The tale of Aidan

A Ph.D. candidate grips the USC zeitgeist after a simple mistake led to internet stardom.

Photo of Aidan Moriarty

Aidan Moriarty had a Wednesday like no other after replying not just to USC Health about their latest COVID-19 testing requirements, but the entire student body.

“I was really mortified, embarrassed,” Moriarty explained through laughter. “But I was like, fine. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t hurt anyone, except my pride.”

Moriarty, a Ph.D. candidate at the Keck School of Medicine, said her lab was the first to inform her of her mistake. “Everyone in my lab started making fun of me because they’re like, ‘Aidan, what did you do?’” Moriarty explained. She works in Min Yu stem cell lab, focusing on breast cancer metastasis. She began this work after her mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Despite the unusual 48 hours, she explained her culture of cancer cells still needed to be tended to.

In addition to her lab, she said over a hundred people emailed her to inform her that she responded to the whole student body.

Moriarty’s question, whether or not she could get the COVID-19 booster after a recent infection, remained unanswered after a Google search and looking on USC Health’s website. Without the answers she was looking for, she decided to reply to USC’s email, not knowing the unlikely path her mouse click would send her down.

“We get a lot of emails every day. I’m pretty busy. I have like 10,000 things going through my head at any given point, so I didn’t really pay attention to it,” Moriarty explained.

At first, Moriarty said, “There were some people that were really mean. For a little bit, I was pretty upset. I mean I can take it, it’s fine. I just felt bad.”

But Moriarty’s mood soon changed, as social media accounts like USC Barstool and the Sack of Troy posted humorous spiffs on the incident. These spoofs further drew attention from the USC student body, Instagram user @ryanasgarian commenting “LONG LIVE AIDAN,” another, @vinni.kiev#Aidan4Prez.

“I am so happy that it made people laugh and I guess connected people in a time when it’s really hard to connect,” Moriarty said.

Her life has not actually changed that much — everyone at USC now knows her name. She doesn’t believe any eternal fame will be coming her way.

This morning, she took her dog Maive, a black lab German Shepherd mix, on a walk like any other morning before now going to get her booster.

Correction: this story was updated to correct spelling mistakes.