Faculty Members at UMD Explain their Role in the COVID-19 Research
By: Jaime Williams
COVID-19 has been plaguing the world since December of 2019. Still, due to the efforts of many, such as the faculty members at the University of Maryland, we are now closer to understanding the virus and hopefully getting it under control.
Jonathan Dinman, professor and chair of the Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics Department, stated that “UMD has a diverse portfolio of researchers and experts who are involved in COVID-19 research. In my own department, our researchers are investigating many aspects of the cellular and molecular biology of the virus and its interaction with its host organism.”
Sandra Quinn, professor and chair for the Department of Family Sciences and senior associate director for the Maryland Center for Health Equity, added that “I have had two faculty members engaged with two community organizations in Montgomery County to conduct a study of the impact of the pandemic on academic progress for Latino and Black children; two faculty members engaged in research related to mental health needs of mental health providers during the pandemic; and my own research focuses on disparities in a pandemic, vaccine acceptance, Emergency Use Authorization of vaccines, and related issues.”
Quinn explained how other faculty members in the School of Public health are contributing to the COVID-19 research. For example, she stated, “Dr. Donald Milton [Professor of Environmental Health, Maryland Institute of Applied Environmental Health] has been engaged in the study of aerosol spread of SARS-coV-2.”
“Dr. Milton’s research has been instrumental in advancing the understanding of the aerosol transmission of the virus,” she stated when explaining the discoveries being made at UMD. Dinman, examining where we are in terms of the second wave, observed that “ we are at the beginning of a very dark period in American history. Community spread of the virus is well-established. Our health care system’s capacity to provide appropriate care for patients is in danger of becoming overloaded, and a sizable fraction of our population is still belligerently non-compliant. As of today, we are now seeing over 200,000 new cases and close to 3000 new deaths per day, and the numbers are getting worse by the day. This will be remembered as a winter of death and despair.”
However, with the announcement of the Pfizer vaccine being authorized for emergency use, things are looking up for many in the field and those at home standing by for updates. “I think that this is a clear example of how much can be achieved in a short time if appropriate resources are applied to a problem,” Dinman stated.
While everyone may not be excited about the vaccine, the UMD faculty members say that they would recommend that people take it. “I intend to take it and recommend it to my family. COVID-19 is a devastating disease, and for many, with long-term serious complications, taking the vaccine is one step to beginning recovery from this pandemic,” Quinn stated.
Quinn and Dinman support current plans for the order in which the vaccine will be distributed to the public. Dinman believes that in addition to giving priority to first responders and medical workers, “we should also prioritize ‘essential workers’; i.e., the underpaid and underappreciated people who keep our country going. This includes truck drivers, workers in food service and delivery, etc. People who ‘serve’ should be served first.”
Yet, we don’t live in a perfect world, and projects this big will inevitably come with a few roadblocks. Dinman says that there could be many.
“The most serious would be the finding of severe side effects in a significant fraction of the population. That would stop everything in its tracks. Barring that, there will be problems with supply and distribution. The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at -70 degrees C, which means that people will have to go to places that have the super cold freezers to get vaccinated, instead of the vaccine coming to them: this will significantly hinder its delivery to the elderly and to rural areas. Fortunately, the Moderna vaccine is much more thermostable, which should obviate this problem. Also keep in mind that other vaccines will be coming online soon, each with their pluses and minuses. Another concern is inequitable distribution. One can imagine a scenario where the rich and powerful jump the line. That would be disastrous. Lastly, there is the issue of non-compliance. As we clearly see, a sizable fraction of the population still believes that Covid-19 is a hoax, and there was already a strong ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ movement in our society even before this pandemic. Such ‘vaccine resistance’ will only prolong our nation’s agony,” he stated.
Even though there has been much progress made in COVID-19 research, many things are still yet to be known. It is not clear, for example, whether or not we will be able to get rid of the virus completely.
Both Quinn and Dinman agree that it will take a few years for the world to fully recover from the effects of COVID-19.
Digital Measures Update
Digital Measures/Activity Insight: Updates
As the 2020 calendar year comes to a close, the Digital Measures platform is ready for use to document your 2020 activities. A number of updates have been implemented. See below for the following updates: training opportunities; bulk activity data import service to facilitate entering your data; diversity and inclusion additions; integrations with the UM Ventures unit; monthly Kuali Research updates; Teaching Innovation/TLTC integrations; and what to expect with the 2020 Annual Activity Report submission process using Workflow.
Bulk Data Import Service
A bulk data import/update service is now available. We can import your activity data from an Excel file into Digital Measures. To take advantage of this service, please contact the Digital Measures team with the request details. This service can also be used to apply bulk updates to activity records on a particular screen in Digital Measures, avoiding record-by-record editing in the system. We will provide you with an Excel import template for the associated data screen. The columns of the template will correspond to the data fields on that screen. We will give you detailed information on the data format for each column and can load your data into Digital Measures for you.
Indicate Activities that Support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Many activity screens in Digital Measures were enhanced this fall to support notes and annotations. Soon these screens will also allow faculty members to report activities they engaged in that support and/or relate to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) . For example, faculty members may identify research, scholarship and/or creative activities (e.g., publications, performances, exhibits), teaching (e.g., courses created/redesigned), and service (e.g., University, professional association) activities as related to DEI. A range of activities screens within Digital Measures have been enhanced to include a check box for designating DEI activities, as well as a textbox for describing the DEI contribution. This new feature should be in place on the activity screens by the end of December.
Patents and Invention Disclosures Imported
UM Ventures has supplied the Jan-Jun 2020 patent and invention disclosure data and this has been imported into Digital Measures. This data will be updated through this new integration on a quarterly basis in Digital Measures. By the end of the year, the new Entrepreneurial screen will be auto-populated with UM Ventures' information on MD I-Corps involvement, Phase 2 Maryland Innovation Initiative engagement, and university-licensed startups.
2020 Annual Activity Report Submission Timeline
All tenured and tenure-track faculty members should complete their 2020 Annual Activity Report between January 19, 2021 and March 12, 2021. Professional track faculty members are invited to use Digital Measures to document their activities. Expectations for professional track faculty member participation for 2020 annual reporting will be set at the local college/unit level.
Preparing Your 2020 Annual Activity Report
Submitting your annual activity report is a fairly straightforward process:
- Log in to Digital Measures
- Enter your Activities on the Digital Measures platform for the calendar year 2020
- Go to Workflow section (available in the top red bar) , select the UMD Annual Faculty Activity Review task from the Inbox and review the guidelines for report preparation
- When ready, move to the Personal Statement step in Workflow. Optionally add a personal statement for the year, either in the textbox on the screen or by attaching a file.
- Submit your report and personal statement to your unit approver.
You can learn more about the submission process by reading the Annual Activity Report Submission - Faculty Instructions. Training sessions via Zoom are also available.
A Few Things To Remember
The system is open now for your use; you may begin documenting your 2020 activities immediately. Please note that courses taught, course evaluations, completed thesis/dissertation committee involvement and ORA-managed proposal and award data will be auto-populated for 2020 by January 26, 2021.
Activity Insight integrates with several citation management systems and supports BibTeX file import. This is a great way to bring in your publications. The Libraries have a guide on how to use the Publication Import feature in Digital Measures.
Also, as you work on manually adding your activities, be sure to remember to save each record. The Rapid Reports tool lets you preview your activities in the annual report as you are entering them. Additionally, you may find the duplication feature is a timesaver.
Learn More About Digital Measures
The Faculty Affairs Activities Data website is not only your starting point for logging in to Digital Measures; it is also a self-service resource with short how-to videos, extensive user guides, and contact information for the Digital Measures team. Platform support is available through email, and by phone (301.405.7681).