Student Blog

A day in COVID-19 testing lab

One of our student ambassadors who's also a PhD student in analytical biochemistry, Md Musa Howlader, let us peek into his days that are spent in SYNLAB, where he tests for COVID-19 virus.

scientist observing a test in a lab

Waking up at 5 am has become a new normal in my life since I joined the Molecular Biology unit at SYNLAB Estonia, where we test for Corona Virus! In the beginning, it used to be quite difficult for someone like me who craves that morning-time sleep so much - yet I wasn’t late even once. I knew that while I'm asleep there are people who sacrifice theirs and work throughout the night just to ensure everyone's well-being. Once they're about to finish their long and tiring night shift it's my time to take over; so I have to wake up and prepare myself for the day!

In SYNLAB Estonia Central lab, as we call it - COVID-19 unit, there are 3 shifts testing thousands of samples every day 24/7. Samples keep coming in from the 20 sample collection booths throughout the country, different hospitals and from the airport, some even from the harbor sample collection points. SYNLAB is government partner and main corona testing lab in Estonia (also in Finland by the way, where some of my colleagues are working temporarily). I usually start my shift at 6 am and wrap it up at 2 pm. Normally I try to get there a bit early to enjoy my morning coffee before facing the day. Since it's a BSL-2 lab, I change into an assigned lab coat and start moving towards the lab. As we all know that Corona Virus SARS-CoV-2 is a highly contagious virus, there are various extra precautions we follow such as changing the BSL-2 lab coat every time we go out from the lab (even if we go to the kitchen or the corridor). Also, we always work with sample tubes under the protective hoods, we are not allowed to touch anything inside the lab without gloves on and clean every single instrument and all surfaces with disinfectant after each use.

While moving forward, I usually meet the night shift lab technicians coming out of the lab with tired yet astonishingly satisfying smiles! I believe they get the energy from the fact that they are fighting the pandemic with everything they have- the feeling of doing something for the people is the key factor behind this motivation and the best part is that everyone works as a team towards the same goal.

It is quite busy in the lab most of the times since thousands of people are waiting for their test results, so speed and accuracy are the major skills necessary for the COVID-19 unit. No one even wants to take a long lunch break here unlike people often have in other facilities; people put responsibility before comfort.

I remember when I joined this unit, the first few days I used to be quite nervous while handling Corona Virus samples because it’s a deadly virus. However, soon my nervousness was replaced by mixed feelings of bravery and self- achievement. Being an international student in Estonia, I love this country a lot. My growth in various personal levels happened here since the beginning of my PhD journey for which I am very grateful. So, I wanted to do something for Estonia in return as well and I finally feel like I am doing my small part; it is a great feeling!

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