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'It's an amazing feeling' | College students get real-world experience by working in on-campus COVID-19 lab

The on-campus lab at UNCC is actually testing COVID-19 samples from students and is even helping to stop outbreaks on campus.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Some UNC Charlotte students have found a way to make the money they need while advancing their studies and helping during this pandemic.

The three women are all grad students who are working in the on-campus COVID-19 lab. 

"It's an amazing experience," Jade Takakuwa said. 

It is about as real-world experience as you can get.

"It's invaluable everyone in the lab has a background in research," Jessica Miller added. 

At 22, Miller is a biology grad student at UNC Charlotte.

"Not only am I learning to work with SARS, but I’m also learning from my coworkers, its an amazing feeling helping others in a pandemic hands-on," she said.

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The on-campus lab at UNCC is actually testing COVID samples of students and is even helping to stop outbreaks on campus.

"It's very exciting to know I'm helping out to prevent any sort of future spread of the virus on campus- that’s super important to me," Takakuwa said. 

"It's really nice to take classroom skills and apply them to something that’s very new and something that is changing every day so that experience is invaluable," Amanda Reid added. 

They said they worry less about handling a live virus and more about the implications of what they’re handling.

"You, maybe, just see a tube with a nasal swab and I think this is a person waiting for their results that weighs on me a little bit more," one of the students said. 

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All three women were looking for jobs on campus to help pay for school and ended up in jobs where they’re learning what they’re actually studying.

"I had two on-campus jobs. Once they said they would let me work in the lab I quit my other two," Miller said.

Getting two valuable things at once, money to help pay for school and lessons that will last far outside the classroom.

We’re told the lab has pretty extensive safety protocols in place and can process up to 800 samples a day.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan. 

Contact Tanya Mendis at tmendis@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. 

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