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Aalto's expertise in use to help the corona crisis - several research and development projects quickly launched

The members of the Aalto community have been launching research and development projects related to the corona situation at a rapid pace since March.
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Photo: Mikko Raskinen

The pandemic caused by the coronavirus has posed a huge challenge to societies around the world. The members of the Aalto community have been launching research and development projects related to the corona situation at a rapid pace since March.

‘This shows the eagerness to contribute in our community. As a university, we strive to support projects related to the corona crisis as well as possible. This way, we can effectively coordinate our assistance to the authorities’, says President Ilkka Niemelä.

Via the internal Aalto helps page, which opened in March, Aalto community members can suggest their ideas on how to help with the corona crisis, and the aim is to move them forward as quickly as possible. So far, the community has suggested over 50 ideas. 

‘The ideas that have already been submitted represent a wide range of fields: epidemiological modeling, support for economic policy-making, mobile apps, drug development, design research, and innovative ways of sanitation’, says Markus Mäkelä, Head of the Aalto Health Platform. He coordinates the corona-related initiatives together with Aalto’s management.

This wide range of topics is also reflected in the projects that have already started.

Research on the spread of the virus: 3D modeling video viewed almost two million times

In March, Ville Vuorinen, assistant professor and expert in fluid mechanics, began coordinating a consortium of five research organisations to study the aerial transmission of the coronavirus. On April 6, the consortium released a 3D modeling on how the aerosol cloud spreads as a preliminary result of its research. If the person is infected with the corona virus, part of the micrometer-sized aerosols could contain viruses. In the animation, a person coughs in a corridor bounded by shelves under representative indoor ventilation air flow conditions. The consortium is currently working on a research article.

Many researchers and groups in Aalto are investigating the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in the population through statistics and mathematical modeling. The models analyze weeks’ or months’ time scales and geographic areas of different sizes. Some of these projects are already underway and others are about to start. Projects will be announced in more detail as they progress.

Corona-related problems identified by the general public and healthcare professionals 

A team of health researchers at Aalto are gathering information about the general public’s experiences of the ongoing coronavirus crisis to help identify problems that engineers and researchers can provide solutions for.

Everyday findings recorded in an online survey coronaresponse.fi can help researchers find ways to curb the impact of the corona epidemic. The research team is interested in observations about how the crisis has affected the general public, and the changes that they have had to make to their routines and activities, and to the workings of society in general. Members of the Aalto community can also take part in the survey from a general public’s point of view.

This survey is the first part of a special Biodesign mission developed at Stanford University, and which is now applied by Aalto University. The project is led by professors Risto Ilmoniemi and Heikki J. Nieminen.

Aalto Health Platform has produced a questionnaire specifically targeted at healthcare personnel, asking them to identify any problems or needs related to the corona pandemic that Aalto University could help with. Aalto has a long experience of collaboration with the healthcare sector. This project, coordinated by Markus Mäkelä, Executive in Residence, will target the public healthcare institutions in the Uusimaa region and its neighboring areas.

The Aalto Health Platform initiative also collaborates with the Biodesign project. 

Helsinki GSE's Situation Room starts publishing a weekly report on the effects of coronavirus 

The corona pandemic calls for well-informed analysis and rapid decision-making by the policy makers. The Helsinki Graduate School of Economics (Helsinki GSE), which is a joint teaching and research unit in economics of Aalto University, University of Helsinki and Hanken School of Economics, has established a situation room for the corona crisis. The aim is to support ministries and other public authorities in economic policy-making during the coronavirus crisis.

‘Finland is in an extraordinarily good position to make data-based policy decisions since we have an abundance of high-quality registry data available. Taking advantage of this data greatly improves the ability to make any appropriate policy decisions’, says Otto Toivanen, leader of the situation room, and academic director of Helsinki GSE.

The Helsinki GSE situation room aims to provide decision-makers with a close to real-time view on developments in the corporate sector, the labor market, and society in general.

The Situation Room has started to publish a weekly report on the effects of coronavirus. The first report was launched April 15th . Reports are presented each week at an open-access webinar.

Various other corona-related projects are also being developed within Aalto targeting at, for example, the funding calls by Academy of Finland and Business Finland. 

Aalto Communications has published a list of Aalto’s experts that are available for the media to comment on the corona pandemic. 

Aalto University, Health Tech 3D Print, photo Mikko Raskinen

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