The COVID-19 pandemic took a serious toll on third-year Nanotechnology Engineering student Jordan Van Wyk’s plans for 2020, but he re-grouped, reached out to his network and relied on his multidisciplinary training to stay on track. He is now contributing to a project that collects and disseminates information about the scope of coronavirus infection worldwide.
Not only did the pandemic force an early return from Jordan’s winter exchange term at National University of Singapore, it also delayed his Spring co-op work term on the camera team at Apple in California. Looking to fill the extra time, Jordan contacted his network in search of a new project.
From his friend Nathan Duarte, a fourth-year UWaterloo biomedical engineering student he knows through various extracurriculars activities, Jordan learned about an exciting project called SeroTracker. Supported by Canada's COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, SeroTracker is a knowledge hub that monitors, synthesizes and visualizes findings from SARS-CoV-2 serology (antibody) testing efforts worldwide. The data, which is displayed on an interactive dashboard, will be used to help public health officials and policymakers determine the best ways to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.
The project, which would offer Jordan the chance to work on public policy, product management and research, was a long way from the nano-optics field that had become his focus. Nonetheless, he was prepared to take on the new work.
Jordan speaks from experience when he advises fellow students to “pay attention in all of your classes, because you never know when they’ll come in handy.” In his case, he benefited from second-year biochemistry classes and numerous courses that covered nanotoxicology and medical testing. “Even though biochemistry was not my main interest, my multidisciplinary training turned out to be a great plus. My exposure to immunology gave me the language to speak fluently with others on the project.”
Jordan has spent the last five weeks working with the SeroTracker team full time. When his co-op term at Apple ramps up remotely next week, he will continue to work on the SeroTracker project on a part-time basis.
“The Nanotechnology Engineering program has given me high-level training in a wide range of disciplines, and my extra-curricular activities have helped me develop a network of people with diverse specialties. Both of those factors worked in my favour when my plans changed unexpectedly during the pandemic,” explains Jordan.
For more information about the SeroTracker project, read Students build online dashboard to track COVID-19 antibody studies on Waterloo Stories.