract the viral RNA from that sample. Even though it’s RNA, what we really want to measure is DNA.” 

The group plans to deliver thousands of tests in the coming weeks – and they’re building better test kits for the future. 

Mascuch: “We actually mix the extracted RNA that we get from the sample with the testing kit reagents and then we put it in this qPCR machine.” 

Viral RNA is converted into DNA, then amplified through RT-PCR: Reverse Transcription- Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction. 

Enzymes used in PCR are purified using automated equipment to ensure accurate test results. 

Purified, concentrated enzymes are then placed in containers, ready to be used in virus test kits. 

Mascuch: “First we turn that RNA into DNA, then we make a bunch of copies of that DNA, and that’s how we can tell if you actually have this virus.” 

The effort is part of a statewide initiative to tap academic laboratories across Georgia to help with COVID-19 testing.  

Mascuch: “It really gives me a sense of pride and agency to be able to do something to help. And, let’s face it, quarantine gets old.” 


For More Information Contact

Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communications
College of Sciences
Georgia Institute of Technology