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STEM Program Conducts COVID-19 Research

By Vanessa Tousignant, Staff Writer 

Bergen’s STEM Research Center, consisting of five students and Professor Luis Jimenez, Ph.D., conducted remote research on COVID-19 to better understand the pandemic and its effects.

In the research that they conducted, which spanned from May 2020 until October 2020, the team focused on tracking the number of cases and deaths in New Jersey, as well as other states across America, and in twenty other countries around the world. They also researched the different types of coronaviruses and epidemics that came before SARS- CoV-2 Virus, which allowed them to analyze the data from those viruses and compare and contrast the treatments to COVID-19. 

“I turned a real-life situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic into a learning experience for my research students,” Jimenez said. “I wanted to use the pandemic as a learning experience for my research students to understand coronaviruses, pandemics, and the effects of temperature and other practices on the spread of the virus during the summer of 2020,” 

Ultimately, the student researchers, through their findings, learned that wearing masks and social distancing were highly effective practices that limited the transmission rates of positive COVID-19 cases. They also learned that unlike previous coronaviruses and influenza viruses that came before, the warmer months did not slow the spread of the COVID-19.

“Compared to all the other projects I worked on, this was the hardest project I had to do. When we are collecting the data, it’s not just random numbers, it’s real people who are being affected by the virus on a daily basis,” said Yara Abazah, one student conducting the research. “And it’s even more difficult when you personally know people who have been affected by it.”

The pandemic presented many logistical challenges and required that the team’s research be conducted in a fully online environment, which had never been done before in Jimenez’s nine years of experience conducting research at Bergen. The group of students, along with Professor Jimenez, used the unprecedented time of the pandemic as an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge.

Despite their limitations, their article “Microbiology of COVID-19: Chronicle of an Announced Pandemic,” caught the attention of many in the scientific community, and allowed for their discoveries to be published in American Pharmaceutical Review, a top science, business, and technology journal. 

There are no words to describe it. For me personally, this event falls into my definition of American dream,” said Anna Maciejewska, one of the researchers, referring to the publication of their article. “For a person who came to the US as a young adult, with no family here, and English as their second language, this is a huge milestone.”

Professor Jimenez expressed his admiration for his assembled team of student researchers who allowed for the research to run smoothly, despite the new environment in which it was conducted. “It has been a privilege and honor to convey all the fundamental principles of microbiology to a new generation of scientists,” Jimenez said.

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