Leigh Sims, Transformation Programme Manager and Testing Lead for COVID-19 Asymptomatic Test and Trace project, College Headquarters

“Step-by-step we have built the COVID-19 testing service so that people can keep safe while continuing to study and research.” 

I started working on the COVID-19 Asymptomatic Test and Trace project in August last year. After a successful pilot, the College needed to scale up from 50 tests a day to mass testing of 500 staff and students every day by the start of term. Initially, I was just helping to plan the work, but this quickly turned into designing the testing process. 

Increasing our testing ten-fold in five weeks was a real challenge, but the speed at which the team came together was quite special. We broke the project down into workstreams and refined what we were doing day by day. We focused on building a booking system, sourcing testing venues across campus, recruiting and training a testing workforce, and liaising with the lab team as all our swab analysis would be done in-house. 

We didn’t know what COVID-19 would mean for Imperial. Initially, we planned to have a testing service for two terms, but it has hit home that our testing capacity will be part of College operations for longer. 

I began my career working in sports facility management, but it was the project management experience I gained at Rolls Royce, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, and the London Olympic Development Authority that brought me to Imperial.      

I’ve been really inspired by how people pull together when there is a sprinkling of adversity. Step-by-step we have built the COVID-19 testing service so that people can keep safe while continuing to study and research. So far over 40,000 staff and students have been tested and I’m incredibly proud of what the team has delivered. 

It has been a very busy few months, but outside work, I like to cook, run and do long-distance walks. I plan to do the Two Moors Way in Devon and Cornwall as soon as restrictions allow. At the moment I’m doing long walks in London – last weekend I walked 29 kilometres and saw a seal swimming in the Thames. 

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