Research and development into new products and processes can help organizations become more efficient and better serve clients and customers by providing additional or improved resources. In the event of a pandemic, technology can also be crucial in the effort to minimize the spread of illness and keep the community healthy. UT stands at the forefront of technology development, using innovation and ingenuity to respond to a rapidly-changing landscape of needs and demands.
Mobile Radiotherapy Treatment Sparks Hope During COVID-19 Crisis
Radiation oncologist Mohammad Khan, who earned his doctoral degree in nuclear engineering at UT in 2002, developed a bedside radiotherapy treatment for COVID-19 patients. Khan, who is now an associate professor at Emory University’s School of Medicine, came across a summary of bacterial pneumonia being treated with radiation in the 1920s and 30s. Reaching out to his alma mater for help, he partnered with Nuclear Engineering Department Head Wes Hines, Associate Professor Eric Lukosi, John D. Tickle Professor Lawrence Heilbronn, and researchers at ORNL to develop a way to treat people in their homes or hospital rooms.
A mobile radiotherapy device could not only change the statistics of a global pandemic, but it could potentially help any high-risk patient suffering from advanced stages of pneumonia and could be useful for other purposes in the future.
Disease-Resistant Buildings and Infrastructure for Resilience to COVID-19
With indoor transmission being the primary route for the rapid spread of COVID-19, fears about contagion and shutdowns are well justified; yet, the tolls on our communities are more than astonishing. Professor Qiang He and Assistant Professor Shuai Li, both in the Tickle College of Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, have paired their expertise in environmental microbiology and infrastructure engineering to pursue a unique and novel strategy—disease-resistant buildings resilient to pathogen transmission.
Researchers Receive One UT Grant to Study Pathogenic Transmission in Buildings
He and Li also received a One UT grant to create and test new sensing, computational, and mechanistic tools to characterize the complex interrelationships between human behaviors and fomites, which are inanimate objects that become colonized with microbes.
Robotic Technology May Play a Key Role in Helping Combat COVID-19
He and Li partnered with Jindong Tan, professor of mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering to develop an alternative means of disinfection and cleaning built environments, especially during the threat of a pandemic. The team has developed an intelligent decontamination assistive robot (I-DEAR) to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. I-DEAR has already been tested in indoor environments and is currently in the second phase of research and development.
New App for Burn Patients Provides Support for Overburdened Medical Centers
Treating patients with COVID-19 is taxing the U.S. healthcare system, which often is experiencing a limited number of hospital beds for patients. A new app, created by professors from the UT College of Social Work; Tickle College of Engineering; College of Nursing; College of Education, Health and Human Sciences; and College of Architecture and Design in collaboration with the Firefighters Burn Center, will result in more available beds to meet the increasing need. By using the Bridge Mobile App for Burn Patients, newly discharged burn patients receive recovery guidance at home, thus relieving overburdened medical facilities while protecting burn patients from exposure to COVID-19.
Nursing Professor’s New App Gives Patients a Voice
Rebecca Koszalinski, assistant professor of nursing, developed SFM-V (previously named Speak for Myself) for end-users who have disabilities, such as cerebral palsy or spina bifida. The app allows users to easily communicate with their providers in acute-care settings by indicating their pain level, specific needs, and advanced care planning preferences. In response to COVID-19 and hospital visitor restrictions, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation launched SFM-V in April in Google and Apple stores for free to benefit all patients who need communication assistance.
Though the app wasn’t developed with a pandemic in mind, Koszalinksi believes its technology can support individuals indirectly or directly affected by the pandemic.