Three new projects addressing the COVID-19 pandemic have been selected to receive $20,000 through the Innovation[X] Program at Texas A&M University.
The program, which is offered through A&M’s School of Innovation and provides grants for interdisciplinary research teams that address real-world problems, announced 12 projects that would receive funding before spring break. In April, leaders asked for additional applications related specifically to the pandemic. The fall semester marks the second year for the program, and the April call for proposals was the third time the program has accepted applications.
The three new research topics that were selected are effective communication strategies during the pandemic; insecurity and inequality in academia at A&M; and vulnerable populations and community impacts among affordable housing residents, according to a School of Innovation press release.
Associate Dean for the School of Innovation Robert Shandley said the call for COVID-19 related topics drew a greater response than the previous two, with more than 30 people submitting ideas.
“It was on everybody’s mind,” he said. “People from all manner of disciplines were looking at this and knew that there was something in it that they could study and that students could engage with.”
Shandley, one of two staff members who lead Innovation[X], said the additional funds for new projects were made possible by the school’s commitment to prioritizing pandemic-related research
“We’re supposed to be the School of Innovation,” Shandley said. “We are supposed to be responding to real-world issues. There is not a bigger one at the moment, so we needed to make sure that that’s where our budget priority was.”
Chaitanya Lakkimsetti, associate professor of sociology and women’s and gender studies, will look into how and why particular communities respond to social distancing messages, the press release explains, by comparing how leaders relay these messages to communities from two countries.
When describing her research in the press release, Cynthia Werner, director of ADVANCE and anthropology professor, said that some of the insecurities in A&M academia will increase due to the pandemic, so she is looking to study this and recommend improvements to university administrators.
The third project, the release goes on, will be led by associate professor of architecture Xuemei Zhu, who will look at how the pandemic is affecting daily lives and health of people who live in affordable housing in Austin.
Shandley said he hopes that people learn something from each of the projects and that data, policy recommendations and more can be gained from the studies. He said it may be able to help determine what could be improved in a future pandemic.
Research leaders are currently putting together their teams, selecting students who will work with them throughout the year. Shandley said that there were more student applicants this time than usual.
“I am very happy about all 15 of our projects,” he said. “I’m even happier with how enthusiastic students are about being engaged as part of this process.”