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KU COVID Research Pivot Award showcase

Monday, March 1, 2021

COVID Research Pivot Award

KU faculty adjust research to address COVID-19 pandemic

KU researchers across a range of disciplines have shifted their expertise to focus on challenges and questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their research has illuminated inequities among those impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, increased understanding of the pandemic, created a novel way to test for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19, provided research-based information to the public and policymakers, and more. View at the bottom of the page the full video from the virtual KU COVID Research Pivot Symposium, which took place on March 2, 2021.

Learn more about the projects of the winners of the one-time COVID Research Pivot Award and all of the nominees: 

Award winners

Folashade Agusto

Assistant professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

  • Developed a mathematical model to investigate effects of COVID-19 pandemic control efforts

Donna Ginther

Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Economics, and director, Institute for Policy & Social Research

  • Created a COVID-19 web resource center to provide information on the virus’s economic impact locally and globally
  • Studied the effect of the mask mandate in Kansas

Additional nominees

Nishani Frazier

Associate professor, Department of American Studies and History

  • Co-organized COVID Black, a task force to provide information and lead community outreach through Black digital humanities
  • Created “Black Folks Guide to Surviving Corona,” a resource compendium that provides economic, mental health, wellness, community organization and family support advice

John Symons

Professor, Department of Philosophy

  • Shifted from previous work on the epistemology of computational modeling to the development of software engineering standards for epidemiological simulators.

Jean Hall

Jean Hall

Professor, Department of Applied Behavioral Science, and director, Research and Training Center on Independent Living and Institute for Health and Disability Policy Studies

  • Used surveys and interviews to document the unique and disproportionately negative impacts of the pandemic on people with disabilities and adapted in-person intervention strategies to safer formats

Sarah Jen, Megan Paceley and Michael Riquino

Sarah Jen, Megan Paceley and Michael Riquino

Assistant professors, School of Social Welfare

  • Initiated a trauma-informed and student-led study to understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on KU undergraduate and graduate social work students through in-depth interviews

Tracey LaPierre

Associate professor, Department of Sociology

  • Adjusted a study on an opioid use disorder intervention to address pandemic impacts on hospitals, peer recovery coaches and clients
  • Received federal funding to study COVID-19’s impact on the care and safety practices of home care clients, direct service workers and caregivers

Derek Reed

Derek Reed

Professor, Department of Applied Behavioral Science

  • Conducts research and collaborates with local, national and international teams on the study of COVID-related behaviors and consumer decisions


Steven Soper

Steven Soper

Foundation Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry, Department of Mechanical Engineering & Bioengineering Program

  • The Soper research group developed technology for at-home testing to diagnose COVID-19 from saliva by searching for active SARS-CoV-2 viral particles and counting them individually.

Belinda Sturm

Professor, Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research

  • Studies wastewater-based epidemiology as a tool to identify future COVID-19 outbreaks and to understand the efficacy of public health policies

Jingxin Wang

Jingxin Wang

Assistant professor, Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy

  • Investigated the RNA structures of the SARS-CoV-2 genome
  • Developing novel small-molecule antivirals targeting RNA structures for the treatment of COVID-19

KU COVID Research Pivot Symposium