Brown’s faculty puts its expertise to work

Several faculty members across disciplines have shifted their research and community engagement efforts to focus specifically on COVID-19. Through their expertise and collaboration, they're providing a guide for addressing both the immediate and future effects of this global health and economic crisis.

How do you tackle the multiple consequences of a global health emergency? Brown faculty know the answer is working together. A group effort is needed to expand our understanding of the disease, uncover possible treatments and preventative measures, and create a safer environment that will allow businesses to re-employ those who were laid off.

When it first became clear that COVID-19 would disrupt not only the health and safety of nations around the world, but also the details of our daily lives we often take for granted, Brown faculty members from across academia began applying their expertise and research methods to this new challenge.

Here's just a sampling of the Brown faculty who are addressing important aspects of the current pandemic through collaboration.

Adam Levine, Director of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Professor Levine is leading the Center in a partnership with Project HOPE, an international relief organization. The partnership focuses on developing and implementing a COVID-19 training program for health workers to rapidly scale-up response efforts in high-risk countries.

Professor of Engineering Roberto Zenit and Assistant Professor of Engineering Dan Harris
Professor Zenit and Professor Harris recruited a team of engineers, undergraduates, graduate students, physicians, medical students, and researchers to design and create prototypes for low-cost ventilators specifically for the COVID-19 crisis. 

Anna Lysyanskaya, Professor of Computer Science
Professor Lysyanskaya is working with researchers based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, developing a method to use cell phones for coronavirus contact tracing that doesn't reveal any personal information.

David Dosa, Associate Professor of Medicine, Associate Professor of Health Service, Policy and Practice
Professor Dosa works with colleagues at the University of South Florida to study the quality of care in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Together they have outlined a set of changes that could keep nursing home residents and workers safe during the pandemic and beyond.

Emily Oster, Professor of Economics, Professor of International and Public Affairs
Oster is part of a team of experts who created a modeling projection to track the spread of coronavirus in Rhode Island. She is also part of a Brown University team, led by Assistant Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Amanda Jamieson, which aims to examine asymptomatic COVID-19 cases to gain a broader understanding of how widespread the virus is in the local population. The group has been awarded a grant from Brown’s COVID-19 Research Seed Fund for this work. (See below for more information on this grant.)

Empowering faculty through research grants

In order to fast-track innovative research on the virus, Brown has established the COVID-19 Research Seed Grant Fund. The following are a sampling of teams awarded support from the fund.  
Multiple projects involving faculty from Medical Science; Biology; Neurology; and Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology
Each group is seeking potential treatments to reduce the severity of coronaviruses using a variety of approaches to battle the disease.

Ugur Cetintemel, Professor of Computer Science; Harrison Bai, Assistant Professor of Diagnostic Imaging; and Ritambhara Singh, Assistant Professor of Computer Science
This group is developing an artificial intelligence platform to differentiate COVID-19 from other viral pneumonia on chest CT scans. The platform will be used to identify early-stage patients who are likely to transition to severe disease.

William Fairbrother, Professor of Biology
Professor Fairbrother’s project aims to develop a sample unit for a potential home testing kit for COVID-19.
Elizabeth Chen, Associate Director of the Brown Center for Biomedical Informatics
In collaboration with faculty from Brown’s School of Public Health, the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown, and the Department of Computer Science, Professor Chen will help establish an inter-institutional informatics infrastructure to support COVID-19 research in Rhode Island through electronic health data, digital health technology, and data science techniques.
Ira Wilson, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice; Omar Galarraga, Associate Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice; Amal Trivedi, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice
This team is reviewing health care claims in Rhode Island to examine the impact of COVID-19 social distancing measures on health care utilization and outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable people, such as chronically-ill patients. 

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