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Sexual assault kits (SAKs) are backlogged due to a long multi-step process in current testing methods. Crime labs examine three main biologics—blood, semen, and saliva. All of these are detected by different tests which take days to complete separately. Strip Away the Backlog (SAtB) aims to eliminate the backlog through simplifying and speeding up the method by testing for all three biologics on one microfluidic device.

SAtB will reduce the methods of inspection from weeks to minutes.

When I asked Dr. Yanfen Li (Department of Biomedical Engineering at University of Massachusetts Lowell) how we can donate to her team's efforts, her response was "Our biggest need, currently, is expertise. We're looking for a crime lab technician who might be willing to collaborate."

 

This got me thinking... stay with me here for a second. 

Who out there listens to My Favorite Murder or The Murder Squad? I know I'm not the only true crime follower in my circle of pals and colleagues. Both of these podcasts advocate for eliminating the backlog, and both of these podcasts could help out this research team tremendously. So, murderinos, my call to action is to share social media posts on SAtB and tag both podcasts asking them to help! Keep an eye out on facebook + instagram over the next week—there will be some targeted, designed posts on both of those accounts you can share to save you time. 

 

But let's get back to SAtB, shall we?

I asked Dr. Li to tell me about this work in a way the rest of us could quickly understand it. She basically said it's like a COVID rapid test, where all three result are completed in one "test stick" in minutes. Which is incredible!

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Dr. Li also emphasizes how she wants SAtB to continue being a student-centered project,

SAtB is unique in that it is a capstone project started by students and is still led by students. We're trying to use our knowledge and skills to make an impact on the world, and this effort has the potential to affect so many people. I am excited to see where we go from here.

 

Her dream is for students to take this idea and develop it as a non-profit organization in order to make a real-life impact for victims' lives. I had the pleasure of chatting with a couple of her current students. Alejandra Luna-Juarez (recent Biomedical Engineering graduate) told me, "As an engineer, I believe projects like SAtB are the most worthwhile and important projects I could participate in." And there's a common thread when I do a little research on Dr. Li's research team—over the years, they're all working on projects with big social impact. I want to say they're going to make a difference in the future... but they already are making a difference.

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