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Alumni News

Montclair State Alumni and Students in Action

Posted in: Alumni News and Events

Montclair State alumni and students have been working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. As the global pandemic rapidly changes the nature of our daily work, many have been serving their communities with a heightened sense of urgency and purpose. We invite you to read about the amazing work that some of our alumni and students are conducting in an effort to control the accelerating outbreak.

Acing the Test – Montclair State alumna helps develop critical at-home self-collection kit for LabCorp’s COVID-19 diagnostic test

Julia Dondero ’14 has been working behind-the-scenes to bring a new at-home self-collection kit for LabCorp’s COVID-19 diagnostic test into the hands of the health-care workers and first responders who need it the most.

Dondero leads the molecular diagnostics department at LabCorp’s Raritan, New Jersey, lab, where she was able to rapidly scale up and validate an at-home collection kit that was the first authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Maybe it’s because I’m a nerd who is into biology, but when I first learned about the coronavirus, I immediately thought, ‘I have a feeling a few months from now, I’m going to be testing this by the thousands.’”

As the pandemic intensified with calls for more COVID-19 testing, Dondero has worked around the clock, overseeing the at-home collection kit’s validation on various platforms and running samples to ensure the accuracy of results at multiple test sites. Read the full story.

Racing Against Time – Montclair State’s MIX Lab is innovating to deliver thousands of face shields

When Montclair State’s MIX Lab team started producing face shields on 3D printers amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic, they quickly realized it wasn’t enough. The team needed to figure out how to make more – and fast.

“The need for PPE (personal protective equipment) is at scale,” says Iain Kerr, co-director of the MIX Lab and professor of Innovation Design. Kerr reports that in northern New Jersey alone, the demand is for hundreds of thousands of face shields, if not more.

“The U.S. needs 3.5 billion masks. And this region – the megalopolis from Boston to Washington, D.C. – needs over 200 million shields,” says Kerr. “3D printing 350 a day was not the way to go.”

The MIX Lab, founded in 2015 and housed in Montclair State University’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (FCE&I), is a facility where students and community members work together to solve problems using innovation and digitally mediated “making” – aka 3D printing. Read the full story.

Fighting COVID-19, One Stitch at a Time – Fashion Studies alumni and students rally to help make face masks

Since coming home in early March from deployment in Kuwait, U.S. Army Specialist Awilda Quezada Puntiel ’18 continues to serve her country – these days with an army of Americans sewing masks to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The mask makers, which include Fashion Studies alumni and students, are a bright spot amid the global pandemic, their sense of duty and colorful cotton creations shoring up the medical front lines running low of personal protective equipment.

Making the masks has been therapeutic for Quezada, who says it gives her a renewed sense of purpose. She left Kuwait just before the coronavirus outbreak prompted the U.S. military to order troops scheduled to return home to stay where they are.

While grateful to be home, Quezada says the crisis and self-isolating left her feeling disconnected – until she answered the call from a college friend who knows Quezada can sew, asking her to unpack her sewing machine. Read the full story. 

On the Front Lines of the Coronavirus Crisis – Graduate students, alumni play role in public health emergency

With the rapid spread of the coronavirus and government orders to stay home, public health alumni and graduate students at Montclair State University find themselves in the center of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, calming frightened residents, tracing the contacts of the ill, and working to control the accelerating outbreak.

“When you work for a health department, you truly drop everything else and a situation like this becomes the sole priority for everyone. It’s all hands on deck,” said Layal Helwani, a health educator for the Clifton Health Department.

Helwani is a graduate student in the Master of Public Health (MPH). The program, marking its 10th year, is at the forefront of the crisis, providing education, commentary, leadership and comfort both on and off campus. Read the full story.

If you are an alumna or alumnus and would like to share your story regarding work related to COVID-19, please email