“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.