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Key Covid scientist overcomes illness to graduate with degree in microbiology

Alanna Morrison, 21, from Banbridge will graduate today (Thursday 29 July) with a BSc Degree in Microbiology from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast.

Lanyon Building at Queen's University Belfast

Alanna has played a crucial role in Northern Ireland over the past year in local efforts to tackle the current pandemic.

She began working at Randox at the start of the pandemic to carry out Covid-19 bioassays, the biochemical tests that determine if a swab sample is positive or negative for SARS-CoV-2 virus.

 

Alanna Morrison

She said: “The testing process was intense as I would be doing 96 tests at a time. On my first day in the lab, I thought it would take me a year to be able to do the tests on that scale smoothly, but I was able to reach that level after three days.

“To meet the demand for testing, I worked 12-hour days and night shifts. It was incredibly difficult and pressured, but a great experience and very memorable, I have made great friends while working in the labs.

“The responsibility was heavy for the role, as for every sample, there was a person on the other end who was likely very worried about their result. I felt a great sense of purpose as this role was key in the pandemic response and I was able to use the skills and knowledge I had gained from being a student at Queen’s to help society through this worrying time.”

Alanna has also had to overcome serious illness to get to where she is today, having dealt with misdiagnosed gallbladder disease that progressed and controlled her life for two years.

Thankfully a few years ago she had an operation to cure the disease and is now completely pain free.

“I felt University wasn’t an option for me, but I turned it around during my A levels, got into Queen’s University and have now completed my degree and I’m looking forward to graduating.”

Following her graduation, Alanna plans to go on a holiday once Covid restrictions allow, as well as start her new graduate job with KPMG.

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