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2020 COVID-19 Seed Grant Winners

HSRI is pleased to announce the four awardees of our 2020 COVID-19 seed grant winners. This opportunity was developed in response to the mulit-faceted threats of the novel coronavirus. Final selections prioritized collaborative projects, with the ability to rapidly disseminate findings to the scientific community and beyond.  From HSRI Director Deb Wiebe: “These COVID-19 seed grants are exciting. Each project addresses a central scientific question that has fairly direct implications for promoting health and health equity on campus and in our surrounding communities. Seed grant programs are crucial for early stage research, allowing investigators to obtain preliminary data and establish records of collaboration to support larger scale research projects and grants.”


 Funded Projects

Health and economic impact of COVID-19 policy responses on Latino

immigrants in rural California: CLIMA Study Second Wave

This research team includes Assistant Professors Maria-Elena de Trinidad Young, Sidra Goldman Mellor and Denise Payan. Drawing on expertise in policy, immigrant health, and mental health, this team aims to explore how policy responses to COVID-19 have affected the physical and mental health and economic precarity of Latino immigrant families in rural and agricultural regions. The qualitative findings will inform a survey instrument that can be used to assess policy impacts on the well-being of Latino immigrants in rural communities.



Mathematical Modeling to Mitigate the Spread of COV19 Dynamics on College Campuses

Associate Professor Suzanne Sindi will lead a team including Assistant Professor Shilpa Katri, Assistant Professor Erica Rutter, and Medical Education Director Thelma Hurd. This project aims to generalize their current mathematical models of the spread of COVID-19 to depict more realistic conditions on campus (e.g., student spread based on undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff), and to assimilate real-time data to advise UC Merced campus administrators on the evolving spread of COVID-19 on campus.



Wastewater surveillance of SARS-COV-2 to estimate caseload on campus at UC


Assistant Professor Mark Sistrom will collaborate with School of Engineering Dean Mark Matsumoto and Associate Professors Marc Buetel and J. Michael Beman to estimate and track COVID-19 cases on the UC Merced campus by evaluating SARS-COV-2 RNA concentrations in wastewater effluent leaving campus for the Merced city wastewater treatment plant. This approach has proven highly effective elsewhere, and has the potential to provide early warning of SARS-COV-2 infection before this is revealed by direct testing.



COVID-19-related health and safety communications reaching Spanish-speaking

audiences in California: Analysis of metaphor in TV news and cultural translations

Assistant Professor Dalia Magana will join McClatchy Chair in Communications and Professor Teenie Matlock to explore how COVID-19 related health information is conveyed to Spanish- versus English-speaking audiences in local TV news. Their innovative linguistic approach to understand thecultural constructions of COVID-19 media information is an important step towards addressing language and cultural barriers that exacerbate group disparities.