Indiana high school students lead groundbreaking COVID-19 antibodies study

ST. JOHN, Ind. (WLS) -- While some high school students binged watched Netflix shows or took up new hobbies when the pandemic hit, three Indiana high school seniors led a groundbreaking coronavirus antibody research project.

Lake Central High School seniors Lilah Lopez, Thao Nguyen and Graham Weber led a study that looked into the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in the high school staff before the start of the school year and during the school year. The goal is to find out how COVID-19 behaves in the school system.

"The one that we're studying is the IgG antibody. Which, that one is known for the long-term antibody. It normally takes a couple of weeks to form and it usually stays in someone's system longer, which is why we're able to test and see if someone has had it," said Graham Weber, a senior at Lake Central High School.

All three students, who say they plan on entering the science industry, tested over 700 staff members. The first round of testing was funded by the Lake Central School Corporation. Back in March, the students said they found that only about 2% of the staff had traces of COVID-19 antibodies.

"They took the biggest disruption in education in 100 years and turned it into the greatest learning experience so far in their lives," said AP Chemistry teacher, Kendal Smith, who is the leader behind the project.

Currently, the seniors are analyzing the second round of the project where the same staff were offered antibody testing. This time, the students will be examining the impact of in-student learning and the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in staff.

"There is online learning but majority of kids are going back, so we're seeing if that has an impact on the teacher and their presence," said Thao Nguyen, fellow senior at Lake Central High school.

When funding for the second part of the study fell short, Alverno Laboratories, The Legacy Foundation, and donations to a GoFundMe page helped fund the testing done in February.

"They give me optimism that the world is in good hands with kids like this," said Smith.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.