COVID Information Commons: Lightning Talks (September 2021)


Guest post: Brian Buckley, Boston University; Volunteer, Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub

On Wednesday, September 22, 2021, six researchers studying a wide range of topics on the global pandemic presented their work as part of the ongoing COVID-19 Research Webinar series  organized through the COVID Information Commons (CIC)

The COVID Information Commons (CIC) is an NSF-funded project organized by the Big Data Innovation Hubs, led by the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub at Columbia University. The CIC recently received received additional funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of the COVID Information Commons Extension for Pandemic Recovery (CIC-E) proposal (NSF #2139391). This new grant will provide an additional $2 million in funding for the CIC between September 2021 and August 2025. 

During the September COVID-19 Research webinar, we heard from six researchers about their scientific findings on the medical and social effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as proposed applications of new products to mitigate the virus’ spread. First, George K. Thiruvathukal (Loyola University Chicago) observed human mobility during COVID-19 with object detectors that collected visual data from April 2020 until March 2021. Janet Iwasa (University of Utah) built a SARS-CoV-2 life cycle model that visually represented the anatomy of the virus, including how it enters the human body, produces an infection, and reproduces in cells. She is also working on annotation and commenting software for community discussions. Jane Pan (Columbia University), winner of the CIC Undergraduate Student Paper Challenge, studied contradictions in clinical studies and asked how researchers can assess evidence-based knowledge based on the raw text alone. She validated BERT models that performed well in contradiction detection studies. Ponisseril Somasundaran (Columbia University) focused on foam formulations that decontaminated surfaces and argued for their superiority over bleach solutions that drip off Hazmat protective cloth, highlighting other deficiencies. Kristen Miller (MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare) promoted community engagement through syndromic surveillance and serologic testing for over 60,000 people. She assessed COVID-19 symptoms, social distancing, healthcare access, SARS-COV-2 antibodies, and vaccine related outcomes. Finally, Franchessa Sayler (ThruPore Technologies) discussed current air filtration solutions for COVID-19 protection, the capture technology that they use, and the actual efficacy studies conducted by her team. Her company’s latest product shows promise for enabling low-cost air purification in large spaces.

Together, the researchers demonstrated the diversity of COVID-19 research and the multiple applications of STEM disciplines to the study of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Individual videos of each of the lightning talks highlighting insights gained from the researchers’ NSF-funded projects are available on the CIC website in the “Meet the Researchers” tab. A full recording of the webinar (hyperlink) is also available on the CIC website. A complete playlist of all videos from this event are available on the Hub’s YouTube channel.

The webinar concluded with a Q & A session where the researchers answered questions from members of our community. We would like to express thanks to our audience for participating in this webinar and for asking insightful questions on the research topics discussed!


The next CIC COVID-19 Research Webinar will be held on Tuesday, October 26th from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. (EST)Register to attend the October webinar and hear about other NSF- and NIH-funded research projects concerning COVID-19. 

Speaker Lineup for the October CIC Webinar:

Liz Goldberg, Lifespan, Rhode Island HospitalMeeting the Health Needs of Older Americans with Telehealth During COVID-19. A supplement to GAPcare II: The Geriatric Acute & Post-acute Care Coordination Program for Fall Prevention in the Emergency Department. Funded by the NIH / National Institute on Aging (NIA). 

Sunny Jiang, University of California-Irvine: Comparative quantitative microbial risk assessment of COVID-19 transmission through droplets, aerosols and contaminated surfaces. Funded by NSF Engineering / Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET). 

Susan Wesmiller, University of PittsburghGenomic Underpinnings for Breast Cancer Treatments Induced Nausea and Vomiting. Funded by NIH / National Institute of Nursing Research. 

Cassian Yee, MD Anderson Cancer CenterT Cell Immunity Of COVID19: Developing Biomarker And Therapeutic Strategies. Funded by NIH / National Cancer Institute.


How else can you stay in touch with the CIC community and receive updates about future events and opportunities?

Email us at info@covidinfocommons.net and let us know what you’re interested in hearing about next!