Science & Technology

USU's Science Unwrapped Welcomes 'An In-COVID-ient Sleuth' Friday, Nov. 12

By Mary-Ann Muffoletto |

USU biological engineer Keith Roper presents 'An In-COVID-ient Sleuth: Lifting Viral Fingerprints from Water and Air' at Science Unwrapped Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Eccles Science Learning Center on campus and online. All are welcome.

How do you chase a virus? By looking for clues, says Utah State University biological engineer Keith Roper.

In early 2020, as Utah leaders scrambled to respond to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, Roper, head of USU’s Department of Biological Engineering, helped to lead a statewide pilot study confirming the SARS-CoV-2 virus could be detected in wastewater. His efforts have aided community, public health and university officials in tracking infection rates and trends.

Roper presents “An In-COVID-ient Sleuth: Lifting Viral Fingerprints from Water and Air” at USU’s Science Unwrapped Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. in the Emert Auditorium, Room ESLC 130, of the Eccles Science Learning Center on campus. Admission is free and all ages are welcome.

“Analyzing wastewater to monitor an infectious disease was implemented previously to monitor the polio virus,” Roper said. “This is the first time, however, that wastewater monitoring has been performed using modern technologies at a broad scale during a pandemic.”

Roper’s Nov. 12 talk will also be livestreamed via AggieCast from the Science Unwrapped website, and will be recorded and posted to the same website for continued viewing convenience.

Guests at the in-person event are encouraged to wear masks and to observe socially distanced seating in the Emert Auditorium.

Due to continuing pandemic conditions, Science Unwrapped is not currently offering in-person learning activities following the talk.

“As we did during our 2020-21 series, we’re offering video learning activities, created by our student and community volunteer groups, on our website,” said Greg Podgorski, associate dean for undergraduate studies and services in the College of Science and Science Unwrapped chair. “Each month, we’ll assess conditions to determine whether or not it’s safe and possible to return to in-person, post-talk learning activities.”

Established in 2009, Science Unwrapped is a public outreach program of USU’s College of Science.

The continuing schedule for Science Unwrapped’s 2021-22 “Science on the Horizon” series is:

Friday, Nov. 12: “An In-COVID-ient Sleuth: Lifting Viral Fingerprints from Water and Air,” Keith Roper, biological engineer

Friday, Jan. 28: “Hard Choices: Being a Robot in a Human World,” Mario Harper, computer scientist

Friday, Feb. 25:From Animals to Autism: The Science of Social Bonds,” Sara Freeman, neuroendocrinologist

Friday, March 18: “What Goes Up, Must Come Down: Cleaning Up the Atmosphere with Geology,” Katie Potter, geoscientist

Friday, April 1: “Electric Avenues: Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification (ASPIRE), Regan Zane, electrical engineer

For more information, call 435-797-3517, visit the Science Unwrapped website or view the ‘Science Unwrapped at USU’ Facebook page and Twitter profile.

Screen captures from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality website display data detecting SARS-CoV-2 gene copies in sewersheds on varied dates throughout Utah. Courtesy UDEQ.

For the time being, Science Unwrapped is not holding in-person learning activities following each monthly talk, but will continue to offer video learning activities created by student and community volunteer groups on its website.


Mary-Ann Muffoletto
Public Relations Specialist
College of Science


Greg Podgorski
Associate Dean for Undergraduates, Science Unwrapped Chair
College of Science


Research 683stories Water 177stories COVID-19 151stories

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