Faculty answer the COVID-19 research call
April 30, 2020
In the spirit of Ut Prosim, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation has established a COVID-19 Rapid Response Team that seeks to identify and provide opportunities for Virginia Tech researchers to use their expertise to make an impact on the pandemic that has affected communities near and far.
Our computer science faculty and graduate students were already at the frontlines of this initiative, having already been awarded grants, as well as actively submitting interdisciplinary rapid proposals to contribute to this collective body of research. We will be sharing updates on the impact of these efforts in future articles and newsletters.
Liqing Zhang, associate professor of computer science, is the lead principal investigator of a new $1.3M National Science Foundation (NSF) grant entitled, "Frameworks: Developing CyberInfrastructure for Waterborne Antibiotic Resistance Risk Surveillance." Funding from the grant will develop cyber tools to also help early epidemics detection, including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The interdisciplinary team includes expertise from across the university to solve a hard problem. Zhang serves as the content lead for bioinformatics, along with Ali Butt, cloud computing expert and computer science professor. Amy Pruden and Peter Vikesland, both professors in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will contribute their talents in the areas of environment, water, and augmented reality monitoring.
Lenny Heath, computer science professor and principal investigator, is collaborating with Boris Vinatzer, interim department head and professor in the School of Plant Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech, on a proposal through the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) sponsored by the NSF.
Entitled, "RAPID: ViraLIN for Coronavirus Genomes: Identification, Naming, and Transmission Paths," the proposal seeks to build a special new kind of database and website for coronavirus genomes within one year.
Requests for RAPID proposals may be for up to $200K and up to one year in duration. This funding mechanism allows NSF to receive and review proposals having a severe urgency with regard to availability of or access to data, facilities or specialized equipment as well as quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar unanticipated events.
A small team of researchers and graduate students from the Virginia Tech Discovery Analytics Center, including its director Naren Ramakrishnan and Patrick Butler, senior research associate, are partnering with Kurt Luther, assistant computer science professor, and Peter Sforza, director and research scientist with the Center for Geospatial Information Technology, to participate in the Center for Disease Control's COVID-19 forecasting challenge. It is a yearly challenge which has been redirected from a focus on the general flu to COVID-19. Multiple computer science groups from across the country are also contributing their talents to this effort.