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U-Mary senior credited with improving COVID-19 data collection

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A University of Mary senior student in electrical engineering is credited with helping improve and streamline the state’s COVID-19 data collection efforts.

Josh Reiner of Bismarck had applied for internships at MDU and Basin Electric – but because of COVID, the internships were cancelled. So he applied for a job with the Department of Health.

"I honestly didn't think I was worthy, or had what it took to meet their requirements," Reiner said.

But within a couple of days, he was hired to do data entry. And he started at Fraine Barracks, in a basement room, with ten other people. They were all entering COVID data into spreadsheets.

"To me, I was like, 'Heck yeah, this looks very interesting,'" Reiner said. "But I thought we could have a more efficient way of doing this."

So Reiner says he made a suggestion to state epidemiologist Tracy Miller: Convert the process to a program called Power BI.

"I wanted to make my chunk of that easier and more efficient each day," Reiner said. "That's what I started with."

Reiner said eventually, it took off, and he was making other people's tasks easier and more efficient.

"That just continued to grow over time," Reiner said.

Eventually, Reiner converted the Health Department’s Website, so the COVID dashboard would be using those Power BI reports.

Miller said Reiner was the perfect choice to redo the Website.

"I have a bare-bones understanding of Power BI," Miller said. "I knew it was not me that was going to be building those reports."

Miller said Reiner came in, and it was great.

"It was in his field of interest," Miller said. "It was a really great match for what we needed."

Reiner is still working full time on that project, and is also taking his senior level courses at U-Mary.

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