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TESTING 1, 2, 3

INSTRUCTORS ACROSS CAMPUS employ various types of examinations to assess progress and ensure that each member of their class successfully grasps course content. But with the fall 2020 semester, testing took on a whole new meaning at Virginia Tech.

“It amazes me; it is a true team effort. Our university decided to invest intellectual and financial resources to do something for our community. I am proud that we were one of only a handful to do that.”

Carla Finkielstein, scientific director
of the Virginia Tech Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory
at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC

In preparation for the return of faculty, staff, and students to campus during the pandemic, the university developed a comprehensive testing, tracing, and case management plan as part of its broader effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In March 2020, with hospitals challenged by shortages of critical resources to provide care for COVID-19 patients and diagnostic labs overwhelmed with patient samples, a campus-wide group of Virginia Tech faculty researchers, postdoctoral fellows, lab technicians, students, and administrators developed a way to provide testing for the region and for the Virginia Tech community.

By April, Virginia Tech biomedical researchers customized their own method to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, in samples provided by health providers in coordination with the Virginia Department of Health.

Using a redesigned version of a realtime, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) protocol, Virginia Tech made improvements to search for not just a single genetic sequence of the virus, which could compromise the quality of reporting results, but for three unique gene sequences in the virus. In that way, the test was more accurate and functional with custom-designed chemicals and reagents, avoiding many of the supply problems that thwarted early testing in the nation. TW


For videos, links to the most up-to-date COVID 19 information, and further details about the university’s response to the pandemic, visit

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