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Coronavirus Opportunity Grants

Seyed Allameh wearing a mask with a nose strip.

Development of a Fogless Mask

Faculty: Seyed Allameh, Physics, Geology & Engineering Technology
Student: Alexander Stephens

With the onset of Pandemic in 2020 wearing masks became necessary as an effective way to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Current masks allow the escape of moisture from the edges causing the formation of fog on glasses. To effectively seal the top part of the coverings, it was postulated that a nose strip, worn on top of the mask, would be able to exert a small pressure on the top of the mask, effectively sealing it to the face on the nose and cheeks. To make this practical, the plan was for people to use their phones, along with a free app to scan their faces, then use a free program to extract a strip of the scanned model, and send it to a local library to print it in 3D. Attaching a strap to the 3D printed strip would allow it be to worn on top of a mask making it fogless. 

Along with this, a scanner was ordered to teach the procedure in classes and establish a pathway to custom manufacturing. Students would scan their faces, process the 3D models, create custom wearables, and fabricate them by 3D printing.


Students in recreation room spread out for social distancing.

Reducing Racism and Pandemic Stress with African Communal Dance: A Collaborative Pilot Project Combining the Power of Art & Neuroscience

Faculty: Tracy Bonner, Jeaunita Olówè and Christine Curran
Students: Kelsey Donahue and Caitlyn Scherpenberg

The United States is a facing a dual epidemic of racism and COVID-19, resulting in widespread stress and social inequities. This project was designed to use the power of African communal dancing to increase resiliency among NKU students while fostering inclusion by demonstrating the value of ethnic differences and African cultures. This project combined the expertise of faculty in Dance (Jeaunita Olówè and Tracey Bonner) and Neuroscience (Chris Curran) and involved two undergraduate researchers (Kelsey Donahue and Caitlyn Scherpenberg). Donahue is a Biology major, Dance minor, and TA for DAN 428 African Dance Forms. Caitlyn Scherpenberg is a Neuroscience major who is using the pilot data from Fall 2020 to design and implement her Honors Thesis Project in 2021-2022.

We tested two parallel hypotheses:

  1. DAN 428 will reduce levels of stress and anxiety and improve measures of resiliency.
  2. DAN 428 will improve perceptions of African culture and reduce measures of implicit and expicit bias.

Although COVID-19 restrictions limited live class sessions, all major project goals were accomplished. More intensive research is underway in the Spring Semester 2021 version of class.


COVID-19 Grant in Human-Computer Interaction

Faculty: Nicholas Caporusso

The grant supported a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience realized in the context of the Human-Computer Interaction class. The activity involved 12 students who proposed novel ideas for solutions that help adhere to social distancing, cope with COVID-19 constraints, and improve public health. During the semester, students designed, prototyped, and analyzed the usability and impact of hardware and software products that help overcome or live with constraints caused by pandemics and public health emergencies. 

The COVID-19 outbreak quickly escalated into a global pandemic that impacted humanity with tragic consequences, unimaginable just one year ago. Simultaneously, it has highlighted the need for solutions that help overcome current crises and future challenges, together. 

As the world becomes more connected and technologically advanced, nations will need to collaborate on defining preventive and reactive strategies that take human factors into consideration. In this context, students should be given the opportunity to play a role in designing a better future and in shaping tools that will improve the world. The grant enabled our students to use their creativity and critical thinking for envisioning novel solutions based on real-world needs. By realizing tangible Human-Computer Interaction research, they were able to connect the dots along the path from idea to market. Also, by receiving feedback about their projects from end users, they have become more aware about the multifaceted challenges of product development and about their potential as creative problem solvers.


Mitigating the Risks of Psyber-Security Attacks (PSA) Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic

Faculty: Ankur Chattopadhyay

Existing literature shows that cyber-psychological issues among online users are on the rise, with mental health being the new cybersecurity attack surface, and COVID related misinformation, disinformation, and “fake news” being the corresponding attack vector amidst the ongoing pandemic. The threat of an online user being a victim to this is so significant that the World Health Organization called this a COVID ‘infodemic’. Psychological experts have termed this as a form of COVID psyber-security attack (COVID-PSA). Recently, there has been a few research and development (R&D) initiatives to address this current threat landscape of the COVID ‘infodemic’. However, this research area is still a new, emerging one with a lot of prospective scope of work. In this novel R&D project, we have attempted to address this COVIDPSA threat by implementing a data analytics driven knowledge recommender, which is meant to be an adviser for online users in regard to the credibility of online COVID information. We have been able to design and develop a unique web extension as this knowledge recommender’s proof-of concept prototype. It can be plugged into a web browser as an add-on, and can indicate the credibility of the COVID data on a website and uses advanced natural language processing techniques to parse the online textual information that tool includes a textual data classifier, which is trained on COVID infodemic benchmark datasets, online users visit. Our COVID infodemic adviser from websites. In the process, we have also been able to generate a collection of information insights from a collection of COVID websites, based upon existing benchmark datasets. We see our COVID infodemic adviser tool as a timely technological intervention for providing valuable insights on trustworthiness of COVID websites and for safeguarding online users against potential COVID-PSA.


Communicating as a Kinship Caregiver During COVID-19

Faculty: Whittney Darnell, Crystal Daugherty, and Lisa Anglin
Student: Marianna Mills, Natalie Eller, and Madie Berter

This study is inspired by the startling reality that Kentucky leads the nation with an estimated 9 percent, or roughly 96,000 children who are currently being raised by a grandparent or relative, compared to a 4 percent national average. Covid-19, financial insecurity, and the steady rise of mental health concerns and conditions reported across the state have likely further complicated the communication work of Kentucky’s Kinship caregivers. 

The primary aim of this study was to capture the real and raw, lived experiences of Kinship caregivers and to ask questions about the health decisions they make for themselves and the children they care for. A secondary aim of this study was to understand the unique risks and experiences of Kinship caregivers during Covid-19. Recruitment for this project is ongoing. 18 interviews have been conducted so far, with a target of roughly 40+ interviews to be completed by the end of February.


Student-Driven COVID-19 Health Campaign

Faculty: Crystal D. Daugherty
Student: Natalie Eller

At the beginning of fall 2020, the New York Times reported over 26,000 Covid-19 cases across college campuses. By November, according to Best Colleges, that number was over 320,000 cases. Most recently, as we prepared to enter the spring semester, a Stanford study showed that colleges and universities were not just super spreaders but drastically increased the Covid cases in the areas surrounding them. We were motivated by the many stories of super spreader events linked to colleges and universities and wanted to explore students’ health beliefs about COVID-19. This study aimed to evaluate student health literacy and health behaviors related to Covid-19. Using a Qualtrics survey, we were able to reach 355 college students. Following the survey, we were able to complete 16 in-depth interviews with students.


Developing a Psychoeducational Resource Best Practice Guide for Black Students at NKU

Faculty: Nicole Dillard and Kobena Osam

Anxieties of returning to a predominantly white institution (PWI) during two public health pandemics (racism and COVID-19) is a unique experience that coupled with increased financial pressures, and incessant media coverage of Black deaths, has significant mental health implications for Black students at NKU. Accordingly, the purpose of this project was to develop support towards fostering healthy learning environments for Black students at NKU impacted by the two public health pandemics. Specifically, this project examined Level 1 of the NKU’s Levels of Care Model with a culturally-specific lens towards Black students in response to the pandemics. The processes involved in the project included the following:

  • Benchmarking and Assessment of NKU Psychoeducation Resources
  • Focus Group with NKU Black Students
  • MPA Student Engagement

Through the course of this project we adopted the organization theory approach of performance improvement. Performance improvement is a systematic approach to improving productivity and competency based on the assessment of current state and desired state of performance with the view of identifying and closing the gap between the two states (Dessinger et al., 2012; Osam & Nold, 2020). In our adoption of this approach, we used benchmark assessments to analyze current and desired levels of mental wellbeing resources/support for Black Students at NKU, and identified the gap between them. Finally, we conducted focus group sessions with Black students to generate shared solutions resulting in a best practice guide for NKU to help close the gap between the current and desired levels of mental wellbeing resources and support for Black students.


Student Perceptions of Online Learning Experiences Associated with COVID-19

Faculty: Rebecca Elkin and Rhyanne McDade
Students: McKenzie Collins and Megan King

An electronic, university wide, student survey was sent out to all Northern Kentucky (NKU) students over a period of five weeks during fall 2020 semester. The current NKU student population was approximately 16,212 students. Utilizing the Qualtrics Sample Size Calculator, it was determined that a sample size of 376 student surveys should yield a  representative student sample, with a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error. To increase likelihood of student participation and completion of the survey, a total of 15 students were randomly selected to receive a $20 gift card. Descriptive and inferential statistics were utilized for data analysis. Preliminary data analysis was completed Excel.

During Spring 2020, students were forced to transition to online learning at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). Following the transition, students were allotted the opportunity to participate in an online survey, “Student Perception of Online Learning Experiences associated with COVID-19” to assess overall course experiences.  Approximately 11% (1,707) of all NKU students attempted to complete the survey during the Fall 2020 Semester.  Due to exclusion criteria, students under the age of 18 were removed from the study, as well as students not taking courses during the Spring 2020 semester.  The final number of eligible students completing the survey was 1,186 (7%). It should also be noted that the survey sample was representative of the NKU student population.  

Additional analysis is needed to better understand student perceptions of online learning experiences. Based upon preliminary analysis, we see the salience in examining perceptions based upon level in school, program type, and demographic information. Furthermore, student’s expressed an organizational need to develop standardized information, such as tutorials, in which CITE administrators provide information on best practices for navigation of online courses within the Canvas platform. Moreover, qualitative data will provide a more in depth look into student perceptions of their online learning experiences. Lastly, more research is needed to assess the skills required to thrive socially and emotionally when learning within an online environment. 


Increasing Student Capacity to Respond to COVID-19 Pandemic

Faculty: Joan Ferrante, Ada Cenkci, Linda Dynan, Yaw A. Frimpong-Mansoh, Lynnissa Hillman, and Robert K. Wallace

This report documents the experiences of 130 NKU students enrolled in six courses who read How to Respond in a Pandemic: 25 Ideas From 25 Disciplines of Study (SAGE Publishing). This collection of brief idea papers was written by NKU faculty and associates from 25 different academic fields of study. The goal is to increase student capacities to make constructive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that protect personal and community health and well-being. 

After reading the book, the 130 students wrote a three-to-four-page reflection paper in which they considered how COVID-19 has affected their physical and mental well-being, their responses to the pandemic (before reading the book), and how they might incorporate discipline responses into their own repertoire of responses. They also reflected on whether reading the book helped to increase their capacity to respond constructively. The 130 students who read the book are in various stages of their academic careers, from high school students taking dual credit courses to senior level college students.


COVID-19 and Suicide Prevention Training Program

Faculty: Suk-hee Kim
Student: Alexander Stephens

Currently, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in our nation. The current national COVID-19 crisis will certainly contribute to the number of Americans needing urgent care to address mental health needs, including suicidality. Also, Americans across the country will struggle with increases in depression, anxiety, trauma, isolation, loss of employment, financial instability and other challenges, which can lead to suicide and suicide attempts. The purpose of this project was to support Bracken County, Kentucky during the COVID-19 pandemic in advancing efforts to prevent suicide and suicide attempts among adults age 18 and older and increase the overall suicide awareness and reduce suicidal behaviors by providing innovative, practical and suicide prevention online training to improve public health during the COVID-19 pandemic in Bracken County, Kentucky.

The project provided (1) virtual pre-suicide survey; (2) a virtual suicide prevention training for gatekeepers in Bracken County, Kentucky; (3) suicide prevention materials; and (4) suicide prevention website and social media distribution. 


Using Iterative Systematic Literature Reviews Methodology to Develop Undergraduate Research Experiences in Cybersecurity Education

Faculty: Awad Mussa
Students: McKenzie Collins and Megan King

The goal of this project was to develop key research skills using an iterative systematic literature review methodology. Students were first introduced to the iterative systematic literature and how to read scientific papers using online resources and digital activities. Using collaborative tools, two undergraduate students taking the Cybersecurity Fundamentals course formulated research questions, conducted a search, assessed study quality, extracted data, analyzed/summarized and synthesized studies, and interpret results on user’s susceptibility factors to malware attacks during COVID-19 pandemic.


Students in recreation room spread out for social distancing.

Infectious Language: A Podcast for the Pandemic

Faculty: Tamara F. O’Callaghan

The Infectious Language: A Podcast is a student-driven community outreach project that addresses how the narratives we tell and the language we use to express the COVID-19 experience shape our perspective and understanding of the humanity of pandemics, both globally and historically. Over the 2020 fall semester, undergraduate students in ENG 382 - History of the English Language and HNR 230 - The Humanities & Science: The Ties that Bind worked collaboratively to write scripts for twelve episodes of a podcast series exploring the impact that the vocabulary used (and misused) to describe COVID-19 and the stories told to disseminate COVID-19 has on the public’s interpretation of and reaction to the pandemic experience.

The episode scripts cover a broad range of topics. Students in HNR 230 explored the history of vaccines and how they work, the development of the public health system in the US, the radical revision to teaching students during the tuberculosis epidemic of the early 20th century, the impact of COVID-19 on the performing arts, the opposing approaches of Sweden and New Zealand to handling the current pandemic, the lessons that the Spanish Flu could teach us, and even what the hoarding of toilet paper reveals about us as a society. Students in ENG 381 investigated how COVID-19 has impacted (and continues to impact) our vocabulary, tracing the origins and development of such increasingly popular words as “pandemic,” “quarantine,” “lockdown,” “curbside pick-up,” “maskne” (acne from wearing facemasks), “zoom,” and “hydroxychloroquine.” The students also demonstrated how the popularity of English vocabulary related to COVID-19 is influencing other languages, such as German, as well as how offensive geographic-based eponyms, such as “Chinese disease” and “Kung Flu” for COVID-19, have been used for diseases throughout history in order to marginalize people of other cultures.

Production will take place over summer 2021 and continue into early fall for students who are not back on campus until then. The podcast series website has already been fully designed. An art major in ENG 382 created a logo for the podcast series website. Two students in HNR 230 drafted the website for the project and found music to use as the theme music for the series. By the end of the summer, the podcast website will be formally launched, and recordings of the initial episodes made available. This project is an ongoing one. In the 2021 fall semester, students in ENG 281: Introduction to Linguistics will continue working on the podcast series, updating the website and revising scripts as needed as well as contributing and recording new episodes.


Leadership During COVID-19

Faculty: Shauna Reilly
Student: Faith Howard and Andrew Cox

Our project examined the impact of leadership on the policies and outcomes regarding the pandemic. We sought to look beyond the red and blue state response and look specifically at leadership. We expected that characteristics of leaders would make them more or less successful in combatting the virus – and soliciting support from their public to enact these policies. We expected that female leaders and those who were elected by a small margin would be less successful than their counterparts would. We examined state leadership (house, senate and gubernatorial characteristics as well as the chief medical officer for the state), state policies and COVID-19 numbers in each state – while controlling for various state population characteristics (ex. number of hospitals, nursing homes, demographics, obesity rates). Overall, wedid not find support for our hypotheses that gender, race and ideology of leadership had any effect on the spread of COVID-19 within the states. We ran the numbers at two different instances this fall as the COVID-19 numbers continued to change. We continue to evaluate as these numbers shift. We were also able to look at the differences before and after a leadership change in the Chief Health Officer and found no discernable differences in the spread of COVID-19. While we knew there were ongoing issues affecting COVID-19, the lack of support for our leader specific variables was surprising. Given the impact that COVID-19 had on the 2020 election and the impact that leadership was seen to have had on the spread of COVID-19, we hope to be able to study this in the upcoming 2021 and 2022 gubernatorial elections to see if COVID-19 issues were a determining factor on vote choice.


Everyday Mindfulness During A Pandemic

Faculty: Mark Wasicsko and Paul Wirtz 
Student: Marianna Mills, Natalie Eller, and Madie Berter

The COVID-19 pandemic impacts every aspect of our lives, causing dramatic increases in stress that impact our mental and physical well-being. Our collaborative project with students in EDU 522, The Mindful Helping Professional, developed and pilot tested an open, online mindfulness workshop/course accessible to students, staff, faculty, and NKU alumni.

The major outcome of our project was to launch an easily accessible and usable online workshop that increases participants’ mindfulness during the pandemic. An increase in mindfulness has the benefits of reducing stress and increasing a sense of well-being. Pre- and post-workshop surveys will gauge the success of the endeavor. Students benefited by participating in the design and implementation of a public service workshop/course.

As of this writing, almost 200 people have participated in the pilot course. The ongoing team is analyzing the pre-survey results and preparing a follow-up survey to solicit feedback to modify the pilot course and roll it out to the NKU and broader communities. The preliminary feedback is that the course has been helpful to participants in developing everyday mindfulness practices.



Faculty: Mahdi Yazdanpour

Wearing masks for people with chronic respiratory diseases or people who are deaf or hearing impaired can be very challenging. These people may need to use face shields as a replacement for masks, but these shields cannot provide adequate protection according to the CDC guidelines. In this project, we designed and developed a Self-Sanitizing Face-Shield by taking advantage of the Ultraviolet (UV) radiation as a disinfectant to kill bacteria and viruses. The face shield frame were designed by a student of EGT 301, Alexander Stephens, using 3D Builder and MeshLab. All components were printed using a 3D printer. A row of UV LEDs is used to sterilize the visor’s surface in two different modes. An Arduino Nano microcontroller powered by a rechargeable battery is deployed to control the UV radiation. This tiny microcontroller is programmed to turn-on the LEDs every 10 minutes with a dwell time of 5 seconds. This is postulated to sterilize Coronavirus that may land on the surface of the face shield in interactions with others. A microswitch is also added, which enables users to manually activate the UV radiation alongside this smart auto power-on/shut-off feature.


2018 Faculty Fellows

Students in front of Marianne Theater in Bellevue

Christine Perdan Curran, Biological Sciences

Collaborative Analysis Framework to Enhance Community Engagement in Chemical Risk Assessment Decision-Making for Contaminated Site Development

Outcomes from the project included development of a database of brownfield sites in EPA Region IV with detailed descriptions of sites appropriate for redevelopment in Kenton, Boone, Campbell and Pendleton Counties of Northern Kentucky.  The project also produced a final assessment, including review of Phase I and Phase II brownfield reports for the selected pilot project location (the historic Marianne Theater in Bellevue, KY).

Students practicing yoga

Corrie Danieley, Theatre

Yoga and Meditation for Actors: Helping Manage Performance Anxiety and Stress

Completed two teacher training courses and is now recognized by Yoga Alliance as a Yoga Instructor 200 hr and Meditation Instructor 100 hr. Corrie has weaved in breathing, yoga, and meditation into her core classes and has shared her knowledge as a guest teacher.

M. Mark Wasicsko, Education

Incorporation of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in the NKU Fundamentals of Mindfulness Micro Credential

The knowledge and experienced gain from the first MBSR course and retreats have been incorporated into the redesigned NKU courses: The Mindful Helping Professional and The Mindful Leader. The latter course will be offered for the second time in the Spring of 2020. To date, almost 500 NKU and community learners have taken these courses and the feedback has been universally positive.