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Grant to Fund Higher Ed Reopening Research

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $300,000 grant to University of Maryland researchers to provide decision-making tools to colleges and universities during the coronavirus pandemic and for any similar scenarios in the future.

The research team, led by principal investigator and mechanical engineering Professor Jeffrey Herrmann and Dr. Donald Milton and Hongjie Liu, professors in the School of Public Health, is collecting testing and infection rate data among students, faculty members and residents in surrounding areas to develop a model for how the disease spreads in university demographics and operations.

Campus administrators nationwide have struggled to formulate reopening plans for this fall, producing widely differing approaches to teaching and learning, from a continuation of online-only instruction to full in-person reopening, as well as many hybrid models with limited students returning to campus and a mix of live and online learning,

The goal of the two-year Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) study is to provide administrators and public health officials with ways to estimate the trajectory of coronavirus infection, evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation strategies and predict the economic impact of different options to manage risk.

Those tools will be evaluated with an in-depth case study based at the University of Maryland.

“The models that we plan to build will help decision-makers understand both the advantages and disadvantages of different options so that they can select appropriate strategies for teaching and learning and research to occur safely,” Herrmann said.

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