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NSU Alumna Works to Develop COVID-19 Test​

NSU Alumna Works  to Develop COVID-19 Test​Heroes don’t always wear capes, but sometimes they wear a lab coat and have an affinity for Green and Gold! 


Kimya Jones ’99, a research associate and laboratory manager, is one of them. She is conducting life-saving work through medical testing and validation.


In the early days of the coronavirus in the U.S., a team at the Georgia Esoteric and Molecular Laboratory in Georgia, where Jones is laboratory manager, was diligently working on one of the most important pieces of the novel coronavirus puzzle — the test.

It was early March and the team, a part of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, had been working long hours to find a way to test for the virus that causes COVID-19 and deliver results in a matter of a few short hours rather than several days as most tests did. Before March, the sources of testing materials and kits were confined to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state laboratories.

However, because the ability to test was outpaced by the growing numbers of those contracting the virus, the government began allowing outside labs to develop and validate their own tests. The team went to work, and after 90 straight hours, developed a test they could begin using.


By the end of April, the lab had been tapped to help in Georgia’s statewide testing effort and was processing 1,000 tests a day.


Jones has been engaged in life-saving work her entire career. She started out performing cancer research after she earned her degree. She then decided to join the GEM team because she was able to do molecular diagnostic testing and she could work in the histology lab as well.


“I wanted to learn more about clinical diagnostic testing while developing my skills with histology. I am never doing the same thing on a daily basis. It gives me freedom to continue learning and improving myself in both fields,” explained Jones.


Learning and improving is also something she did as a student at Norfolk State University. She says her time at NSU taught her to love biochemistry, organic chemistry and histology, the study of the microscopic structure of tissues.


“The skills I developed from hands-on experience in the biochemistry laboratory sparked my interest in molecular biology which gave me some of the background to perform my duties as the lab manager for GEM lab,” says Jones.


Jones is originally from Fort Washington, Maryland, where she lived with her mother and three sisters, one an identical twin. She learned about NSU from Veronica Williams, a family member who was attending at the time. Jones traveled to Norfolk to experience homecoming, and once she stepped onto the campus, she knew she wanted to be a part of the Spartan family.


She started NSU in the fall of 1994, and her first two years were full of surprises and new experiences. While tending to her studies in science, she also joined the legendary Spartan Legion band as a piccolo flute player.


“During this time, I formed lasting and lifelong friendships. I fell in love with NSU and wanted to become a part of it. The familial atmosphere was very intriguing to me. Somehow, I knew I made the right decision in selecting NSU as my home away from home,” says Jones.


She also remembers working as student assistant to Dr. Bertha Richards in the comparative anatomy laboratory. She excelled in all aspects of the curriculum, and later went on to earn a Master’s in Medical Science.


While Jones and her team are spending innumerable hours in the lab to perfect the COVID-19 test, she also has to balance her workload with another extremely important job—taking care of her family.


“It is hard to balance caring for myself when I am needed so much by the community and my coworkers. My family understands that I take pride in my work and will not leave until it is done. My children are especially proud of me. My husband, Herb Jones, has always been supportive of my career and he is always pushing me forward, which allows me to fulfill my career obligations,” says Jones.
Even during such difficult times, the thing that keeps her going is her faith, her love for the field and knowing that the work she does is important.


“The most rewarding part of my work is knowing that every aspect of my duties will result in a patient receiving reliable and accurate results whether it be from histology or molecular diagnostics. I have some unbelievably talented co-workers and they also deserve praise as well,” says Jones.


Jones has worked closely with Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, GEM Lab director and vice chair for translational research of the MCG Department of Pathology at Augusta University who gave her the responsibility as lab manager, and organic chemistry and histology, the study of the microscopic structure of tissues.


“The skills I developed from hands-on experience in the biochemistry laboratory sparked my interest in molecular biology which gave me some of the background to perform my duties as the lab manager for GEM lab,” says Jones.


Jones is originally from Fort Washington, Maryland, where she lived with her mother and three sisters, one an identical twin. She learned about NSU from Veronica Williams, a family member who was attending at the time. Jones traveled to Norfolk to experience homecoming, and once she stepped onto the campus, she knew she wanted to be a part of the Spartan family.

She started NSU in the fall of 1994, and her first two years were full of surprises and new experiences. While tending to her studies in science, she also joined the legendary Spartan Legion band as a piccolo flute player.


“During this time, I formed lasting and lifelong friendships. I fell in love with NSU and wanted to become a part of it. The familial atmosphere was very intriguing to me. Somehow, I knew I made the right decision in selecting NSU as my home away from home,” says Jones.


She also remembers working as student assistant to Dr. Bertha Richards in the comparative anatomy laboratory. She excelled in all aspects of the curriculum, and later went on to earn a Master’s in Medical Science.


While Jones and her team are spending innumerable hours in the lab to perfect the COVID-19 test, she also has to balance her workload with another extremely important job—taking care of her family.


“It is hard to balance caring for myself when I am needed so much by the community and my coworkers. My family understands that I take pride in my work and will not leave until it is done. My children are especially proud of me. My husband, Herb Jones, has always been supportive of my career and he is always pushing me forward, which allows me to fulfill my career obligations,” says Jones.
Even during such difficult times, the thing that keeps her going is her faith, her love for the field and knowing that the work she does is important.


“The most rewarding part of my work is knowing that every aspect of my duties will result in a patient receiving reliable and accurate results whether it be from histology or molecular diagnostics. I have some unbelievably talented co-workers and they also deserve praise as well,” says Jones.


Jones has worked closely with Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, GEM Lab director and vice chair for translational research of the MCG Department of Pathology at Augusta University who gave her the responsibility as lab manager, and Dr. Ashis Mondal, GEM Lab’s Molecular Laboratory supervisor, who she says has helped her to further develop her skills in the field.


She also offered a few words of advice to current Norfolk State students who also wish to follow their dreams and discover a career path as rewarding as the one she has chosen.


“I would tell them to follow their dreams and not to have just one dream, but to have several. There is nothing wrong with multi-tasking. My advice for students in the scientific field is to volunteer or intern in a research laboratory during their time off. There is nothing more rewarding that hands-on experience with the things you learn in your curriculum,” says Jones.