Alternative arrangements: tracking COVID

Cadet Trey Stevens had planned to spend part of his summer in a study abroad program in Japan and the other part working with The Citadel STEM Center, but that was before the COVID interruption, and Stevens found himself scrambling to come up with alternative arrangements.  Fortunately, the Virtual Student Federal Service program was not one of the programs canceled this summer. In fact, the program was sponsoring an internship with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Stevens’ skills were in demand to help track COVID cases.

Stevens’ resume is impressive.  Before this summer, he was double majoring in computer science and intelligence and security studies with minors in fine arts and cybersecurity.  With the addition of cyber operations to the curriculum this fall, Stevens has added a third major.  He is the recipient of an academic scholarship and, during the academic year, he volunteers at Cane Bay Middle School where he helps students prepare for cyber competitions.  He is actively involved with the Cyber Team and the Cyber Club at The Citadel as well as the Gospel Choir.  He also has a post-graduation job lined up with the Naval Information Warfare Center where his work will focus on cyber security and cyber operations.

Not surprisingly, Stevens’ schedule is full, and with classes this summer, interviewers for the HHS internship wanted to know how he would manage the competing demands on his time.  “I told them that whenever you have moments like that, you need to take a pause and actually realize the work that you’re doing and the impact of that work,” he said, “and that there’s always motivation for you to keep on doing what you’re doing.”

Stevens was one of 13 students from across the country working on the HHS project.  

“Because of the intricacies and how important the work was, the position was actually expedited, and a small handful of people and I started working on the state data quality and resolution enhancement team.”

The South Carolina team consisted of Stevens and a graduate student from the University of California at Los Angeles.  Together they analyzed and tracked COVID data in South Carolina by zip code.  As July gave way to August, Stevens and his colleague from UCLA relinquished their responsibilities to another team that will continue their work.  Along the way, they uncovered many findings about how data is reported in different states and how often, and they recognized some states have different levels to their data than others.

“It was a great experience during an unfortunate time,” said Stevens.  “The pandemic has put everyone into unique circumstances, and I was one of the lucky people to have this opportunity to assist HHS in understanding COVID-19 trends.”