Members of the Illinois Research Community have been hard at work creating new ways to treat, analyze, and cope with COVID-19. If you are involved in a related project, connect with your unit communications officer to be added to this list.
Grainger College of Engineering and the Illinois State Water Survey—Sewage Monitoring for COVID-19 Infection Level in Central Illinois Communities
In early 2021, researchers from The Grainger College of Engineering and Illinois State Water Survey began working with sanitary districts in Champaign-Urbana and Rantoul to detect the presence of SAR-CoV2 in sewage at several locations. The Water Survey’s experience with water quality monitoring allows the study to collect sewage continuously from neighborhoods in these three communities. The study has detected SAR-CoV2 in most of the monitoring sites, which can help the public health departments to monitor the level of infection. Current work is on detecting the variant(s) circulating in communities.
PIs: Thanh H. (Helen) Nguyen and Laura Keefer
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences—CyberGIS Center Creates Platform to Track and Prevent COVID-19
Called WhereCOVID-19, the project aims to support decision-making in regards to COVID-19 by answering critical “where” questions: where cases are and will likely be; where vulnerable populations live; where containment measures should be applied; where health care services might be overwhelmed; and where additional testing and other health care resources should be deployed.
“I on the Media” is a new video series from the University of Illinois College of Media in which members of our college address the impact of COVID-19 on media-related issues.
Mike Yao on the impact of digital media use while remote working and learning
Alison Davis Wood recommends 5 documentaries
Eric Meyer discusses newspapers, paywalls, and distribution amidst COVID-19
Department of Bioengineering—NSF RAPID Grants for COVID-19 Testing
Three University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign faculty members have received NSF Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program grants, all of which aim to shorten the amount of time it takes to process a COVID-19 test. The three funded projects are:
Rapid electrical detection of COVID-19 at point-of-care led by Rashid Bashir, Bioengineering professor and dean of The Grainger College of Engineering
Rapid single-step reagentless SARS-CoV-2 viral load test by detection of intact virus particles led by Brian Cunningham, Donald Biggar Willett Professor in Engineering and graduate faculty in Bioengineering.
RAPID: Developing a novel biosensor for rapid, direct, and selective detection of COVID-19 using DNA aptamer-nanopore led by Yi Lu, Bioengineering graduate faculty and professor in the Department of Chemistry
Department of Physics and Department of Bioengineering—COVID-19 Modeling
Bliss Scholar and Professor of Bioengineering and Physics Sergei Maslov and Swanlund Professor of Physics Nigel Goldenfeld are part of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s modeling taskforce. This team has worked to create and analyze multiple COVID-19 epidemic models for the State of Illinois. Comparing these models has enabled the team to more accurately predict the likely trajectory of the epidemic in the state.
Grainger College of Engineering and Belkin—FlexVent
Belkin, global consumer electronics leader, today announces its collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign‘s Grainger College of Engineering for the design of the FlexVentTM Gas-Operated Ventilator (“FlexVent”) and Belkin’s production of the FlexVent, pending the review and approval of its Emergency Use Authorization application by Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This emergency ventilator is based on the Illinois RapidVent concept, which was published by the University of Illinois in March 2020.
This collaboration was started in response to the ongoing demand for additional, critical respiratory care supplies worldwide during the COVID-19 crisis. As proposed to FDA, the FlexVent will be used as a single-use, emergency ventilator that can provide constant-flow, pressure-cycled ventilation automatically to patients in respiratory distress.
Department of Chemistry—Developing a New Widely Deployable Testing Method
Knowing the importance of rapid and accurate detection of the COVID-19 virus, chemistry Professor Yi Lu quickly applied for and received in April a Rapid Response Research grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a virus testing method that has multiple advantages over current detection methods.
Lu, who is working on the project with Lijun Rong, a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the method they are working on would be less resource intensive than the sensing technique commonly used now. Their method would also simplify the testing procedure partly because sample pretreatment would not be needed, and it would also minimize the chance of cross contamination.
“Most importantly, our method addresses a major limitation of current COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are mostly based on detecting viral RNA; they cannot inform whether the virus is infectious or not,” Lu said, “because it has been shown that the presence of viral RNA in specimens does not always correlate with viral transmissibility.”
This would provide patients the opportunity to receive proper treatments early on and prevent them from unknowingly spreading the infectious virus to others, Lu explained, and it also eliminates unnecessary quarantine of non-contagious patients and enables assessment of whether surfaces at critical locations, such as hospitals, airports, grocery stores and home, have been properly disinfected.
The science of their project is identifying and synthesizing DNA aptamers — short, single-stranded DNA molecules that can selectively bind to a target. The aptamers will bind the intact infectious SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but not the non-infectious forms or other viruses and interfering species, with high specificity and affinity, Lu explained.
Coordinated Science Laboratory—Repurposing Social Networking Models to Predict COVID-19 Spread
Since the COVID-19 epidemic began, there has been plenty of opportunity to observe how a vast array of truths, half-truths, and falsehoods can flare up and spread like wildfire across social media, swirl around, and just as quickly get buried and forgotten. It could serve as a fascinating case study for CSL and Computer Science Professor Tarek Abdelzaher, who for years has studied how information propagates through social media.
But he and his students Chaoqi Yang and Ruijie Wang have taken a big step further. They recognized that the dissemination of information through a population of online users is closely analogous to the transmission of a virus through a population of flesh-and-blood human beings, and that realization has inspired them to repurpose their information propagation models to predict COVID-19 spread. Furthermore, they have made the findings available to the public on an interactive website.
Grainger College of Engineering—Illinois RapidAlarm
A team from The Grainger College of Engineering has released the design of an alarm and sensor package for emergency, pressure-cycled ventilators. Called Illinois RapidAlarm, it can be used with the Illinois RapidVent, as well as a wide range of commercial and developing emergency ventilators that would otherwise require constant monitoring by critical care staff, dramatically limiting the ability to provide care to more patients than available medical staff.
Carle Illinois College of Medicine—COVID Personal Protective Equipment
There is a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers as they combat COVID-19. Three weeks ago, a group launched an effort to provide gowns, masks, face shields, and N95 respirators—responding to this urgent need to protect people on the front-line. A face shield design is now available via a creative commons license, and face shields are being built for local hospitals. A communitywide effort to sew and prepare gowns and masks has been launched. And development of an N95 respirator is underway. The project is led by the Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s Health Maker Lab and The Grainger College of Engineering, and it includes dozens of experts from across campus and Champaign-Urbana.
Family Resiliency Center—Building Blocks of Resilience
The Family Resiliency Center is providing weekly, evidence-based briefs on “Building Blocks on Resilience”. They are released every Wednesday and reach over 15,000 individuals and organizations. The first briefing is on Family Routines.
The expertise of faculty at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine positioned them to assist in the rapid identification of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, as the cause of a respiratory illness affecting big cats at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo. (Fortunately, the affected animals appear to be recovering from the illness.)
Grainger College of Engineering—Illinois RapidVent
The United States is expecting a severe shortage of ventilators to help people suffering from the most serious cases of COVID-19. On March 16, 2020, a team of more than 40 engineers, doctors, medical professionals, designers, and manufacturing experts from industry launched an Apollo 13-style project to help address that need.
The team focused on designing a device that could help the sickest patients to breathe, by plugging into the oxygen source available in most hospital rooms or into a tank of oxygen. Less than one week later, the team demonstrated a working prototype.
Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory—Making Hand Sanitizer
The University of Illinois is using their labs and staff for research and product production to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL) is using industrial blending machines to make hand sanitizer. They’re trying to help ease the shortages throughout the state. The first batch is complete and will be shipped this week. Scholars at the UI campuses are also collaborating to design and make personal protective equipment to distribute to healthcare systems across Illinois.
This new institute, a multi-disciplinary effort focused on artificial intelligence and advanced computing, will initially accept proposals related to the abatement of COVID-19, and mitigating risks from future pandemics using AI.
Institute of Government and Public Affairs—COVID-19 Impact on State of Illinois
At the request of University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen, the Institute of Government and Public Affairs assembled more than three dozen interdisciplinary faculty experts from all three System universities to assess COVID-19’s effects on the state. Assessments focus on three impact groups: Fiscal and Economic Impact, Community and Family Resilience, and the Health Care Workforce. Each group is collaborating on a series of economic modeling activities, data analyses, and syntheses of impact.
Prairie Research Institute—COVID-19 and Facility Water Systems Management
Federal, state, and local COVID-19 policies are likely affecting water systems at facilities. Facility managers should consider how changes in building use will affect water management plans, and then make changes to those plans in order to maintain biological safety. Specifically, low use or no use of potable water and cooling tower systems will negatively impact the quality of water in these systems, which will likely result in the need for remediation and re-commissioning before the building or space is reopened to occupants. In addition, if any unused or low use building or wing is converted to use for high-risk or COVID-19 patients, the safety of the water systems needs to be verified before patients are allowed to enter that space. These systems must be monitored and maintained thereafter.
Illinois Global Institute—Global Voices on the Pandemic
The University of Illinois is part of a global community including students, scholars, and artists. All of us are experiencing the pandemic in different ways shaped by culture, the situations of our societies, and our economic and political realities. At the centers and programs in the IGI, we have reached out to friends and colleagues around the world to ask them to share their experiences with us.
Illinois Neurobehavioral Assessment Laboratory—Free Digital Screenings Offered for a Limited Time
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it.
Trying to work and “attend” school from home presents new challenges for most people. But, if you have a condition that interferes with attention or learning, working from home is even harder.
Like most of us, the Illinois Neurobehavioral Assessment Laboratory would like to do something to help.
For a limited time, we are waiving all costs for digital screenings, and offering them free to anyone who is interested in learning more about attention or executive functioning for themselves or for their children. Every part of the process can be completed online.
Krannert Center—Virtual Performances From Our Partners
In times of uncertainty, we know that many people turn to the arts for solace, hope, and connection. Although folks at Krannert Center are saddened at the prospect of not being with our incredible community of supporters in person, they have compiled an ongoing list of artists and arts organizations who are offering online content, live streaming, and other resources to bring comfort, unity, and optimism to these complex days.
University Library—COVID-19: Writing a New Chapter in University of Illinois History
What’s your story? COVID-19 and the University of Illinois Community
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every part of the University of Illinois community, from building workers to students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Why not turn your experience into a window for future generations? Send us something about what you’re going through right now-a personal reflection, a family happening, what it’s like to forego a cherished U of I experience-to help the University of Illinois Archives create a record of this unprecedented time. What you provide us today will become a valuable research resource for generations to come. Help the future learn about today by sending us your stories!
Your stories can be text, audio, video, art, or images. Also, please do not submit personal health information through this form. We want to make sure your submissions will not raise HIPAA, FERPA, or other privacy concerns that would necessitate restrictions.
Illinois Social Work—C-U Community Resource Guide: COVID-19
An organic guide to Champaign-Urbana community resources during the COVID-19 Pandemic- A collaborative effort between the School of Social Work Community Learning Lab (CLL) and UniPlace Christian Church.