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NSF RAPID grant supports engineering research on pandemic for better future solutions

During real-time crises, real-time research helps inform responses to ongoing issues while preparing society for future crises.

Faculty members in the College of Engineering are principal investigators (PIs) or co-PIs on three Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grants awarded in 2020 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) focused on hospital surges, vaccine distribution and the well-being of college students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Ali Hajbabaie

CCEE assistant professor Dr. Ali Hajbabaie has been working with Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering’s Julie Swann, department head and A. Doug Allison Distinguished Professor, and Leila Hajibabai, assistant professor, on the grant “Collection and Archiving of Vital Data on COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution” since last year to collect and eventually distribute data regarding vaccine distribution and administration to help health systems plan effective responses to future emergent events and other large-scale disasters.

Student researchers include Kuangying Li, an operations research Ph.D. candidate; Asya Atik, a civil engineering Ph.D. candidate; and Dayang Zheng, a senior industrial engineering and computer programming dual major.

This data — which includes vaccine allocation, distribution, shipment, inventory and administration — is being organized in an online vaccination portal that analyzes trends influencing public health efforts across different communities in different states. Researchers are observing performance factors such as the rate of vaccine spoilage and access related to gender or race and ethnicity.

Researchers first collected data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, then from 14 state public health departments across the nation, with 10 additional states being targeted for future data collection. The grant ends in May.

“Vaccine distribution priorities and policies at each state can influence the efficiency of the vaccine distribution infrastructure,” Hajbabaie said.


This story was first published by NC State’s College of Engineering.