Elon, WFU partner on research for modeling of COVID-19 dynamics

Four Elon and three Wake Forest University students had the initial collaboration weekend at Elon's campus to begin a year-long project on mathematical modeling of COVID-19 dynamics.

A mini-grant from from the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics has made it possible for Elon University and Wake Forest University to partner in conducting a year-long research project for 2021-2022 academic year on the dynamics of COVID-19.

This program is co-directed by Elon Assistant Professor of Mathematics Hwayeon Ryu and Assistant Professor of Mathematics John Gemmer from Wake Forest University.

Paige Minsky and Christopher Boyette from Elon University, and Sarah Ruth Nicholls from Wake Forest University discuss their research questions.

The research team consisting of four Elon and three WFU students had the initial, in-person collaboration weekend at Elon’s campus. During this 3-day research retreat, the team worked collaboratively on brainstorming the research questions to be addressed based on their interests and backgrounds, discussing important aspects of collaboration through several group-building activities and planning the year-long work.

The program is designed to not just provide students with an opportunity to conduct a research project on modeling the dynamics of a very timely topic such as COVID-19, but to help them develop the knowledge of mathematical tools they will need to conduct their work. In parallel with the research, both Gemmer and Ryu will also mentor students in the development of their “soft skills” in presenting and writing research. This will be achieved through weekly small-group meetings as well as weekly professional development meetings and seminars on academic topics throughout the academic year.

The whole group participates in the group-building activity.

Finally, as an outreach activity, the research team will co-organize a one-day, free, student-led conference entitled the Integrating Research in Science (IRIS) in Spring 2022 to be held at Wake Forest University. This annual event was first created and has been held at WFU since 2018, except in Spring 2020 due to COVID-19. It is aimed at bringing undergraduate researchers in STEM from regional institutions.

Ryu says she hopes this collaboration activity will provide a foundation for the long-term relationship between Elon and WFU so that the two institutions can take a turn to host the IRIS afterwards.