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Aalto assists in handling the coronavirus crisis

The diverse skills and knowledge at Aalto University have been needed during the coronavirus pandemic. Many significant research and development projects are underway in the search for solutions.
Mies- ja naistutkija istuvat työpöydän ääressä maskit kasvoilla ja suojakäsineet kädessä.

Aalto’s first research projects to tackle the effects of the pandemic were launched around the start of the crisis in March 2020. Assistant Professor Ville Vuorinen, an expert in fluid dynamics, rolled up his sleeves and on a tight schedule brought together a consortium of four research organisations that set out to study how the novel coronavirus spreads through the air. Vuorinen’s research group is now developing open-source software to enable faster modelling of the movement of airborne particles among large numbers of people and in public spaces.

‘People at Aalto have a clear desire to help and to search for solutions – even to problems that are difficult to solve,’ says Ossi Naukkarinen, Aalto University’s Vice President for Research. ‘A rapid response to the coronavirus situation was also made possible by the Aalto Health Platform network for well-being research. It’s run by Markus Mäkelä, who quickly helped groups of experts find each other and develop ideas for new projects.’

Towards the end of 2020, a joint Nordic project was launched in which the coronavirus situation and future epidemics are being modelled more extensively than before. In addition to studying the spread of communicable diseases, data and models can be used to compare different kinds of vaccination strategies. The project includes Aalto experts in stochastics, network science and computational physics.

Joint research by Aalto University and the Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) is being conducted to determine whether electroencephalography (EEG) can be used to predict serious breathing difficulties in coronavirus patients. A two-year project that began in January 2021 utilises machine learning in the identification of high-risk patients.

Close-knit and continuous interaction between fundamental and applied research lie behind Aalto’s coronavirus research.

Ossi Naukkarinen, Aalto University’s Vice President for Research

The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic requires detailed situational awareness and rapid analysis from political decision-makers and civil servants. The Helsinki Graduate School of Economics (Helsinki GSE) – formed by Aalto University, the Hanken School of Economics and the University of Helsinki – set up an economic situation room as soon as the crisis broke out. Its purpose is to produce information that supports economic decision-making. The situation room is managed by Helsinki GSE Academic Director and Aalto University Professor, Otto Toivanen.

Many other research projects related to the coronavirus pandemic are underway at Aalto University. For example, expertise in architecture is helping in situational planning and in managing the safe use of facilities. Other new projects are constantly being launched. ‘Close-knit and continuous interaction between fundamental and applied research lie behind Aalto’s coronavirus research. Both are needed amid the crisis as well,’ says Naukkarinen.

Text: Marjukka Puolakka

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