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Undergrads Among Winners of USM’S COVID Public Health Challenge

By Maryland Today Staff

A video by a cross-disciplinary quartet of Terps and a messaging campaign by a public health science major were among the winners announced yesterday of the University System of Maryland’s COVID Research & Innovation Task Force’s Public Health Challenge.

The multimedia challenge invited members of the USM community to explore creative ways to highlight how students, members of the broader university communities and all Marylanders can stay safe and healthy while waiting for a vaccine.

Submissions were accepted in two categories—videos and images—with the top three winners in each category receiving $3,000. The winners from the University of Maryland, College Park were:

  • Dyuti Basu ‘24 (mathematics), Disa Basu ’21 (biological sciences and psychology double degree), Maxinne Ignacio ’21 (biological sciences) and Dalya Kamil ’21 (public health science), who submitted a live-action video of a puppet show, presented in rhyme, called “Puppet Pandemic Fatigue,” to demonstrate the importance of observing CDC health and safety guidelines.
  • Vanessa Aguocha-Sam ’22 (public health science), who submitted a messaging campaign to encourage individuals to take precautions to protect themselves and those around them while emphasizing the importance of maintaining emotional health and getting vaccinated. The entry notes these issues are especially important in communities of color, which have been disproportionally impacted by COVID.

Other winning teams came from Towson University; University of Maryland Global Campus; University of Maryland, Baltimore and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. All the entries can be viewed here.

“These messages about overcoming pandemic fatigue are important,” said Laurie Locascio, vice president for research at University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore and chair of the COVID Task Force. “It is gratifying to see the range of participation in this endeavor, with entries from various USM institutions that include undergraduates, graduate students and alumni.”

Sponsors included the Maryland Marketing Partnership, BioHealth Innovation, the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, the Maryland Technology Council, Connected DMV, the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and the USM Foundation.

The COVID Research & Innovation Task Force, formed by USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman in April, is mobilizing systemwide research and innovations to engage policymakers, business leaders, and the entrepreneurial community in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.