ASU geological sciences student succeeds remotely during pandemic, with help from donors

October 21, 2020

Paityn Schlosser, a geological sciences major at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration, was on spring break in Utah last March when ASU implemented plans to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Students were asked to leave campus and finish the semester virtually. As an out-of-state student, Schlosser had two choices, return home to Missouri or move in with a friend. She chose the latter.  

“This decision also meant leaving my job as a desk assistant in my dorm,” she said. “I was left scrambling to find another job in Tempe, just as most of the city was shutting down.”  School of Earth and Space Exploration geological sciences major Paityn Schlosser. Photo courtesy Paityn Schlosser Download Full Image

Schlosser went from going to classes on campus and studying in the library to attending lectures from her bedroom. When the Wi-Fi went out, she’d complete assignments on her laptop by tethering to her cell phone’s connection. 

“You don’t appreciate the convenience of in-person studies until it’s no longer an option,” Schlosser said.  

Like Schlosser, many students found themselves upended by the pandemic: classes moved to an online format, plus the loss of income from jobs suddenly gone.

In response, the School of Earth and Space Exploration looked for ways to support students facing urgent needs and created the Student Emergency Fund. Since the school initiated it in spring 2020, more than 40 donors have made a gift to the fund, supporting students who needed help with essential needs like food, shelter and health care. 

“There are many things you plan for as a student, but a pandemic shouldn’t be one of them,” said Meenakshi Wadhwa, director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “This is a reminder that we are stronger together, and we are committed to supporting our students through this challenging time.” 

The lockdown from the pandemic also added financial stress to Schlosser with worries of student loans and insurance payments. Initially, she didn’t consider the Student Emergency Fund, thinking someone else would need it more than she would. It didn’t occur to her at first that she could be that “someone.”

Financial assistance from the school’s Student Emergency Fund allowed Schlosser to focus on her health, safety, and ultimately her studies and her future. She says she is thankful for the support and the opportunity to return for her sophomore year at ASU.  

“I’d like to thank the donors who helped me and my fellow Sun Devils through a difficult time, and without their generosity I believe my current situation would be a much different story,” Scholsser said. “Without their support, I may not have been able to continue my studies and attend ASU.” 

Learn more about the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration Student Emergency Fund.

Alumni and Special Events Coordinator, School of Earth & Space Exploration


School of Molecular Sciences researchers lead rapid COVID-19 test development

October 21, 2020

The effort to develop a rapid COVID-19 saliva test is being spearheaded by two School of Molecular Sciences researchers at Arizona State University.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced recently that ASU will receive a $6 million grant to develop a rapid COVID-19 saliva test. The goal is to develop a system that does not require trained personnel and can provide a PCR test result in 20 minutes at the site of need. Download Full Image

This endeavor is being led by three ASU researchers: Mark Hayes, Alexander Green and Jennifer Blain Christen. Christen is a researcher in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, while both Green and Hayes are researchers in the School of Molecular Sciences.

“That Alex Green and Mark Hayes have been chosen to lead such an important project illustrates the impact that (School of Molecular Sciences) research has both locally and nationally," said Ian Gould, director of the School of Molecular Sciences. "The development of this test will be of great benefit to the people of Arizona and will have a significant impact on our society and economy.”

Hayes is quick to credit everyone involved in this effort.

“To develop the COVID-19 saliva test has been and continues to require the collaboration of many people. It is truly a team effort,” he said.

Mark Hayes 

Hayes’ research experience spans fundamental and applied bioanalytical chemistry, including materials science. Technology developed in Hayes’ lab is used to identify bacterial and viral pathogens, which contribute to improved patient treatment.

“A key aspect of detecting COVID-19 is to be able to isolate and identify coronavirus away from all the other bioparticles in saliva, which we have the ability to do,” he said.

When fully developed, the new test will allow for the testing and processing of as many as 40,000 samples per week on campus, and up to 60,000 off-campus samples.

Sample analysis and coronavirus detection build upon Green's research, which focuses on designing and developing biological sensors, including for viral detection. Recently, his lab developed portable diagnostic tests for Zika virus in low-income areas. This experience is now being used in the development of the rapid, portable COVID-19 saliva tests.

Alexander Green

“Our previous research has provided a crucial foundation for us to rapidly develop new tests for COVID-19,” Green said. 

Incorporation of these technologies onto a disposable microfluidic chip is led by Jennifer Blain Christen. Christen’s team of engineers will embed the technology into a single-use cassette that incorporates a detection reaction. Data from the cassette can be collected to measure positive and negative results.

“The benefits to people’s health and to the overall community are difficult to overstate,” Hayes said. “The ability to quickly detect and respond to positive cases will help people receive treatment in a timely manner and reduce the spread of the virus, which will allow us to begin to return to normal.”

James Klemaszewski

Science writer, School of Molecular Sciences