Behind the scenes at TestEd
Operations Coordinator, Sam Gaston, gives an insider's view of the TestEd project.
My role is to ensure operational efficiency for the TestEd project, acting as a point of contact between the testing sites and the lab. This involves regular visits to TestEd sites to verify that consistent sample collection is carried out. We have 34 TestEd sites across campus now, and I try to visit them all once or twice a week to confirm that they are well kept. This includes ensuring supplies of consumables are maintained at sampling booths, checking that the sample collection areas remain clean and tidy and that the PCs are operational, while also providing advice to TestEd site operatives on maintaining the quality and safety of sample collection. I am also involved in the co-ordination of deliveries to the lab, making sure that all samples arrive for testing. All in all, my role is to ensure that the project runs smoothly so that participants can provide samples worry free – adding to the efficiency of TestEd testing.
What happens to my sample after I leave it in the pot?
Once a sample is placed in the tray, it remains there until roughly 30 minutes before it is transported to the lab. Then, at each site, an operative will sanitise the sample racks, place them into a sealed bag and package them into a cardboard box for transporting to the lab.
How do samples get rounded up and where do they go for processing?
Once packaged up, the samples are collected and taken to a delivery hub, such as the Main Library. From here, they are collected by the University’s Estates team and transported to the lab at the Western General Hospital for analysis and PCR testing via the hypercube sample pooling strategy – a key component of the study.
What happens after the lab? How are the results collated and disseminated?
Once all results for the day are processed, they are shared with participants by email and text message. The Project Manager will follow up with people who have tested positive with a phone call to ask them a few questions, which contributes to the overall study. They will also arrange to send a shopping voucher to help the individual while they are self isolating.
How many people are involved in the whole operation?
Many people are involved in this process, from laboratory research assistants to voluntary on site operatives and the University’s Estates team, highlighting how large yet essential operation TestEd is.
How important are students to the success of the project?
Students are a vital part of the TestEd project, forming a far larger percentage of the population than staff at the University. The project aims to keep the whole University safe through asymptomatic testing and is as relevant as ever with COVID-19 continuing to spread rapidly across the UK. A large percentage of people who are infected with the current dominant variant Omicron show no or mild symptoms early on in infection. Mass asymptomatic testing through projects like TestEd can help to spot these infections early and stop the spread on campus.
By signing up for TestEd and regularly leaving samples, students can safely participate in their social lives while helping lead the University towards more in person teaching, which will improve their experience overall.
We are very appreciative of the students who have signed up and it would be great for them to encourage their friends to also do so. We will continue to promote the project to students as a simple way to keep themselves and their peers safe throughout the pandemic.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
As a recent graduate in Biological Sciences, I have enjoyed returning to the University and contributing to this vital research project. It is great to see that participants appreciate the advantages of TestEd, particularly that it is both a convenient and accurate way to get a COVID-19 result. I’m sure many University members can appreciate a way to test regularly without the discomforts of using a nasal or throat swab!
I also enjoy my role as I get to interact with many members of the University across campus. It is fantastic to have so many people on board who understand the importance of TestEd, many of whom have volunteered to take time out of their day to assist in the delivery of the project. The support of TestEd encourages us to continue to work hard to keep participants happy, by answering any of their queries and delivering their results as efficiently as possible.