UNLV Faculty Cooperating in COVID-19 Research

Person putting on personal protective equipment including gown, gloves, mask, and face shield
May. 22, 2020

Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Nevada and the nation. And from the beginning, the people of UNLV have worked tirelessly to find ways to help.

Science and Medicine

  • Computer Science professor Yoohwan Kim is working with state and local health officials, and colleagues from UNLV and NSHE, on a working group to develop methods for COVID-19 digital contact tracing. Contact tracing is an important part of the state’s response to COVID-19, and Kim and his students are developing a digital contact tracing tool based on blockchain that would be customized for Nevada.
  • UNLV Medicine faculty physicians treating severely ill COVID-19 patients at University Medical Center are sharing important data with researchers at Harvard and Mayo Clinic for one of the earliest clinical studies of COVID-19 patients in the U.S.
  • Frank Cucinotta, a professor in the Department of Health Physics and Diagnostic Sciences, is working with colleagues from Duke and Stanford on a study exploring the risks/benefits of using radiation in clinical trials to treat COVID-19-related pneumonia. An article on the work is forthcoming in the journal Radiotherapy & Oncology and concludes that pre-clinical studies in appropriate experimental models should occur prior to the start of clinical trials.
  • Those who have recovered from COVID-19 may have immune-boosting antibodies in their plasma—called “convalescent plasma”—that could be used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. The UNLV School of Medicine teamed up with UMC and Vitalant - Southern Nevada blood centers to collect and distribute the serum. The school is currently seeking donors who are at least 28 days recovered. More than a dozen people have already donated plasma, which is being used in hospitals valley wide.
  • Physics professor Michael Pravica is investigating an idea to create a vaccine for COVID-19 by irradiating live viruses with tuned monochromatic X-rays, a process that builds upon existing work Pravica has created at UNLV. He is exploring grant funding opportunities to support the work.

Economy, Workforce, and Society

  • Faculty from the College of Hospitality and the School of Integrated Health Sciences’ Department of Kinesiology & Nutrition Sciences are studying the impacts of COVID-19 on hospitality industry employees, including what varying shift schedules mean for health. They’re surveying both working and furloughed employees in the Las Vegas hospitality industry.
  • Nursing professor Jennifer Vanderlaan is investigating how the pandemic is impacting maternity care in the U.S. Nearly 200 maternity workers from 42 states have signed up to participate thus far.
  • UNLV faculty are seeking participants for an ongoing study on how older adults are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Nirmala Lekhak of UNLV’s School of Nursing is collaborating with Tirth Bhatta of the UNLV Sociology Department and others to understand stress and coping strategies for vulnerable populations. The nationwide study is open to U.S. residents 50 and over.
  • UNLV School of Leadership and Public Policy professor Jessica Word is conducting a survey of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on area nonprofits with the goal of helping inform community and state leaders about the needs of these organizations.
  • Professor Dak Kopec and research assistant Dafne Odette from the Master of Design in Health and Wellbeing Program are looking at ways to address concerns related to food service in common areas and the need for social distancing during COVID-19. They’re designing cost-effective prototypes based on physical separation that could be used for food courts in a variety of settings.
  • Communication Studies professor Natalie Pennington is studying how individuals’ engagement with communication technologies has changed during social distancing and its effects on well-being and mental health. She’s also working with colleagues from the University of Kansas and Michigan State to explore the impact of social distancing communication patterns across various types of relationships (in-house, work, and friends/family outside of the home).
  • John Tuman, associate dean for faculty and professor of political science, completed a working paper, “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Labor Market Conditions in Nevada: A Preliminary Assessment.” His work tracks baseline conditions prior to the pandemic and ensuing unemployment in Nevada.
  • Geologist Simon Jowitt is studying the effect of COVID-19 on metal prices, production, and supply by examining previous pandemics, the current crisis, and other major events. A paper on his research is currently in review.