Students Published for “Rise of Mutants” Research

PARAMUS, N.J. – American Pharmaceutical Review has published Bergen Community College students’ research, “Microbiology of COVID-19: The Rise of the Mutants, Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 Variants as a Response to Evolutionary Pressures to Optimize Viral Transmissibility and Replication” in its July/August 2021 issue. It represents the second time the students have had their research on COVID-19 published.

Under the supervision of Bergen biology Professor Luis Jimenez, Ph.D., of Fair Lawn, students Anna Maciejewska, of Garfield; Brittany Cardona, of Hasbrouck Heights; Yara Abazah, of Caldwell; Hadassah Haricha, of New Milford; Tae Kim, of Fort Lee; Shakila Behzadi, of Ridgefield Park; Sultan Kahloon, of North Haledon; Laila Metwaly, of Fairview; and Amy Kass Georges, of Saddle Brook, conducted research on COVID-19 to study the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 during the course of the pandemic to understand the changes leading to a more infectious and transmissible virus. 

According to Jimenez, the students collected and analyzed data on COVID-19 cases, deaths and emergence of different variants for more than a year. The research provided an opportunity for students to learn about data collection, data mining, genetic analysis, the microbiology of the virus and the consequences of different variants of concern. 

“For the first time in history, we can see the real-time evolution of a virus during a pandemic,” Jimenez said. “We have been able to track the evolution of the virus from the first variant of concern to the emergence of different variants of concerns as a response to the evolutionary pressure on the virus to replicate and be more transmissible in a new host, humans.”

Among the students, Shakila Behzadi conducted a variety of hands-on experiments, including simulating nasal swab testing.

“Working under the mentorship of Dr. Jimenez has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” the student said. “Dr. Jimenez provided countless reliable sources and academic papers to me. I started to thoroughly understand the genomic profiles of SARS CoV-2 as well as the history of coronaviruses in the human population.”

Behzadi reflected how the research group studied the evolution of the SARS CoV-2 virus, tracked the spread around the world and identified the period where the Delta variant emerged and grew exponentially.

“That was one of the highlights of the project for me because I knew at that moment that my work was valuable and would play a significant role in future studies,” Behzadi said. “The recognition from the American Pharmaceutical Review publication solidified my beliefs in the importance of our work in the 3SP STEM program at Bergen.”

Grant funding by the National Science Foundation, the current 3SP STEMATICS program and previously by the STEM GPS Graduate Path for Success program support research opportunities. For more information on the students’ research, visit

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (, a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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