March 25, 2020

Here are some things to know about UVA's and UVA Engineering's novel coronavirus response.

Additional Important News Regarding UVA’s Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative – As we’ve shared, the Biocomplexity Institute team is on the front lines of the national modeling, monitoring, planning and response to COVID-19. The National Science Foundation announced March 24 that it is awarding the institute a five-year, $10 million collaborative grant from to lead more than 40 researchers from 14 U.S. institutions and more than 20 internationally renowned partners in a project titled, “Expeditions in Computing: Global Pervasive Computational Epidemiology.” The project is aimed at revolutionizing real-time epidemiology.

“Through the Expeditions project, we will use computing to address pandemics like COVID-19 or H1N1, in ways that would not have been possible just 10 or 15 years ago,” said Madhav Marathe, professor in UVA Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and director of the Biocomplexity Institute’s Network Systems Science and Advanced Computing division (NSSAC) and Expeditions project principal investigator. “In that time, we have seen a huge increase in the kind of data available to us, the speed at which we can access data, major advancements in the power of computing and in mathematical theory – all of which can now be applied to this kind of problem.”

“We see social, technological, economic, and presently, infectious disease contagions reshaping society on a global scale,” said Christopher L. Barrett, executive director and Distinguished Professor in Biocomplexity for the Institute, Expeditions team contributor and professor in the Department of Computer Science. “These contagions are the by-products of humanity’s spectacular success as a species. The various cases of contagion are different in almost every observable way in the world; however, they share deep underlying forms and produce similar needs for social institutions such as governments, markets, and voter citizens to comprehend them and participate in their mitigation and solution. It is extremely important that elite scientific research programs such as Expeditions, bringing together such talent as we see in this team and problems such as we see in this project, are set in the direction of understanding and solving the myriad problems that constitute these powerful phenomena, and infectious disease computational epidemiology is a critical and central component.”

Additionally, new forecasting tools Biocomplexity Institute researchers are developing were featured in The Wall Street Journal March 24: “AI Platform Aims to Help Policy Makers Calibrate Virus Response.”


Important Reminder about Research on Grounds – Only personnel who have been approved to conduct essential research-related activities should be accessing labs and facilities, and then only to complete the approved essential work.


A Few Items from UVA Engineering’s Novel Coronavirus Blog – Keeping Things Running” from Arash Tavakoli and other grad students of the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment; “A Family that Plays Together” from Jacob Matriccino, an undergraduate student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering; “Prioritizing Tasks in a Pandemic” from Director of Undergraduate Success Lisa Lampe; and “Speaking of Toilet Paper Shortages” from W. Bernard Carlson, professor and chair of the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment. UVA Engineering students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents can contribute to the blog by submitting entries on this online form.


In Case You Didn’t See it Yet – Students at the UVA School of Medicine put together this great video/public service announcement to share the importance of following expert advice for social distancing and avoiding virus transmission.


#WeAreUVAEngineering: Donations Gratefully Accepted by the Local Medical Community Recently we shared that the Department of Materials Science and Engineering was leading a donation drive to collect masks and other protective gear for doctors, nurses and other practitioners in local medical offices. MSE staff member Claire Culver, whose husband is a local doctor, delivered the supplies on March 24, and she wrote: “I have just delivered your donated masks, face shields, gloves, googles, etc. to my husband’s medical office. They were amazed and appreciative, saying, ‘This is just incredible, thank you so much.’ They will be sharing what they have with other medical offices and the hospital.  A huge thank you to all of you and especially to John (Scully) and Barry (Baber) for pulling all this together.”


Blood is Needed Desperately Due to the cancelation of blood drives in response to the coronavirus outbreak, many regions are experiencing severe blood shortages. If you are healthy and able to do so, please consider donating blood. Visit the Red Cross website for more information and to find a blood drive in your area.


Comic Relief from an Instructor at Another University – This was shared on an ASEE Facebook group:

Some things I have learned about myself since I began teaching online.

I touch my face at least once every 12 seconds.

I have a tiny annoying Elmer Fudd-esque laugh that happens unconsciously after every time I say something I think is clever and it hits the eardrum like an icepick.

I speak almost exclusively in run-on sentences. When I don't, I speak in metaphors or bad analogies.

I wave my hands about while speaking like I'm treading water or directing an invisible unheard choir.

If I force myself to put my hands on the desk, I can hardly form coherent thoughts. 

I use an insane amount of adverbs. I use the adverb "wistfully" nearly every time I describe a painting. Sometimes TWICE in a single sentence.

I furtively glance up to to the upper left quadrant of the picture frame for no reason as if a kidnapper is hovering just out of camera view forcing me to teach online and pretend everything is normal.


#WeAreUVAEngineering – Don’t forget we’re looking for positive-news stories including:

  • Stories you could share about fellow students, faculty or staff doing something interesting or great or supportive for online instruction or for remote teamwork.
  • Stories about people going the extra mile to help each other.
  • Personal stories of what are you doing to make life fun and interesting for yourself or your families at this challenging time.

Send us your stories on this online form. You can upload photos or short (20 seconds or less) videos. (Yes, photos and short videos of the quality time you’re spending with your cats and dogs are welcome!) We’ll share your stories on our social media channels (#WeAreUVAEngineering) and on our website.


Where to Find and Keep Track of News and Information – UVA Engineering’s novel coronavirus web page archives our school mass e-mail communications related to COVID-19 and includes links to the University’s sites. You can find this page from the Engineering School’s homepage at We’ve also got a new blog with updates, news and tips: