Researchers and faculty at Northern Illinois University are actively engaged in helping athletes, parents and…
DeKalb, Ill. — Amid the busy transition to remote teaching, NIU faculty members also have pivoted aspects of their research programs to turn attention to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In this time of uncertainty, our faculty members have really stepped up in so many ways, including with innovative research efforts relevant to what is happening in our world,” said Jerry Blazey, NIU’s vice president for Research and Innovation Partnerships.
“An important part of NIU’s mission is the pursuit of knowledge for the benefit of our region and world,” he added. “As unsettling as this pandemic is, it also presents opportunities for discoveries that will benefit lives in the future.”
Examples of planned, proposed or ongoing projects include the following.
Professor Martin Ndicu, whose research focuses on change readiness, is working on a proposal to study how organizational crisis management influences individuals’ learning agility and adaptive performance (from faculty and student perspectives) to achieve desired outcomes. Since COVID-19 is a global phenomenon, the project will be a comparative study undertaken through collaboration with College of Business international partners.
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Professor Oliver Hofstetter has worked with the NIU Technology Transfer Office to find an industrial partner interested in developing and manufacturing his concept for a rapid assay to detect the COVID-19-causing virus “SARS-CoV-2.” Hofstetter said the assay would not require any type of expensive instrumentation, should yield results in as little as 10 minutes, could be performed by anyone, and is designed as a point-of-care and at-home test.
The research group of Professor Douglas Klumpp is developing new chemistry that will efficiently prepare chloroquine derivatives—some of the only pharmaceutical agents approved for treating the COVID-19 infection. Although drug manufacturers have a good synthetic route to these types of drugs, the chemistry produces a considerable amount of waste. Once fully developed, Klumpp hopes his group’s synthetic route will eliminate the chemical waste and lead to a more environmentally friendly process. It also could lower the cost of such drugs.
Professors Tao Xu (chemistry and biochemistry) and Lichuan Liu (electrical engineering) have submitted an interdisciplinary National Science Foundation (NSF) grant proposal to explore use of existing infrastructure for COVID-19 early symptom alert and data analysis that could facilitate deployment of medical resources.
Professors Andrea Guzman, David Gunkel and Shupei Yuan are preparing a proposal to investigate the opportunities and challenges of contact tracing using digital technology and devices to document and manage the spread of COVID-19 infection.
Professor Michael Papka, who holds a joint appointment with Argonne National Laboratory and serves as division director of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, is overseeing the allocation of staff and resources as the laboratory works to link supercomputers from across the country. With their combined might, these supercomputers are powering simulations of how billions of different small molecules from drug libraries could interface and bind with different viral protein regions.
Professor Laura Ruth Johnson is overseeing NIU College of Education doctoral candidates Darius Jackson, Luis Lopez and Kristine Webster, who are helping Chicago’s Youth Connection Charter Schools (YCCS) to develop research-based instructional strategies for remote learning to engage high school students from vulnerable, underserved populations. They are also developing protocols and training for YCSS staff who are answering a new hotline connecting students and their families to wraparound social services.
Professor Mohammad Moghimi is working with his research group to investigate development of a potential home-health monitoring device to detect the signs of COVID-19, alert individuals in the early stages of infection and help physicians track the status of patients.
Professor Josephine Ebomoyi has plans to investigate the response to COVID-19 in developed and developing nations by looking at ways of addressing mortality and morbidity.
Interdisciplinary Health Professions
Paul Priester, chair of the School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions, is working on a project to explore how members of 12-step recovery communities are negotiating social distancing with recovery maintenance.
Professor Mahesh Subramony will investigate the experience of remote workers during the pandemic. The research will test a comprehensive model of remote work that explores the job demands and resources that affect worker well-being.
Professor Tim Michaelis is conducting a review of how entrepreneurs can respond to COVID-19. He expects the article to be published in a peer-reviewed journal in May.
Professor Yihui (Elina) Tang and Lei Wang of SPM Marketing and Communications, a Chicago-area-based marketing and communications firm, published a March 16 Adweek article on for-profit and nonprofit brand response during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tang also is planning an empirical study on crisis management for brands, including during the pandemic.
Professor Ursula Sullivan will investigate how direct sellers are managing their supply and demand with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research will examine how companies are managing global relationships within their supply and value chains with the shock of closures and rationing of both raw materials and finished product.
Marketing and Public Health
Professors Yihui (Elina) Tang (marketing) and M. Courtney Hughes (public health) are conducting an interdisciplinary survey-based study exploring the perspectives of recent academic authors in the disciplines of marketing and public health on the topic of COVID-19, including their views on the pandemic’s impact on research, higher education and their respective fields.
Professor Sachit Butail is part of a team led by New York University researchers who have submitted an NSF Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant proposal. It seeks to establish a predictive modeling framework to inform decision-making about testing and active surveillance policies in the present COVID-19 outbreak.
Scot Schraufnagel, political science chair, is examining state variations in voter accommodations related to the pandemic, including allowances for mail-in voting, same-day voter registration, early voting and other considerations.
Professor Alecia Santuzzi has an ongoing study examining the social cognitions of students and other adults in socially threatening situations. She has pivoted to highlight how the pandemic has impacted the stress levels of Asian Americans, who are at risk of being victims of xenophobia during the pandemic. She also expects to submit an NSF grant proposal to extend the examination to explore how COVID-19 has disrupted work and life routines.
Professor Holly Orcutt is already collecting data for a study that will examine the effects of the pandemic and the Illinois shelter-in-place order on a host of outcomes for NIU undergraduate students, including behavioral health, psychological health and coping strategies.
Professors Elizabeth C. Shelleby, Laura Pittman and David Bridgett are planning a Families in Rapid and Stressful Transition Study. It will examine how the changes occurring within families in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic are impacting family and child outcomes. Specifically, the researchers will examine the extent to which changes in economic hardship and stress are related to maternal psychological well-being, parenting behaviors and child psychological outcomes.
Professor Christopher Goodman is working with colleagues from other universities on a project about the intergovernmental-relations aspects of emergencies and pandemics. They are examining what local governments are doing to cope with the pandemic and how some states are preventing local governments from enacting stricter measures.
Distinguished Engagement Professor Kurt Thurmaier, public administration chair, is working with colleagues from other universities to follow how local governments respond to the COVID-19 Recession. The working assumption is that local governments with a culture of strategic planning, strategic-fund balances and a high degree of budgeting engagement and transparency will protect their priorities instead of cutting everything across the board by an equal amount. Thurmaier advocates core principles for cutback budgeting based on past research from previous recessions.
Professor Alicia Schatteman, director of the NIU Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies, is researching the effect of the pandemic on nonprofit organizations and recently completed a report for northern counties in Illinois. She plans to continue her research by interviewing nonprofit leaders about how their organizations are adapting to increases in demand for services, decreases in revenue, and the mental and health conditions of staff and volunteers.
Sociology and Nursing
Professors Carol Walther (sociology) and Kari Hickey (nursing) are overseeing a research team that will investigate the mental, physical and emotional health of treatment-court participants during the pandemic, when face-to-face programming is not an option. Treatment-courts interventions assist people living with substance-use or mental-health disorders. Members of the research team include Jack King, graduate students Carly Beasley and Hunter Lyane and undergraduates Victoria Andrzejewski and Jennifer Gijada.
Speech Language Pathology
Professor Janet Olson is planning to conduct a study of patient or caregiver perceptions of tele-practice in place of face-to-face speech-language therapy during the shelter-in-place order.
Media Contact: Tom Parisi
Northern Illinois University is a student-centered, nationally recognized public research university, with expertise that benefits its region and spans the globe in a wide variety of fields, including the sciences, humanities, arts, business, engineering, education, health and law. Through its main campus in DeKalb, Illinois, and education centers for students and working professionals in Chicago, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, NIU offers more than 100 areas of study while serving a diverse and international student body.