Coronavirus Stories

As COVID-19 spreads across the globe, faculty, staff, students and alumni from UMD's College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences are on the front lines, working to make a difference during this pandemic. See below a list of stories (organized by date) about their work related to COVID-19. 

Last updated July 28, 2020

Can a Spring Thaw Help to Reduce Spread of the Coronavirus?
February 26, 2020-present
Robert Glatter (B.S. 87, zoology), Emergency Physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City

Dr. Glatter discusses various topics related to the coronavirus from his perspective as an emergency room physician. In first column he addressed whether temperatures this spring will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The answer is not clear at this time. Read all of his stories on Forbes

Next COVID-19 Outbreak ‘Predicted via Satellite’
March 4, 2020
Rita Colwell, Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS)

Rita Colwell developed a predictive model for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The model could hold the answer to predicting when and where the next flare-up of COVID-19 cases occurs. Colwell applied machine learning to data from China, Italy, Spain and the United States, to extract correlations with data gathered from satellites, as well as air temperatures and surface parameters of moisture, such as humidity and dew point. Read more at SciDevNet

Coronavirus is Very Different from the Spanish Flu of 1918. Here’s How.
March 9, 2020-present
Gina Kolata (B.S. ’69, microbiology, M.A. ’73, mathematics), Science and Medical Reporter, The New York Times 

As the coronavirus spreads around the world and public anxieties spike, comparisons between today’s situation and the Spanish flu of 1918 are proliferating in journalistic outlets and on social media. She argues that while the fearful atmosphere and potential economic ramifications are like those of 1918, the medical reality is quite different. And Kolata should know, she wrote the book on it, “Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It.” Read more in The New York Times Read all of Kolata’s coronavirus stories in The New York Times Read our Q&A with Gina on the CMNS website

Predicting COVID-19 Outbreaks
March 13, 2020
Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, Interim Director, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC); Professor and Chair, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science
Augustin Vintzileos, Assistant Research Scientist, ESSIC

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center at the University of Maryland, College Park, predict that COVID-19 will follow a seasonal pattern similar to other respiratory viruses like seasonal flu. They base this on weather modeling data in countries where the virus has taken hold and spread within the community. They plan to investigate whether weather and climate forecasts could help provide more certainty to the predictions. Read more at Maryland TodayWatch a video from NBCLXRead the press release from the University of Maryland, Baltimore

COVID-19 and Computer Security, Part 1: Telecommuting Risks
March 14, 2020
Jim Purtilo, Associate Professor, Computer Science 

Jim Purtilo describes the risks of employees working at home, including insecure WiFi connections; open printer ports; browsers with all manner of unvetted plugins, trackers or social media feeds; document shares on unprotected cloud folders; and more. Read more on Tech News World

Structural and Functional Conservation of the Programmed -1 Ribosomal Frameshift Signal of SARS-CoV-2
March 15, 2020
Jon Dinman, Professor and Chair, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics
Jamie Kelly, Graduate Student, Biological Sciences

COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2. Given how long it will take to develop a vaccine, the best short-term strategy may lie in identifying virus-specific targets for small molecule interventions. All coronaviruses utilize a molecular mechanism called -1 Programmed Ribosomal Frameshift (PRF) to control the relative expression of their proteins. Altering -1 PRF activity negatively impacts virus replication, suggesting that this molecular mechanism may be therapeutically targeted. In a study published on bioRxiv, the authors present a comparative analysis of the original SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 frameshift signals. Read the paper on bioRxiv

Tired of Waiting to Get Tested for COVID-19? These Local Doctors Will Come to Your House
March 16, 2020
Ernest Brown (B.S. ’91, biochemistry), Founder, Doctors To You

Dr. Ernest Brown talks about making house calls to test D.C. area residents for COVID-19. Read more on the WUSA9 website

Coronavirus Pandemic Creates 'Perfect Storm' for Cybercriminals to Exploit People Working from Home
March 24, 2020
Dave Baggett (B.S. ’92, computer science, linguistics), Founder and CEO, INKY  

Employees working from home are increasingly being targeted by aggressive cybercriminals trying to capitalize on their unfamiliarity with remote work. Dave Baggett talks about how the dark web is buzzing with coronavirus-related activity, with hackers selling other hackers COVID-19 scam “kits” complete with fraudulent email templates to target workers at home. Read more on the ABC News website 

Cull, Release or Bring them Home: Coronavirus Crisis Forces Hard Decisions for Labs with Animals
March 30, 2020
Maria Cramer, Graduate Student, Entomology

Maria Cramer and her partner are sharing their two-bedroom basement apartment with her two most important and most genetically diverse colonies of ladybirds. Read more in Nature

An Old Problem: How Immune Responses Weaken with Age
April 1, 2020
Michael Cancro (B.S. ’73, Ph.D. ’76, zoology), University of Pennsylvania Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Michael Cancro worries that any coronavirus vaccine may be less effective for older adults—just as current vaccines are for other diseases. Read more in Knowable Magazine 

Bluelene Donates New Hand Sanitizer and 500 N95 Masks to Local Post Offices
April 2, 2020
Kan Cao, Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology & Molecular Genetics

The UMD cosmetic startup Bluelene, founded by Kan Cao, created hand sanitizer and donated bottles of it along with 500 N95 masks to local post offices for workers in need of supplies.

5 Tips to Disinfect Your Social Media of COVID-19 Fake News
April 2, 2020
Jennifer Golbeck (Ph.D. ’05, computer science), Professor, UMD’s College of Information Studies

Glued to our laptops and phones while sheltering in place, news consumers are relying more than ever on social media to learn and share important information about the disease. And some of it isn’t trustworthy. Fake news on social media can range from well-meaning people sharing misinformation, such as DIY cures or misinterpretations of statistical information, to deliberate disinformation, such as conspiracy theories and scams for profit. Jennifer Golbeck offered five tips for minimizing this risk and finding the most relevant and trustworthy news. Read more in Maryland Today

Making a Difference, One Face Shield Part at a Time
April 3, 2020
Paul Paukstelis, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Working in the basement of his home, Paul Paukstelis is printing plastic pieces that will be used to make hundreds of protective face shields, lifesaving protection for medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. To facilitate round-the-clock production, Paukstelis brought a few 3D printers home from the lab, with the blessing of the department. He set them up alongside two of his own personal printers. By early May, Paukstelis said he had donated 1,200 pieces to organizations that sterilize the parts, assemble them into complete face shields and distribute them to area hospitals in need. He also made a couple hundred adapter pieces that fit on CPAP breathing masks for local first responders transporting patients. Read updated May 11 story on Chemistry and Biochemistry websiteRead the original April 3 story on the CMNS website

Environmental Impact of the Coronavirus
April 6, 2020
Russell Dickerson, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science 

Russell Dickerson is interviewed about the environmental impact of the coronavirus. Watch the video on FOX 5

COVID-19 Shutdown May Obscure Mysteries of Cracked Interstellar Comet
April 6, 2020
Quanzhi Ye, Visiting Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Astronomy

In December 2019, the interstellar comet known as 2I/Borisov made its closest approach to our sun. While astronomers like Quanzhi Ye have been able to catch it with space telescopes in recent months, the comet is now only visible in the southern hemisphere. And all major facilities in the Southern Hemisphere—from Chile to Australia to South Africa—are closed. Read more in Scientific American

As Anne Arundel Students Begin Online Learning, Cybersecurity Experts Give Tips on Staying Secure
April 7, 2020
Dave Levin, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and UMIACS

As Anne Arundel County Public Schools moved their instruction to Chromebooks and online platforms like Google Classroom, Google Meets or Google Voice, Dave Levin explained how to remain digitally secure during the remote learning process. Read more in Capital GazetteRead an article on Zoom privacy that quotes Levin on Yahoo!Read an article on work computer privacy that quotes Levin on Yahoo!

How Zookeepers at DC’s National Zoo are Navigating the Pandemic
April 7, 2020
Brandie Smith (Ph.D. ’10, BEES), Deputy Director, National Zoo

The National Zoo began preparing for the pandemic in February by writing protocols that took into account the fact that zookeepers can’t practice physical distancing while doing their jobs. The zoo’s preparedness plan includes restricting behind-the-scenes access in all animal areas, cross-training animal care staff on essential functions, and establishing protocols for use of personal protective equipment, hygiene and cleaning, and employee self-screening. Read more at WTOP 

Fighting COVID-19 in the ER: UMD Alumnus Larry Edelman’s Story
April 9, 2020
Larry Edelman (B.S. ’01, biochemistry, University of Maryland, College Park; M.D. ’06, University of Maryland, Baltimore), Emergency Room Physician, Baltimore

Dr. Larry Edelman (B.S. ’01, biochemistry) works the night shift as an emergency physician in two hospitals north of Baltimore. He shares the fears and challenges of working on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more on the CMNS websiteRead an updated May 11 version on the Chemistry and Biochemistry website

Building a Case for Remdesivir Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
April 10, 2020
Merdad Parsey (BS ’85, biochemistry), Chief Medical Officer, Gilead Sciences 

Merdad Parsey talks about the challenges of clinical design in the time of COVID-19. He has been working since January to spearhead the development of the company’s antiviral remdesivir. Although Gilead first developed the RNA polymerase inhibitor for Ebola, it also has preclinical activity against coronaviruses. He spoke about building an evidence base for COVID-19 drugs during the SARS-CoV-2 emergency, and realistic expectations for the first round of agents. Read more in Chemical & Engineering News

Seed Grants to Grow Nine UMD Research Projects on COVID-19
April 13, 2020
Jeffrey DeStefano, Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics
Jonathan Dinman, Professor and Chair, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics
Margaret Scull, Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

The UMD Division of Research announced nine recipients of Coronavirus Research Seed Fund Awards. Two funded projects were in CMNS. Jonathan Dinman is working on “Molecular and Genetic Characterization of the programmed -1 Ribosomal Frameshift Signal of SARS-CoV-2” for antiviral therapeutics. Jeffrey DeStefano and Margaret Scull are conducting the study “Development and Evaluation of Novel Aptamer-based Therapeutics Targeting SARS-CoV-2 in a Physiologically Relevant Model of Human Airway Epithelium” to help develop new drugs to treat the novel coronavirus. Read more about Dinman's project on the CMNS websiteRead more about DeStefano and Scull's project on the CMNS websiteRead about the other funded projects in Maryland Today

An Unexpected Collaboration
April 13, 2020
Amitava Banerjee, Graduate Student, Physics

Amitava Banerjee works on computational and theoretical aspects of complex nonlinear and quantum dynamics. While at home during the coronavirus pandemic, he decided to start collaborations with her housemates--who are physics classmates and an alumnus. They started two projects, which are now running at full speed, which have uncovered connections between concepts in vastly different areas of physics. Published in Physics

Inside the Class-Zoom
April 14, 2020
Tammatha O’Brien, Senior Lecturer, Entomology 

University of Maryland faculty members and instructors are continuing to tackle the unprecedented challenges of turning face-to-face courses into virtual ones. Tammatha O’Brien, who’s teaching courses in ecology, anatomy and physiology, and endocrinology, has created video lectures and discussion boards that she hopes foster active learning by allowing everyone in the class to see the questions and responses that have been posted there. Read more in Maryland TodayRead more in The Washington Post 

Online Series Launched on Understanding and Exploring Network Epidemiology in the Time of Coronavirus
April 15, 2020
Michelle Girvan, Professor, Department of Physics

Understanding and Exploring Network Epidemiology in the Time of Coronavirus (#Net_COVID) is a special online workshop series developed and presented by UMD’s COMBINE program in network biology in partnership with Vermont’s Complex Systems Center. Launched in April 2020, the series includes tutorials and seminars to contextualize and understand the current COVID-19 global pandemic using network science. Activities include introduction to network epidemiology, review of recent research on coronavirus, and exploration of various modeling and data analysis approaches. Read more on the Division of Research website

Bring Home the Tarantulas? As Research Halts, Scientists Face Difficult Decisions
April 15, 2020
Todd Waters, Agricultural Technician Supervisor, Department of Entomology

The coronavirus lockdown has raised a conundrum for scientists around the globe: What to do with creatures they study now that research projects have come to a halt. So when UMD gave the go ahead to bring home animals that were not at risk of escaping into the wild and harming the environment, Todd Waters brought his arthropod zoo home with him. The assortment included wolf spiders, assassin bugs, mantises, baby scorpions and baby tarantulas. Waters lives with four other people, which he says made things a bit uncomfortable when he showed up with the critters. Read or listen to more on NPR

Online Learning: How to Acquire New Skills During Lockdown
April 17, 2020
Shravan Goli (M.S. ’94, Computer Science), Chief Product Officer, Coursera

Increasing numbers of people are using their time at home during the coronavirus pandemic to build their skillset, with an upsurge in enrolments on online learning platforms such as edX, FutureLearn and Coursera, which offer “massive open online courses” – or Moocs. Coursera has seen an eightfold increase in enrolments for social science, personal development, arts and humanities courses since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. “It’s unprecedented,” Goli said. Read more in The GuardianRead more at WTOP

Apple, Google Team Up for Contact Tracing Tech to Help Fight Coronavirus
April 17, 2020
Jennifer Golbeck (Ph.D. ’05, computer science), Professor, UMD’s College of Information Studies

Apple and Google are working together to create new technology that would let people know if they have crossed paths with someone infected with the disease. Jennifer Golbeck says turning this technology on will help the greater good, but also give individuals lots of benefits for personal health in this crisis. Read more on WUSA9’s website

Can U.S. Stimulus Funding Help Shift to Clean Energy?
April 19, 2020
Ellen Williams, Distinguished University Professor, Physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology 

The U.S. is considering massive infrastructure spending to combat the economic devastation of COVID-19. Is this an opportunity to rebuild the country's energy grid with renewables? Ellen Williams speaks on a panel that answers this question. Watch the panel on Al Jazeera 

When Scaling Your Workload is a Matter of Saving Lives
April 20, 2020
DJ Patil (M.A. ’99, Ph.D. ’01, applied mathematics), former U.S. Chief Data Scientist

In the California crisis command center, DJ Patil was working with governors from across the country to model the potential impact of COVID-19 for scenario planning. He wanted to help them answer critical questions, like “How many hospital beds will we need?” and “Can we reduce the spread if we temporarily close places where people gather?” and “Should we issue a shelter-in-place order and for how long?” While nobody can predict the future, modeling the virus with all the factors they did know was their best shot at helping leaders make informed decisions, which would impact hundreds of thousands of lives. Patil assembled a team of volunteers that consisted of some of the brightest minds from across Silicon Valley and the country. As though following a call to arms, these professionals came together, in a personal capacity, to fight COVID-19 the best way they knew how: with data. Read more at HPCwire

To Mask or Not to Mask: Modeling the Potential for Face Mask Use by the General Public to Curtail the COVID-19 Pandemic
April 21, 2020
Eric Kostelich (M.A. ‘83, Ph.D. ‘85, applied mathematics), President’s Professor, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Arizona State University

Kostelich and his co-authors published a peer-reviewed article in the journal Infectious Disease Modelling detailing a compartmental model for assessing the community-wide impact of face mask use by the general, asymptomatic public, a portion of which may be asymptomatically infectious. Their results suggest use of face masks by the general public is potentially of high value in curtailing community transmission and the burden of the pandemic. The community-wide benefits are likely to be greatest when face masks are used in conjunction with other non-pharmaceutical practices (such as physical distancing) and when adoption is nearly universal (nationwide) and compliance is high. Read the journal article

Computing vs. Pandemics: UMD Researchers Part of $10M NSF Project to Develop Strategies to Thwart Disease Outbreaks
April 23, 2020
Abhinav Bhatele, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and UMIACS
Rita Colwell, Distinguished University Professor, UMIACS
Aravind Srinivasan, Professor, Department of Computer Science and UMIACS

University of Maryland computing experts are partnering with a consortium of scientists from across the U.S. to deploy the latest advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, supercomputing and social science data against epidemic outbreaks. Funded by a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation for the Global Pervasive Computational Epidemiology project, the researchers are using these powerful technologies and tools to explore trends in globalization, anti-microbial resistance, urbanization and ecological pressures—factors that have converged to increase the risk of global pandemics like the COVID-19 crisis now wreaking havoc on populations and economies worldwide. Read more at Maryland Today

Scientists are Working to Protect Invaluable Living Collections During Coronavirus Lockdowns
April 23, 2020
Brian Lovett (Ph.D. ’19, entomology), Postdoctoral Researcher in Mycology, West Virginia University

Brian Lovett co-authors an article detailing how many scientists who have dedicated careers to cataloging and preserving Earth’s biological diversity are risking their personal health during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure the survival of awe-inspiring assemblages of algae, arthropods, bacteria, fungi, mammals, plants, viruses and fishes. Staying on top of these collections is time-consuming during the best of times, and this task becomes even more complex in the age of physical distancing. Yet hundreds of scientists across the United States are doing just that, maintaining everything from crickets, to tissue cultures, mice, powdery mildews, nematodes, psyllids, zebrafish and even rust fungi. Read more in The Conversation

Who will Heal the Healers when Coronavirus is Over?
April 27, 2020
Jessica Lu (B.S. ’14, biological sciences), Second-year Resident in Family Medicine, University of Washington

As the infection curve flattens, attention is turning to the doctors and nurses who have been on the front lines. Dr. Jessica Lu and a colleague started an Instagram page to help connect with other health care providers going through similar experiences. Read more on the CMNS websiteListen to the story on KUOWRead more on KUOW

UMIACS Faculty Adapting to Online-Only Research Activities During COVID-19 Crisis
April 28, 2020
Cornelia Fermüller, Associate Research Scientist, UMIACS
Mihai Pop, Professor, Department of Computer Science and UMIACS 

The normal whirlwind of hands-on research activity inside the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering has come to a screeching halt due to severe research restrictions that have barred access to the Maryland campus for all but a handful of essential personnel. UMIACS researchers are also using online resources to advance research in robotics, computational biology, cybersecurity, and more. Read more on the UMIACS website

High Absenteeism and the Production of Medically Necessary Drugs During COVID-19
April 29, 2020
Stephen Langille (Ph.D. ’96, microbiology), Senior Microbiology Consultant, ValSource, Inc.

Stephen Langille and his co-authors discuss some of the challenges of making decisions in difficult times. In times of crisis, such as during an epidemic, high absenteeism may force companies to continue manufacturing these medically necessary drug products with reduced staff. They propose an approach to ensure the production of safe and effective drug products in times of staff shortages related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more in Bioprocess Online

Data Visualization’s Breakthrough Moment in the COVID-19 Crisis
April 30, 2020
Ben Shneiderman, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Department of Computer Science

The data visualization discipline has made some important contributions over its 300-year history but perhaps none more so than now, argues Ben Shneiderman. During the COVID-19 crisis, data visualization researchers and professionals rose to the challenge, delivering widely used tools for public explanations, pandemic modeling, and government policymaking. These interactive data visualizations inform the public and guide decision-makers to save lives. Read more on Medium

Field-level Research Continues—With a Few Distractions—During COVID-19 Pandemic
May 1, 2020
Rachel Sanford (B.S. '19, biological sciences), Lab Technician in Kelly Hamby’s lab, Department of Entomology

Rachel Sanford turned her family dining room into a bean pod processing facility during the coronavirus pandemic. She is doing research to help understand the impact of Dectes stem borer on soybean yields. Dectes stem borer is a beetle larva that burrows into the stems of soybeans, starting in the leaves and moving over the course of the season to the base of the plant where they weaken the stem while making a shelter for the winter. Plants infested with Dectes may break and fall over, which can prevent the combine from picking up the plants during harvest. The project has been going on for three years and is in its final year of collecting field data. Now, bags of soybeans swell in Sanford’s dining room, waiting for processing and measurement. Read more on the Department of Entomology website 

Scientists Map COVID-19 Spread Through Brazil
May 4, 2020
Fernando Dos Santos, Visiting Assistant Research Scientist, ESSIC

A group of volunteers including Fernando Dos Santos is putting together an interactive map that tracks the spread of COVID-19 across Brazilian states and cities. The project, called MapaVale, uses data collected from official city webpages and through private conversations with city officials to record suspected and confirmed cases and deaths that can be attributed to COVID-19.  The team has already recorded data along the southeast coast of Brazil. Read more on the ESSIC website

Alums’ Site Helps Businesses Keep It ‘Together’
May 5, 2020
Marcellus Davenport (B.S. ’18, computer science)
Michael Wittner (B.S. ’19, computer science)

Four Terps including Davenport and Wittner are working to make it even easier to buy a gift card for a local business—plus charitable giving—to show support while staying at home. Through TogetherCard, a gift card search engine plus fundraising site, the friends are hoping to help the public support small businesses or organizations $25 or $50 at a time while also giving back to those on the frontlines of the pandemic. Read more in Maryland Today

UMD Researchers Develop Web Application to Track Progression of COVID-19
May 9, 2020
John Kastner (B.S. ’18, computer science), Graduate Student, Computer Science
Hanan Samet, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Computer Science and UMIACS
Hong Wei, Graduate Student, Computer Science

The researchers have developed a novel news and tweet aggregating web application that is able to track the progression of COVID-19 over space and time. The web application, called NewsStand CoronaViz, is a research prototype that enables dynamic map visualizations of COVID-19 variables that are accessed with a map query interface. The variables include the current number of infections, active cases, recoveries, and deaths that are reported on a daily basis from a Johns Hopkins University website. That information is then bolstered by any reference to COVID-19 in news articles and tweets as they occur in real time, and which are associated with the underlying spatial region. Read more on the UMIACS website

UMD Researchers Awarded NSF RAPID Grants to Bolster COVID-19 Response
May 10, 2020
Michael Cummings, Professor of Biology and UMIACS
Louiqa Raschid, Professor in the Robert H. Smith School of Business and UMIACS
Nathan Swenson, Professor of Biology

University of Maryland researchers have been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) RAPID grants to address the current COVID-19 crisis. These include Cummings' project "Accelerating Phylodynamic Analyses of SARS-CoV-2," Raschid's project "Supply Chain Portal to Serve Entrepreneurs Producing Critical Items in Response to COVID-19," and Swenson's project "Forest Productivity and Expression in a Low-emissions Present: A RAPID Response to the COVID-19 Emissions Reduction Event." Read more on the Division of Research websiteRead more on Raschid's project on the UMIACS websiteRead more on Cummings' project on the UMIACS website

Building Fundamental Knowledge to Arm Medical Science
May 11, 2020
David Fushman, Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

David Fushman is working to piece together the puzzle of how one critical system, the ubiquitin signaling system, works to keep cells in the body healthy and functioning properly. To do this, he studies the 3D structure and composition of proteins, and more specifically, the tiny protein at the center of the ubiquitin signaling system called ubiquitin. Recent reports suggest coronaviruses may degrade a cell’s defenses using the ubiquitin signaling system. In a molecular game of tag, it appears these viruses add a ubiquitin “destroy me” tag to the end of a watchdog protein whose job is to tag viruses for removal. If that is the case, the cell’s own defense mechanisms would destroy the watchdog proteins and not the virus. Read more on the Chemistry and Biochemistry website 

COVID-19′s Silent Spread: Princeton Researchers Explore How Symptomless Transmission Helps Pathogens Thrive
May 12, 2020
Simon Levin (Ph.D. '64, mathematics), James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

COVID-19′s rapid spread throughout the world has been fueled in part by the virus’ ability to be transmitted by people who are not showing symptoms of infection. Now, a team of researchers at Princeton that includes Simon Levin published a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found that this silent phase of transmission can be a successful evolutionary strategy for pathogens such as viruses like the one that causes COVID-19. Read more on Princeton's website

Maryland Grads Create Popular COVID Screening Tool
May 23, 2020
Adeel Malik (B.S. '15, Biological Sciences; B.S. '15, Finance) and Bilal Naved (B.S. '15, Bioengineering)

Adeel Malik and Bilal Naved have created an online coronavirus symptom checker that is being used across the county to screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms. Clearstep is an online tool that lets users answer multiple choice questions for COVID symptoms and 500 other health issues. Read more on the FOX Baltimore website 

Searching for a Coronavirus Treatment: UMD Alumnus Merdad Parsey's Story
May 28, 2020
Merdad Parsey, M.D. (B.S. '85, biochemistry), Chief Medical Officer, Gilead Sciences

Merdad Parsey has spent the last several months on the leading edge of the worldwide effort to find an effective treatment for COVID-19. He joined Gilead Sciences as the company's chief medical officer in November 2019, just as the first signs of a pandemic were emerging in China. Since then, he has led a drug development team evaluating and testing the effectiveness of the company's antiviral remdesivir on COVID-19. Read a Q&A with Parsey on the CMNS website

Former Terps Guard Varun Ram is Helping Coronavirus Patients Stay Connected to Loved Ones
May 29, 2020
Varun Ram (B.S. '15, biological sciences; M.S. '16, supply chain management)

Over the past three months, Ram has served as the regional digital health lead for D.C. and Baltimore for Connect for COVID-19, an initiative launched to address the shortages of smart devices in health care facilities that had enacted no-visitor policies. They collect new and used smart devices from individuals and corporations and then deliver them to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities. Read more in The Washington PostRead more in Maryland Today

On a Mission: Tracking COVID-19's Impact on Air Pollution
June 1, 2020
Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Professor Russell Dickerson, Research scientist Xinrong Ren and Graduate Student Phillip Stratton

Since the COVID-19 lockdown began in March, UMD atmospheric and oceanic science researchers have been measuring how changing habits due to the coronavirus have impacted air pollution in the D.C. metro area. They regularly fly three-hour missions around the area on a small Cessna research aircraft equipped to gather real-time information on pollutants and greenhouse gases. Preliminary results show significant differences between air pollution levels before and after the lockdown. Read more on the CMNS websiteRead more on NOAA website 

Cummings Receives NSF Funding to Improve Analyses of COVID-19 Genomic Data
June 1, 2020
Michael Cummings, Professor of Biology and UMIACS

Michael Cummings received funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop new tools and strategies for analyzing genomic data from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the strain of coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. The funding comes from the NSF Rapid Response Research initiative, which aims to mobilize the scientific community in response to the current pandemic. Read more on the UMIACS website

COVID-19: A Physicist's Perspective
June 1, 2020
Sankar Das Sarma, Distinguished University Professor of Physics

In his first blog post, Sankar Das Sarma reflects on the COVID-19 crisis through the eyes of a physicist, including cancelled scientific meetings, whether he has been able to do research at home, and what might lay ahead if the crisis continues for even a few more months. Read more on the Condensed Matter Theory Center blog

Teaming Up to Fight COVID-19
June 8, 2020
Jeffrey DeStefano, Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics
Margaret Scull, Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

DeStefano and Scull have teamed up to develop and screen new drugs to treat the novel coronavirus. DeStefano is working on developing small molecules called aptamers that can bind to the coronavirus surface proteins and block the virus from entering cells. Scull will then screen those aptamers on a complex cell model her lab developed of the human airway—a primary target of the coronavirus—to see whether they're effective in blocking infection in airway epithelial cells. Read more on the CMNS website

UMD Department Chair Fights COVID-19—and Not Just in the Lab
June 17, 2020
Jonathan Dinman, Professor and Chair, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

For years, Jonathan Dinman has been investigating a process in viruses called programmed-1 ribosomal frameshifting (-1 PRF), which presents a promising target for antiviral drugs. He had just shifted his research to focus on the -1 PRF signal in SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, when he got COVID-19 himself. Dinman shares his personal experience fighting COVID-19 and his research efforts to stop the virus from replicating. Read more on the CMNS website

Alumnus Receives Grant for COVID-19 Research from Digital Transformation Institute
June 23, 2020
Simon Levin (Ph.D. '64, mathematics), James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University

Simon Levin and colleagues are members of the project team “Modeling and Control of COVID-19 Propagation for Assessing and Optimizing Intervention Policies,” which received funding from the institute in the spring. Read more on Princeton's website

GAMMA Team Receives NSF Funding to Develop Robots to Assist in Social Distancing
June 24, 2020
Dinesh Manocha, Paul Chrisman Iribe Professor of Computer Science and the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS)
Aniket Bera, Assistant Research Professor, UMIACS

Motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Geometric Algorithms for Modeling, Motion, and Animation (GAMMA) project is exploring how mobile robots can help pedestrians in public places or office environments efficiently navigate spaces while maintaining recommended social distancing guidelines. The funding comes from NSF’s Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) program, which supports exploratory work on untested, yet potentially transformative, ideas or approaches. Read more on the UMIACS website

Covering the Pandemic: Q&A with Alumna Gina Kolata
June 25, 2020
Gina Kolata (B.S. '69, microbiology; M.A. '73, mathematics), New York Times Science and Medicine Reporter

Gina Kolata is an award-winning journalist who has written about science and medicine for The New York Times for more than three decades. Now, she is in the middle of one of the biggest stories of her career. Since March, she has chronicled the progression and impact of the rapidly changing COVID-19 outbreak for the paper, reporting on everything from the shortage of protective face masks to the search for an effective coronavirus treatment. Read our Q&A with Kolata about covering the pandemic on the CMNS website  

Quantum Computing: How Conditions Created by the COVID-19 Shutdown are Delivering 'The Best Data we Have Ever Seen'
June 30, 2020
Christopher Monroe, Distinguished University Professor, Physics

The COVID-19 pandemic and shutdown have been disastrous for many people. But one research project in Christopher Monroe's lab has been humming along, taking the best data his team has ever seen. It is an advanced ‘ion trap’ quantum computer, which uses laser beams to control an array of floating atoms. They spent three years setting it up to run remotely and autonomously. Now, they think more labs should run quantum-computing experiments like this, to speed up research. Read more in Nature


Looking Up: Maryland's Forests and COVID-19
July 2, 2020
Nathan Swenson, Biology Professor

Nathan Swenson has been wondering what's happening to the trees with fewer pollutants in the air due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, he's going to conduct a study to find out. Swenson received a RAPID Response Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a yearlong tree study. He and his collaborators at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center will investigate what happens to trees in Maryland that have been exposed to—and stressed by—air pollution when air quality improves. Read more on the CMNS website

Stranded in the Arctic
July 8, 2020
Steven Fons, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Ph.D. student

For Steven Fons, returning home to D.C. in June was like coming back from another planet. He had just spent five months living on the dark, frigid doorstep of the North Pole on a research mission called MOSAiC, the largest and longest Arctic expedition in history. Fons conducted weekly drillings of Arctic ice cores to evaluate their temperature, salinity and density. He plans to combine this information with satellite data to better understand how ice thickness changes across the Arctic. Though Fons was thousands of miles from civilization, news still found its way to him, including updates on the COVID-19 pandemic. And the stories seemed almost too unbelievable to be true--until the quarantine rules and travel restrictions left him stranded in the Arctic, indefinitely. Read more on the CMNS website

Undergrad's Infrared Innovation Wins USM COVID App Challenge
July 10, 2020
Andrew Karam, Computer Science Major

Andrew Karam was one of six winners in the University System of Maryland COVID App Challenge. Karam's winning entry was a versatile app that uses an infrared sensor to detect a person's overall temperature from a distance by pinpointing their facial structure. Read more in Maryland Today

College Awarded 41 Campus Teaching Innovation Grants
July 20, 2020

The University of Maryland awarded its College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) with 41 Teaching Innovation Grants totaling over $477,000 to reimagine and reshape the future of teaching and learning at the university. The awardees will use the funding to develop new and creative instructional strategies for their Fall 2020 courses. In addition, 16 CMNS faculty members joined the campus Design Sprint Learning Community this spring and summer to help transition their face-to-face courses to online or blended-learning courses. Read more on the CMNS website

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 8,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and six interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $250 million.