Hope for a virus-weary world
If anything good comes from this crisis, the first experience with a global pandemic for any of us, it may be a newfound respect for science.
The learned experts were too often ignored early in the outbreak. But soon, every politician had one standing by his or her side. That’s who the public wants to hear from now. A doctor. A scientist. A straight-talking specialist.
I thought of that as Case’s researchers and innovators, many of them immersed in their own research, dropped everything to target the coronavirus. At the urging of the dean, Case staff and faculty went into “emergency mode,” focusing their world-class skills and research teams on the global crisis.
News of their nascent innovations and hopeful projects aroused the interest of a virus-weary public. Professors Yanfang Ye and Ken Loparo practically became media stars in Greater Cleveland after they introduced an online tool that helps people map the coronavirus danger around them. Seemingly every TV and radio station in the area sought to interview them about their Alpha Satellite, and some national outlets as well.
Why? There was no shortage of coronavirus news to report. But the thought of data scientists and engineers working on solutions gave people something new, hope — a blessing we had not felt enough of. Everyone realizes now that COVID-19 will not be vanquished by money or might or bravado — but by science. And they have not heard the last from the Case School of Engineering.
Professor Anant Madabhushi, one of the world’s leading innovators in medical imaging, has trained his super computers on the disease. Professor Jing Li asked the National Science Foundation for a rapid response to his proposal to apply data science to decoding the transmission of the virus. But he’s not waiting for the grant. He’s told his graduate students to get cracking.
When we finally win this war, I think all of us are going to look more deferentially toward the people who don’t deny problems, but address them and seek solutions: Scientists and engineers.
Robert L. Smith