Masonic Medical Research Institute in Utica is helping the Mohawk Valley Health System get COVID-19 test results back faster.

"I enjoyed my time there, but always in the back of my mind, I was hopeful someday that I could get home," said Masonic Medical Research Institute Assistant Professor Nathan Tucker.

Tucker grew up in Herkimer County, and although his studies took him away from home, he's found his way back, now working at Masonic Medical Research Institute in Utica as an assistant professor studying genetics. He enjoys learning about the connections between conditions and genetic makeups.

"It's nice to have a job that keeps your mind working, and keeps you interested," he said. "It makes you excited to learn and apply the new things that are coming out."

Before Tucker and his family were fully settled in back in the area, the coronavirus pandemic happened. He adapted and is now helping lead the institute's efforts in processing COVID-19 tests.

"I can talk about what [it] is, but it's stuff that we do all the time," he said. "So I've been doing that for 15 years, just not for coronavirus, for other things. So everybody's familiar with what needs to happen from a testing standpoint, but to get the effort together to actually institute a testing program is different."

Though some of his work is paused, Tucker hopes studying genetics can contribute to coronavirus research.

"I want to give everybody something to be proud of from a research aspect, and I want to talk to people in the community about the type of stuff we're doing here, too. I feel really happy to be home," he said.

Tucker wants to learn more about how genetics influence coronavirus susceptibility.