COVID-19 Research and News

The link between weather and COVID-19 is complicated. Weather influences the environment in which the coronavirus must survive before infecting a new host. But it also influences human behavior, which moves the virus from one host to another. Research led by The University of Texas at Austin is adding some clarity on weather’s role in COVID-19 infection, with a new study finding that temperature and humidity do not play a significant role in coronavirus spread.

person wearing mask cleaning bathroom

In the pre-pandemic world, peak water usage times were fairly predictable. Office buildings, manufacturing facilities and other commercial uses were busy during the day but quiet on weekends. Residential areas saw peaks in the early morning and evening.

According to the Water Research Foundation, the average person mindlessly flushes the toilet about five times a day, sending wastewater down pipes into city sewers and on to treatment plants. It’s easy to forget there’s a whole system running beneath our feet all the time. But that dirty, smelly water could hold something very valuable: the key to tracking COVID-19 hot spots in a city before diagnostic testing is able to identify outbreaks.

An antibody test for the virus that causes COVID-19, developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with Houston Methodist and other institutions, is more accurate and can handle a much larger number of donor samples at lower overall cost than standard antibody tests currently in use. In the near term, the test can be used to accurately identify the best donors for convalescent plasma therapy and measure how well candidate vaccines and other therapies elicit an immune response.

People living in some of the largest U.S. cities and their surrounding areas face the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 in the near future, according to a new set of online dashboards created by researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.

Blood clots have emerged as one of an increasing number of deadly side effects of the novel coronavirus in some patients. Cockrell School of Engineering researchers are embarking on a project to learn more about the onset of thromboembolism, the obstruction of a blood vessel by a clot that can cause everything from strokes to heart attacks to pulmonary embolisms, as a result of COVID-19.

Example of the covid-flu dual test sensor chip up close. The chip is square with a striped pattern on top.

The novel coronavirus has been compared with the flu almost from the moment it emerged in late 2019. They share a variety of symptoms, and in many cases, an influenza test is part of the process for diagnosing COVID-19. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are now developing a new sensor that can tell the difference between the two illnesses and test for both simultaneously. 

orange tinted close-up graphic of a virus

Researchers worldwide are racing to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus as it spreads rapidly, with hundreds of COVID-19 therapies and vaccine projects in progress. A crucial part of that process is understanding how the virus interacts with the human immune system.

gloved hands attaching tube to fluid pack

The country’s first peer-reviewed study of a COVID-19 treatment that transfuses blood plasma from recovered patients into critically ill patients shows 19 out of 25 patients improving, including 11 discharged from the hospital. On March 28, Houston Methodist Hospital became the first academic medical center in the U.S. to transfuse plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients into two critically ill patients. Collaborators at The University of Texas at Austin, including Jason Lavinder, research associate in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering, developed an antibody test and selected recovered patients with the highest levels of antibody response for donation.

illustrated gif of person driving truck, person walking, person working

SARS-CoV-2, and the COVID-19 disease it causes, only emerged late last year, and its rapid spread around the world has experts racing to find ways to forecast its impact. Several researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering are putting together models looking at crucial decisions and information surrounding the virus.

large machine diesel engine inside of a lab

A group of researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are pursuing a plan to do something a lot of us would like to: incinerate the novel coronavirus.

close-up image of four test tubes in a padded box

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has galvanized the engineering and scientific community into an all-hands on deck mentality. And students from the Cockrell School of Engineering and across the university are stepping up to help testing companies in the Austin area.

3-D printed mask on top of a table

We’ve all heard how medical masks are in short supply as health care workers address the COVID-19 pandemic; a motivated group at The University of Texas at Austin is doing something about it…in 3D.

dummy in metal room sitting with spray bottle in hand

The spread of coronavirus has spurred massive efforts to consistently disinfect everything from office buildings to schools to city buses. New cross-discipline research from the Cockrell School of Engineering aims to help minimize exposure to chemical byproducts created during the cleaning process by finding optimal combinations of protective masks and disinfectants.

illustrated diagram of inflow of virus through mask

Soap has emerged as one of the most effective weapons to combat coronavirus – it’s why washing hands thoroughly has become even more important during the pandemic. Texas Engineering researchers are teaming up with a group from the University of Florida to infuse chemicals in soap into face masks, enhancing their ability to protect people from SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 disease it causes.

orange tinted close up of virus

Engineers at The University of Texas at Austin aim to answer two major questions about the novel coronavirus by examining how it operates in changing environments. Sapun Parekh, an assistant professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, is setting up a pair of coronavirus experiments. One tests how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will behave at different temperatures to know if the summer heat may slow the virus; and another looks at the physiological changes in lungs as people age to try and explain the increased vulnerability among elderly populations.

rendering of the Assisted Bag Breathing Unit ventilator device, in burnt orange with Longhorn emblem

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are building a new type of ventilator made of cheap, widely available materials to help fill the demand created by the spread of COVID-19 for these critical devices that help patients breathe.

grid of backlit windows in large building

In WIRED, the Cockrell School’s Bob Hebner, director of the Center for Electromechanics at UT Austin, says that the reduced demand on power as businesses shut down and more people work from home gives the electrical grid and utilities some breathing room.

close-up photo of blue and yellow pipes and valves

Now, more than ever, we understand the challenges many educational institutions across the nation face due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why, in an effort to help mitigate these challenges and reinforce our support to students in Texas and nationwide during this time, The University of Texas at Austin’s Petroleum Extension (PETEX®) will be making all e-learning (e-courses, modules, certificate programs, videos and e-books) available online at no charge to all public high schools and community colleges for the remainder of the Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 semesters.

Photo of a 3D printer beginning to print a mask with black plastic.

Health care workers treating COVID-19 patients are facing a shortage of face masks and other personal protective equipment that could shield them when exposed to the virus. A group of researchers in the Cockrell School’s Texas Inventionworks innovation hub and UT’s Dell Medical School are exploring new ways to tackle that problem by 3D printing components of these masks.

Andrea Thomaz standing next to robot

The contagious nature of COVID-19 puts medical personnel at risk of contracting the virus from the patients they treat. A startup co-founded by University of Texas at Austin engineering professor Andrea Thomaz just landed $10 million in investment to ramp up production of medical robots that could prove a valuable tool in helping doctors and nurses treat patients amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.