UA Kick-Starts Six Projects Related to COVID-19 and Future Pandemics

Six projects designed to deepen understanding of the coronavirus pandemic and future pandemics and positively influence society will receive seed funding from The University of Alabama.

The projects come from across disciplines on campus, and were selected through the University’s Joint Institute Pandemic Pilot Project, sponsored by the UA Office for Research and Economic Development and UA’s research institutes.

“It is essential as the flagship university in the state that UA contributes to improving the lives of Alabamians in the face of this pandemic and future pandemics,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, vice president for research and economic development. “All of our institutes are coming together in recognition that the nature of the problem and its solutions require an inherently interdisciplinary approach.”

Support for the projects comes from the Alabama Transportation Institute, Alabama Water Institute, Alabama Life Research Institute and the UA Cyber Initiative.

Along with the viability of projects to garner external funding after being established, the review process of proposals emphasized a project’s potential to sustain beyond the current global pandemic stemming from COVID-19 and scale to other large challenges.

Projects include:

  • Using a bacteria’s immune system known as CRISPR-Cas, sequences of genetic code inside bacteria that store information on invading viruses, to develop a low-cost, point-of-care test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The goal is to offer an alternative diagnostic test that uses a smart phone app to detect a color change in the sample instead of the labor-intensive test used now on expensive lab equipment. The work is led by Dr. Jack Dunkle, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
  • Exploring and understanding how adolescents and parents dealt with school closings and confinement at home during the spring and summer pandemic. The aim is understanding the differences among families in the decisions, opportunities and losses that occurred and carried forward into the next school year. The research team wants to understand the positive and negative ripple effects on children’s peer experiences and behavioral adjustment while evaluating the effectiveness of affordable school-based medical and behavioral services to support families and children. The project involves collaboration among developmental and educational psychologists, nursing educators, experts in marriage and family therapy, social work experts, and experts in evaluation and school improvement. The cross-campus research is led by Dr. Jeffrey Parker, associate professor of psychology.

Learn more about the other projects by reading the full article on the UA News site.