students in lab
Waleed Nowayti in a Temple lab in November with members of his senior design team.
Joseph V. Labolito

Originally from Yemen, Waleed Nowayti became a first-generation college graduate in May. Like his classmates, Nowayti also stepped into the tumbling uncertainty of a global pandemic. As a bioengineer, he had the tools to get right to work at combating COVID-19 when he accepted a position with Frontida BioPharm.

"I was hired as an engineer for this project specifically, as a COVID-19 Rapid Test Cassette Engineer," Nowayti said. Nowayti works with chemists who make a solution to interact with blood on a tester to identify if a person has antibodies. A positive test indicates a person has been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at some point in the past.

"Engineers prepare a sample pad, conjugate pad and membrane. Having a minor in chemistry also helped me to understand the chemistry behind it and use buffers to saturate the pads," Nowayti said. "After this, we spray the solution on the conjugate pad which will make the sheets ready to be cut, laminated and assembled inside the cassettes."

The position is a natural fit on Nowayti's original path toward becoming a doctor.

"Bioengineering helps me solve problems like working on puzzles when I was a kid and still helping patients directly," Nowayti said. He is also driven by being a support for medical professionals, and did so through his team's senior design project, TubeEscort—both traits that have served him well in crafting medical solutions during this crisis.

"I am happy that all my efforts and classes not only helped me to get a job, but they also helped me to participate and put a fingerprint on this pandemic. It's important to be a fighter in this war—maybe not with swords as those doctors on the frontlines have—but as an archer on the back line to help the front and the people."