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Dickinson College Alumna on the Forefront of COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing and Response

Devy Emperador '08 works as a scientific officer at FIND in Geneva, Switzerland, where she develops and trials testing methods in response to COVID-19.

Devy Emperador '08 (top right) works with others at FIND to develop testing methods in response to COVID-19.

Devy Emperador '08 (top right) works with others at FIND to develop testing methods in response to COVID-19.

Devy Emperador '08 (top right) works with others at FIND to develop testing methods in response to COVID-19.

Answering the Call

by Kandace Kohr

As a former biochemistry & molecular biology major, Devy Emperador '08 had always wanted to use her Dickinson education to help those in need. Over a decade later, she’s managed to do just that, and now her work as a scientific officer at FIND in Geneva, Switzerland, has helped her make an impression on the world’s stage in the midst of a global pandemic.

For Emperador, Dickinson’s international education and global focus was inspiration enough to make the long trip to Carlisle from her home state of California. During her time here, she was active in clubs and organizations as well as within the Asian-American student population. She cites a course she took with Associate Professor of Biology David Kushner during her first year, Immunity and Infection, as the impetus for what would come after Dickinson.

After graduation, Emperador moved back to her home state and began carving out a career in the laboratory. She then went on to pursue her master’s in public health at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health, and afterwards, she departed to Uganda for a fellowship in global health and infectious diseases. She also cut her teeth with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support the response to the Ebola outbreak in 2015 in Sierra Leone, which laid the perfect foundation for where she is now.

For the last three years as a scientific officer at The Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a global health nonprofit based in Geneva, Emperador has worked in the pandemic preparedness team, developing, distributing and providing training for diagnostic tests for outbreak-prone diseases as well as working closely with large, global health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist vulnerable populations in the Global South.

“Speed of testing and speed of results are equally important as the performance of the tests,” she says. With COVID-19's quick-spreading nature, Emperador and her team work tirelessly to study the performance of molecular, antibody and antigen tests, all while trying to navigate the flurry of testing options in the market and ensuring that people are equipped with the knowledge on how to run tests correctly and safely. “We are constantly learning and having to adapt.”

During this demanding time, Emperador reflects on how well Dickinson has prepared her for these kinds of challenges. “One of the biggest tenets of Dickinson is engaging the world, so learning at Dickinson exposed me to many different nationalities, especially among the international students," she says. "That, and being outside of my comfort zone, has really helped me navigate working in the international and global health space. A lot of my basic knowledge now—being able to think critically of new information—has been especially important.”

Read more stories about how members of the Dickinson community near and far have responded to emerging needs and challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.

TAKE THE NEXT STEPS

Published August 10, 2020