Orlando Sentinel - - Nation & World - nmiller@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

“When the sci­en­tists have to go home and they’re sep­a­rated from their labs, what is there for them to do but to dream again,” said Dr. Deb­o­rah Ger­man, dean of UCF Col­lege of Medicine. “There’s a sil­ver lin­ing in ev­ery cloud.”

The univer­sity has sub­mit­ted sev­eral pro­pos­als to a va­ri­ety of agen­cies to tackle the myr­iad prob­lems con­nected to COVID-19. The ideas range from ex­am­in­ing the in­flu­ence on con­sumer be­hav­ior of fake COVID-19 news shared on so­cial me­dia to new di­ag­nos­tic tools that are mo­bile and easy to de­ploy.

At the UCF Col­lege of Medicine, which in­cludes the Bur­nett School of Biomed­i­cal Sciences, at least 25 projects are un­der­way, said Dr. Grif­fith Parks, as­so­ciate dean at the col­lege and di­rec­tor of Bur­nett School.

“There are just so many re­ally in­ter­est­ing sci­en­tific ques­tions that this virus has brought up. And it just touches it touches al­most ev­ery­thing,” said Parks, a vi­rol­o­gist.

In a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing, Parks is help­ing de­velop a mask with a pro­tec­tive coat­ing that would catch and kills the novel coro­n­avirus. The team is work­ing with nanopar­ti­cles that would kill the virus by ac­ti­vat­ing a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion that cre­ates ul­tra­vi­o­let light.

At the Depart­ment of Pop­u­la­tion Health Sciences, Dr. Eric Schrimshaw is de­sign­ing a sur­vey for UCF’s drive-thru sites on the main cam­pus and Lake Nona to find out why mi­nor­ity groups like African Amer­i­cans and His­pan­ics are at a higher risk of mor­tal­ity from COVID-19.

“Are they be­ing in­fected more of­ten? And if they are, why might that be?” said Schrimshaw, chair of the pop­u­la­tion health sciences depart­ment at UCF Col­lege of Medicine.

He’s also work­ing on two stud­ies that are fo­cused on the im­pact of so­cial dis­tanc­ing and stay­ing at home. One looks at changes in health be­hav­iors. The other aims to ex­plore the ef­fect on LGBTQ youth.

“We think that’s go­ing to be a real chal­lenge for all ado­les­cents, be­cause that’s the time when kids re­ally want to as­sert their in­de­pen­dence and here they’re be­ing cooped up with their par­ents,” said Schrimshaw. “We think that’s go­ing to be par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing for LGBTQ in­di­vid­u­als and kids be­cause not only they’re re­moved from their LGBT sup­port sys­tem, but they’re now may be at homes where their fam­i­lies are less sup­port­ive.”

De­spite the ex­cite­ment about all the new re­search, the pan­demic has had a neg­a­tive im­pact on young sci­en­tists and stu­dents who have had to put their projects on hold, de­lay­ing grad­u­a­tion and fac­ing uncer­tain job prospects in re­search.

“We have a lot of re­search projects that we think are im­por­tant, and other peo­ple think they’re very im­por­tant be­cause they’ve given us money to carry out the ex­per­i­ments, and yet we’re not able to do them. It’s not some­thing we can do any­thing about now be­cause pri­or­ity num­ber one is safety,” said Parks. “It’s un­doubt­edly stress­ful, in par­tic­u­lar, there may be even more stress on in­ter­na­tional stu­dents who are away from their home coun­try and here by them­selves.” Edi­tor’s note: Ad­ven­tHealth is an ad­ver­tis­ing spon­sor for the Or­lando Sentinel’s coro­n­avirus chan­nel but has no in­put or in­flu­ence on ed­i­to­rial de­ci­sions or con­tent.



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