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UMSI researchers awarded COVID-19 data science grant to study student mobility patterns

Friday, 06/05/2020

Three University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) researchers are among the recently announced recipients of  COVID-19 data science grants from the Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS).

Research fellow Quan Nguyen, assistant professor Christopher Brooks and assistant professor Daniel Romero will receive funding for “Students’ mobility patterns on campus and the implications for the recovery of campus activities post-pandemic.” 

The project looks at how people move around campus to identify high-risk locations and student groups that could have a greater chance of exposure to COVID-19. 

University campuses are ideal settings for pathogenic transmission since students are frequently in close contact with each other - for example,  living in dorms, attending the same classes and using the same facilities,” explains Nguyen. “Students are presumably in close proximity when they are connected to the same WiFi access point.” 

Using these data in a de-identified format, the team can pinpoint the time, place, and duration of when people cross paths on campus.

“We hope our findings can assist the planning of campus operations at the University of Michigan and provide a replicable approach for other institutions,” says Nguyen. 

Professor Tim McKay and research specialist Ben Koester from the School of Literature, Science, and the Arts are co-investigators in this project.

The UMSI research team was one of seven interdisciplinary teams, chosen from 49 submissions, to receive funding support for COVID-19 research.  With data science methods at the core, these teams combat the pandemic in varied and creative ways, including better clinical decisions for in-patients, strategies to improve testing, data-driven guidance for social distancing and reopening, detection of high-risk communities; and addressing inequality in healthcare and in the society’s recovery.  

Each of the seven teams will receive funding of up to $30,000, and the projects will start right away and finish by the end of 2020.  This round of funding is part of the MIDAS Propelling Original Data Science (PODS) pilot funding program. 

- Jessica Webster, UMSI PR Specialist