From Data Analytics to Models: Developing New Tools to Combat COVID-19 through Computing
Worldometer data suggests that over 1,200 000 people are infected and over 69,000 people have lost their lives due to complications of COVID-19 alone in the United States. Analyzing the COVID-19 data would develop a better understanding of the spread rate and the impacts of response mechanisms on the pandemic.
The Computer Science Department is at the center of this response mechanism. The researchers at the department have come together with our alumni, corporate partners, and colleagues from several other departments across the UMD campus to discover and develop scientific responses to fight the deadly pandemic.
Here are some ongoing key initiatives against COVID-19 that the CS department has undertaken:
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, public and private organizations are deploying surveys to inform responses and policy choices. Survey designs using multiple choice responses are by far the most common -- despite the fact that when you allow people to provide unconstrained spoken or text responses, it is possible to obtain richer, fine-grained information clarifying the other responses, as well as useful bottom up information that the survey designers did not know to ask for. A key problem is that analyzing the unstructured language in open-ended responses is a labor-intensive process, creating obstacles to using them especially when speedy analysis is needed and resources are limited.
Led by Professor Philip Resnik, PhD students Alexander Hoyle and Pranav Goel are working towards developing new computational methods for fast and effective analysis of survey data that includes text responses.The NSF funded project aims to support organizations doing high-impact survey work related to COVID-19 response. This will improve these organizations' ability to understand and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.The project's technical approach builds on recent techniques bringing together deep learning and Bayesian topic models.
In addition to development of new computational analysis techniques, the research efforts include assisting in the analysis of survey data for partner organizations doing COVID-related surveys, conducting independent surveys aligned with their needs to obtain additional relevant data, and the public release of a clean, easy to use computational toolkit facilitating more widespread adoption of these new methods.
The culminating experience for students of software engineering at College Park is a capstone course that challenges them to draw on all their newly-acquired skills in order to solve a real problem in a project of substance. Think of it as finishing school for young technologists before they head off to industry or grad school.
This semester’s capstone activities started like any other. Through the SEAM lab (Software Engineering at Maryland) students under the mentorship of Professor James Purtilo have been collaborating with the community health nonprofit AFFORDABLE in order to improve the lives of vulnerable socioeconomic populations by connecting them with donors of HUGS – “health utilizing grants.” AFFORDABLE’s web portal will host a ‘universal application’ to eliminate application fatigue, so once someone enters basic information, AFFORDABLE will coordinate applications with many likely donor groups. It’s a powerful multi-semester project that crosses many organization boundaries and brings a host of tech challenges – exactly the stuff of a capstone.
2020’s spring semester may have started like any other, but then came the pandemic. “In software we teach ‘change is inevitable’ intending that engineers learn how to design for it, but this change was a doozy,” said Purtilo. “With COVID-19 cases rising and the economy falling, we pivoted. Instead of rolling out all services later this year, we concentrated effort on an early release of basic services.” The team hit its mark by finals week – a remarkable sprint capped by AFFORDABLE delivering its first HUGS to people in need.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, affects lung functionality, and leads to respiratory complications. It may leave long-term pulmonary health consequences. Professor Ashok Agrawala and Assistant Professor Nirupam Roy are developing wearable sensors and analytical systems for continuous lung function monitoring during recovery and rehabilitation. This mobile-health system also targets onset prediction in healthy users and identification asymptomatic carriers through anomalies in breathing patterns.
TogetherCard is Helping Small Businesses Raise Funds through COVID-19 by Facilitating the Purchase of e-Gift Cards
Alums Marcellus Davenport ’18 and Michael Wittner ’19 making a difference during the pandemic by helping small businesses and appreciating frontline workers through TogetherCard. The small-business gift card search engine , is working with businesses to create win-win fundraisers and sharing the businesses' stories.
NewsStand CoronaViz: A Map Query Interface for Spatio-Temporal and Spatio-Textual Monitoring of Disease Spread
Distinguished University Professor Hanan Samet is working towards developing the NewsStand CoronaViz (CoronaViz for short) - a web application based on the NewsStand system, in order to track the progress of the virus over time to be better prepared to anticipate its emergence and spread in new regions as well as its decline. A web application that can run on desktops and mobile devices, allows users to explore the geographic spread in discussions about the virus through analysis of keyword prevalence in geotagged news articles and tweets in relation to the real spread of the virus as measured by confirmed case numbers reported by the appropriate authorities.
This web application provides access to users to dynamic variants of the disease-related variables corresponding to the numbers of confirmed cases, active cases, deaths, and recoveries (where they are provided) via a map query interface.
COVID-19 has made the homebound population more dependent on Internet access for information, education, and business. Closed facilities due to the current pandemic situation have exposed the true depth of the digital divide in low-income urban communities; it has turned into an education divide and left unconnected adults without access to crucial information, support programs, and mobile health solutions. Professor Nirupam Roy has joined forces with UMD’s Smart Cities Initiative and the National Center for Smart Growth to develop alternative infrastructures and network models that can deal with this crisis by providing free access to the Internet.
Professor Aravind Srinivasan is leading a team from UMD in developing transformative and scalable computing & data-science technologies to address fundamental problems in real-time epidemic science. One major goal is the development of a rigorous computational theory of spreading & control processes on dynamic multi-scale, multi-layer (MSML) networks, along with tools from AI, machine learning, and social sciences – together providing novel insights to control epidemics.
The UMD GAMMA team is leading the research of developing novel COVID-19 Prevention Robots (CPR) using mobile robots and commodity sensors to help deal with the challenges arising from COVID-19. A study driven by the recent pandemic focuses towards meeting the challenges of social distancing in dense and crowded settings.
Distinguished University Professor and Founding Director of Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory Ben Shneiderman is working with Research Scientist Catherine Plaisant to develop resources that catalog the numerous interactive data visualizations of the COVID-19 crisis. Their aim is to provide better information for public use and aid in better understanding to the decision makers in producing efficient guidelines in saving lives. Shneiderman’s recent article highlights the valuable role of visualization to inform the public, help hospital managers plan, and guide government policymakers.
The College of Computer, Mathematical & Natural Sciences has several COVID-19 stories highlighted at this site.
The A. James Clark School of Engineering has several COVID-19 projects highlighted at this site.