Special Section: Tackling Coronavirus

Faculty from all seven of SDSU’s colleges are studying COVID-19, analyzing how COVID-19 operates and spreads, how the pandemic affects our mental health and how communities are coping. A few examples follow.

Eyal Oren, associate professor and interim director of the School of Public Health, is working with clinical partners in San Diego to collect information on COVID-19 cases in order to understand who is more likely to test positive for COVID-19 depending on characteristics like age, gender, ethnicity or occupation. His project is funded by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency.

Surabhi Bhutani, assistant professor in the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, is examining the relationship between loss of smell and taste and COVID-19. In one analysis, Bhutani and colleagues found that smell loss during illness is the best predictor of COVID-19 status.

Public Health professor Hala Madanat, and Institute of Public Health director Corinne McDaniels-Davidson are partnering with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency to recruit and train a workforce of Community Health Workers to provide culturally appropriate and linguistically concordant COVID-19 contact tracing services in underserved communities.

School of Nursing assistant professors Amanda Choflet and Judy Dye are collaborating with Sharp HealthCare to better understand the effect of COVID-19 on the stress, coping and anxiety levels of nurses.

Psychology professors Gregory Talavera and Linda Gallo are studying the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health and well-being of Latinx residents of San Diego’s South Bay. They are surveying 2,200 participants on the psychosocial and socio-economic impact of the pandemic, as well as COVID-19 health status, testing, hospital admissions and recovery.

Virology professor Forest Rohwer and associate professor of mathematics and statistics Naveen Vaidya are collecting and analyzing environmental samples for COVID-19. Their team is developing mathematical and computational models to predict COVID-19 risk and trends in different parts of San Diego, informing public agencies about how the virus spreads and determining if there are environmental reservoirs where the virus thrives. Their work is funded by a Rapid Response Grant from the National Science Foundation.

Coronavirus COVID-19

 Civil, construction & environmental engineering associate professor Natalie Mladenov and assistant professor Matthew Verybyla, are working with public health assistant professor Kari Sant to measure SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater and evaluate its persistence in water. They are using spiking and degradation experiments, combined with sample collection from waterways with known wastewater contamination, to understand the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater and surface water. The project is funded by the California State University COAST program and San Diego River Conservancy.

Public health professors Hala Madanat, Susan Kiene, and Eyal Oren are leading an NIH-funded project to increase uptake of testing in underserved communities, hoping to curb these disparities. The effort, dubbed “Communities Fighting COVID!,” aims to test 42,000 people in 14 months.

Professor of geography Ming-Hsiang Tsou directs SDSU’s Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age, where they have developed a comprehensive resource database to help monitor and visualize outbreak patterns in San Diego County using big data, GIS and social media. The Research HUB data includes vulnerability maps, timelines that track major policies and events for 16 major cities, and SMART dashboards that use social media and keywords to monitor real-time information.

Biology professor David Lipson is collaborating with San Diego biotechnology company Menon Biosensors and University of California, San Diego researchers to develop a new COVID-19 test using a combination of molecular biology and nuclear magnetic resonance technology.

Professor Shawn Flanigan and associate professor Megan Welsh in the School of Public Affairs, are surveying unsheltered homeless to understand how they cope and survive during shelter-in-place orders, which have disrupted access to needed services and resources. Their project is funded by the California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.

Xialu Liu, associate professor of management information systems, is using statistical methods to analyze how government actions impact the spread of COVID-19.