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Paige Caine doing Covid 19 testing
Photo: Abby Joseph ’19
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Paige Caine ’21 used the science she learned at Bucknell to do COVID-19 testing.

" "Frederick, Md.
When biology major Paige Caine ’21 began studying RNA — genetic material similar to DNA — in early spring, the emergence of a novel coronavirus was still a world away. Little did Caine know that this summer, her research would land her at a medical lab in her home state of Maryland, where she helped test for COVID-19 using science she learned at Bucknell.

What She Did
From May to August, Caine was a technician at Cian Diagnostics, where she extracted RNA from nasal samples of nursing- home patients. It’s the first step in a testing process that detects COVID-19 by attempting to copy the virus’ genes. “If the genes present in the coronavirus are also appearing in a patient’s mucous, then the result is positive,” Caine explains. Working alongside seasoned scientists, she prepared nearly 1,000 samples each day for testing — a high-stakes job that involved “knowing I literally had someone’s health in my hands.”

How She Learned
Caine was well prepared for the crucial task. As a Presidential Fellow, she’s worked closely with Professor Morgan Benowitz-Fredericks, biology, to analyze gene expression in seabirds using the same extraction technique required for COVID-19 testing. It’s a skill Caine was eager to hone to satisfy her curiosity about the fragile nature of RNA. “It’s amazing I was able to learn it just in time and so rewarding to use that knowledge to help face the pandemic this summer,” she says.
Brooke Thames