The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented worldwide crisis. In the United States alone, within a few short weeks, virtually all aspects of people’s lives have changed through broad shelter-in-place orders, massive layoffs and the sudden need to balance work and family responsibilities in new ways – all while many thousands of people worldwide continue to fall ill.
Until recently, nobody had heard of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, and certainly no labs were studying it. But, in just a few short weeks, researchers in disciplines ranging from biology and medicine to engineering and economics have marshaled their resources and expertise to help understand, track, stall and fight a pandemic that is swiftly sweeping the globe and leaving massive societal and economic distress in its wake.
From addressing immediate medical challenges to considering the wider societal, economic and legal implications of the crisis, We are applying its interdisciplinary expertise in the hopes of ensuring an equitable recovery for all people and offering solutions that can be scaled to benefit the world.
Some of COVID-19 projects will have immediate payoffs, like devising tools that will speed the development of a vaccine. Others may not bear fruit for months or years – but they could plant the seeds for a fuller understanding of not only SARS-CoV-2, but the viral agents of future pandemics as well.
While there is no shortage of commitment and a resolve to help among community of scientists, tinkerers and scholars, the challenges associated with a large-scale pivot to studying COVID-19 are daunting. Some of the infrastructure, intended to support collaboration and interdisciplinary thinking, is helping make the pivot easier, but the shift is requiring some groups to abruptly change course or quickly learn new technologies and research methods.
Unable to enter their labs, many researchers are also conducting their work from home – even as they cycle through feelings of anxiety, fear and frustration while simultaneously caring for themselves and their loved ones.