OVPR Holds Virtual COVID-19 Research Networking Events

By Caitlin Ware, Iowa State University Office of the Vice President for Research

Iowa State University’s Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR), in cooperation with the colleges across campus, recently hosted a series of virtual networking events to explore collaborative, interdisciplinary research opportunities addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The networking sessions — held via Zoom on April 28 and April 30 — welcomed more than 80 Iowa State University scholars, with academic backgrounds ranging from preventative medicine to statistics, to share their respective expertise surrounding the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, both locally and globally.

“This pandemic has inspired a lot of innovation in a very short time, and has required us to interact with each other differently to pursue our goals,” said Vice President for Research Sarah Nusser. “We are thrilled that so many researchers took time out of their busy end-of-semester schedules to get to know each other’s work and develop new collaborations. Bringing our researchers together deepens their understanding of what’s going on right now, but also serves the valuable purpose of becoming better prepared to help address future crises and disruptions.”

During the two virtual events, each participant presented a three-minute-long “lighting talk” outlining their area of expertise, how it could address COVID-19, and the type of complementary knowledge their work could benefit from. Every Iowa State college was represented between both sessions, and presentation subjects included science and engineering topics, such as using nanovaccines to treat respiratory infections, and topics led by social scientists and arts and humanities scholars, like gender-specific implications of the pandemic.

Following the lightning talks, all event participants were divided into moderated virtual networking groups to discuss specific topics of interest with their peers, including the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19, communication, public opinion and policies, and diagnostics and vaccines. An overview of the Research Insights tool was also provided to help Iowa State scholars identify potential collaborators at Iowa State and other institutions.

“This event was designed to help our researchers pursue collaborations within the Iowa State community and beyond, and we had an overwhelming response,” said Associate Vice President for Research Surya Mallapragada, who helped to host the event. “During this period of self-isolation and social distancing, it’s critical to continue finding ways to make positive contributions to this crisis.”