Chemistry and mathematics double major Amanda Peiffer ‘16 has been awarded her doctorate in chemical biology from the University of Michigan.

Peiffer’s area of expertise led her to question a paper about the origination of the COVID-19 virus.

“A team led by an expatriated Chinese virologist published a paper that claimed the novel coronavirus behind COVID-19 was, in fact, engineered in a Chinese lab. The author would later claim it was then intentionally released.

The paper’s sensational findings drew the attention of Amanda Peiffer, a Ph.D. student in the U-M Department of Chemical Biology, who found issues with its citations. These citations, she learned, included an essay that had been posted to LinkedIn after being rejected by a scientific journal, as well as one whose author claims to run a company that appears to not exist. Peiffer alerted CNN to these and other citation issues in the paper, which threw its credibility into question.

Peiffer’s concerns have been bolstered by findings from Johns Hopkins University, which criticized the science behind the paper, as well as its sources.

“I was really disturbed to see such a shoddy piece of work, that I would not accept if turned in to me by one of my own students, receiving such attention and being treated as a valid scientific paper,” Anna Mapp, Rackham associate dean and Peiffer’s advisor, says.

June 2, 2021