INDIANAPOLIS - The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we live our lives. Good hygiene and social distancing are the new golden rules. COVID tests became part of the weekly routine for some. Yet, there is a downfall with those tests, you have to wait. And when time is of the essence, especially to know if you’re positive, there is nothing out there that gives you an immediate result, let alone one that’s a guarantee.
Mark Woollam, a Chemistry Ph.D. student here at the IUPUI School of Science is part of a team working to change that. Woollam is working under his adviser, Mangilal Agarwal, Ph.D., from the School of Engineering and Technology and other researchers to come up with a breath-testing device similar to a breathalyzer.
Specifically, the team is working to develop a sensor that would identify the scent in someone’s breath that has been altered by COVID-19.
Check out the video for more information on how this breath test came to fruition and why Mark is passionate about his role in the project.
For more information on this project you can also check out this story from the IUPUI newsroom.
Description of the video:
My advisor, Doctor Mangilal Agarwal he specializes in sensor development and you know as soon as the pandemic started, we all kind of, especially him, he started to think about you know developing a sensor for COVID-19, but he wanted to keep all of the researchers safe. So, once we figured out all the kinks, we wanted to you know start working on developing breathalyzer. We collect the breath in a tedlar bag, and we collect it through a viral filter though so all the virus or 99% of the virus should be stuck to that viral filter which they dispose of. Then they put the tedlar bag in a secondary container that is sanitized heavily with ethanol and then we bring it back to the lab and treat the surface of the tedlar bag, not the secondary container, with UV radiation to kill anything on the surface. Then we transfer it to a vial at really cold temperatures over dry ice for the for the G-C-M-S analysis. My part in that is identifying the volatile chemical biomarkers that the sensors will detect. So, I work on recruiting patients, consenting patients, collecting their breath samples. We traveled to their house and we have a very safe protocol for protection. And then, we take the breath samples back to the lab and we transfer them to a vial, and we perform the solid phase micro extraction coupled to gas chromatography mass spectrometry analysis, that's really my part in the project. For this particular project for COVID-19, we have the department of chemistry and chemical biology for the analytics and the analytical chemistry, and then we also have mechanical and energy engineering through, Doctor Mangilal Agarwal and that's really important because the synergy of those two departments and those two fields really make this project special because the analytical chemistry part can identify the biomarkers and the engineers can develop sensors that really target those biomarkers so we can detect COVID-19 with very high accuracy. It is personal to me because I'm lucky enough that my family hasn't been infected or you know some of my family's been infected with covid but haven't had severe symptoms. So, I'm really lucky in that manner but I think for me personally, it's more about getting back to normalcy that's the main thing is like our lives have been you know affected fundamentally and everyone's lives and I really just would love for people to get back to normalcy because I really think it's affecting the mental health.