SEAS Response to COVID-19: Projects and Activities

SEAS Response to COVID-19: Projects and Activities


Members of the SEAS community—faculty members, staff, and students—are working on the following solutions to help combat COVID-19 or respond to COVID-19-related issues:


Plasma brush box

A “plasma brush” to sterilize packages and PPE

Headshot of Dr. Gralla

Discrete event simulation models to remove COVID bottlenecks

Dr. Michael Keidar and his team have several projects based on cold plasma for dry surfaces decontamination and airborne virus decontamination. They also are working to develop a “plasma brush” to decontaminate protective masks, gloves, and other necessary gear so caregivers can reuse them. Dr. Keidar has received a National Science Foundation RAPID grant for this work, which is described in this NSF video

COVID testing has been plagued by bottlenecks and inefficiencies, inhibiting the scale-up of testing to needed levels for the safe re-opening of society. EMSE's Dr. Erica Gralla, Jad El Hage, and colleagues from the University of Maryland and Polytechnique Montreal have developed discrete event simulation models to help COVID testing labs scale up operations so that more people can be tested and results can be provided faster. In the Maryland testing center they studied, they found that reducing or eliminating one step -- "de-swabbing" the collected samples -- could more than double the laboratory's capacity. The team is now forming collaborations with additional testing laboratories to extend the results more broadly. The interdisciplinary research team consists of EMSE's Dr. Gralla and masters student Jad El Hage, University of Maryland's Dr. Patti Gravitt (epidemiology) and Dr. Jacques Ravel (genomics), and Polytechnique Montreal's Dr. Nadia Lahrichi (operations research). The research was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through Grant GBMF9634 to Johns Hopkins University to support the work of the Society for Medical Decision Making COVID-19 Decision Modeling Initiative.

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Headshot of Dr. Lu

Wireless multimodal soft wearable sensors for remote physiological monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms

Destie Provenzano and Dr. Yuan James Rao with respirators

Couple foregoes honeymoon, uses time instead to design and 3D print PPE

Dr. Luyao Lu has received a $15,000 GW COVID-19 Research Fund grant to work on the project “Wireless multimodal soft wearable sensors for remote physiological monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms.”

Biomedical engineering PhD candidate Destie Provenzano and her husband, Dr. Yuan James Rao, MD (GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences), had to cancel their honeymoon in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so they determined to use the time instead to help health care workers. They are doing this by developing 3D-printed N95 respirators to supplement the rapidly depleting stocks of these and other PPE (personal protective equipment). They are assisted by Destie’s advisor Dr. Murray Loew and biomedical engineering students Konstantin Mitic and Sofian Obaid.

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Zaghloul experiment graphic

Point-of-care device to self-test for COVID-19

Twitter app on phone

How Does Twitter Shape the Conversation around Covid-19?

Dr. Mona Zaghloul and Dr. Jeanne Jordan (Milken Institute School of Public Health) are collaborating on a point-of-care device with high accuracy and affordability that would allow people to self-test at home for COVID-19. The results could be collected and shared with local public health officials to control the spread of the disease. In the proposed work, they will develop a sensing system that can detect the COVID-19 virus through a smartphone camera. The device is based on optical plasmonics at the nanoscale and has been tested on molecules and on DNA in Dr. Zaghloul’s lab and at NIST. The team is now looking to test it on the corona virus.

Dr. David Broniatowski has initiated a number of projects to try to understand and combat misinformation around COVID-19. One in particular involves an open online database that he and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland have launched to help fellow researchers study COVID-19. Possible applications include the combating of misinformation, supporting messaging from public health organizations, and tracking information about the ongoing pandemic.

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Danmeng Shuai

Effective, low-cost, scalable air filters for SARS-CoV-2 control

XPrize Pandemic Alliance logo

Partnership with XPRIZE Foundation’s Global Pandemic Alliance

Dr. Danmeng Shuai is collaborating with Dr. Yun Shen (Department of Environmental and Occupational Health) to develop effective, low-cost, and scalable air filters for SARS-CoV-2 control. The air filters are prepared by electro-spinning, and they are targeting virus removal in HVAC systems of buildings and by respirators. The investigators and PhD student Hongchen Shen will test the air filtration performance in the lab and also in a healthcare facility that houses COVID-19 patients. Dr. Shuai and Dr. Shen have received a National Science Foundation RAPID grant to develop the air filters for SARS-CoV-2 control. 

SEAS has entered into a partnership with the XPRIZE Foundation’s Global Pandemic Alliance, which is committed to catalyzing critical solutions to address COVID-19 and improve our ability to predict, prevent, and respond to future pandemics. The Alliance includes corporate, non-governmental organization, and university partners; GW is one of 11 universities partnering with the Alliance. The XPRIZE Foundation is the world’s leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, and its CEO is SEAS alumna Anousheh Ansari (MS ’91). Any faculty member who is interested in learning more about the partnership and about opportunities to lend their expertise to it should contact Ms. Annamaria Konya Tannon.

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Crowd-sourcing innovation to combat COVID-19

Lance Hoffman headshot

COVID-19 website for medical personnel

The GW Innovation Center (GWIC) has launched a site to crowd-source projects aimed at responding to COVID-19 and to help match volunteers with appropriate project needs.

Dr. Lance Hoffman and Dr. Jordan Selzer (GW Medical School) and their team have launched a COVID-19 educational web application aimed at equipping healthcare providers with the knowledge to manage their response to the pandemic. It includes recommendations for everything from pre-hospital dispatch guidance to ICU ventilator management. The application was created using the most up-to-date literature, community best practices, and guidelines. It is continuously updated to reflect the changes in management as the literature evolves. Navigation is based on healthcare provider role and patient stage of care, and links sometimes include a current best practices section, suggestions and template hospital protocols, example policies, and training videos and photographs as appropriate.

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Screen distance directions

GW Innovation Center coordinates hospital screening and face shields projects

Aylin Caliskan headshot

Biases in COVID-19-related tweets

The GW Innovation Center (GWIC) is teaming with Dr. David Lee, Dr. Carl Wick and the GW Hospital to create semi-automated temperature screening kiosks and way-finding and signage at the hospital’s main entrance to divert staff through revised entrance/exit flow for screening and physical distancing. Biomedical engineering student Konstantin Mitic is coordinating a project between GW’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design and the GW Department of Emergency Medicine to produce face shields for health care personnel. The Corcoran School is spearheading the project and is printing the face shields in its 3D printing “farm.”

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Howie Huang headshot

Mapping the spread of discussion and information toward COVID-19 and the public health response

Howie Huang headshot

Graggle: the “Google Scholar” for COVID-19 research

Dr. Howie Huang and his GraphLab, together with Dr. David Broniatowski and IDDP (Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics) researchers, are working to map the prevalence and spread of attitudes towards COVID-19 on online social media platforms. They are examining repositories of social media data related to the epidemic, starting as early as January 2020, to map the spread of discussion, information, and attitudes towards the disease and the public health response to the outbreak.

Dr. Howie Huang and his PhD student Isaiah King are developing a unique visual search engine called Graggle, envisioned as the “Google Scholar for COVID-19 Research.” Graggle uses powerful graph representation and machine learning techniques to capture complex contextual relationships between different documents. It is purposely built for an open research dataset, prepared by the White House, NIH, and a consortium of medical research organizations, which consists of over 130,000 scholarly articles that were written about COVID-19 and the related coronavirus. Graggle provides researchers worldwide with faster, more informative access to knowledge that they can explore visually.

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Image of green, plugged in Earth

Enterprise resilience course and planning for future pandemics

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Tool to help hospitals plan for supply shortages

The GW Environmental and Energy Management Institute (EEMI) is offering an online Enterprise Resilience three-week course (already in-session) that addresses black swan events including pandemics. They will offer another session of the course beginning in June. EEMI also is developing a webinar with Novartis on how corporate response to COVID-19 is informing resilience plans for future pandemics.  Dr. Jonathan Deason and Dr. Edward Saltzberg of the Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering are leading the projects.

Ms. Kelly Rickard, in collaboration with the pediatric emergency department at Children’s National Medical Center, has developed the “Comparing PPE Conservation Strategies” tool, an Excel-based simulation model intended to help healthcare centers estimate the consumption of various articles of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), based on site-specific information and general conservation strategies during the COVID-19 crisis where PPE shortages occur due to supply chain issues. Ms. Rickard is a doctoral candidate, advised by Dr. Rene van Dorp.

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