Ten Holy Cross Faculty Members Receive Grants for COVID-Related Research

campus beauty shot . photo by Avanell Chang

The grants will fund research in a wide range of areas, from the impact of COVID-19 on college students’ mental health to pandemic responses in the ancient Roman and Chinese empires

Holy Cross' Committee on Faculty Scholarship, along with the Office of Sponsored Research, has awarded more than $26,000 in research grants to 10 faculty members in a variety of academic disciplines for nine projects designed to explore issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funds, initially earmarked for research-related travel expenses and included in the Committee on Faculty Scholarship's budget for FY21, were reallocated to support these important faculty research projects.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we look at the world, highlighting the crucial role of research," said Stacy Riseman, director of the Office of Sponsored Research. "We hope the grants can assist in moving these important research projects forward, allowing our talented faculty to continue to make a meaningful contribution to the community."

The selected projects involve faculty from a wide range of disciplines exploring a variety of subjects, including responses to pandemics that ravaged the empires of Rome and China from the second to the sixth century C.E., the impact of COVID-19 on college students' mental health and how COVID has affected the finances of athletic departments at colleges and universities in the U.S.

Learn more about each of the projects:

Impact of COVID-19 on College Students' Mental Health

Noah Berman, assistant professor of psychology
The goal of this study is to identify the immediate and long-term effects of COVID-19 on college students' mental health. This is a six-site longitudinal study taking place at Barnard, Bowdoin, Holy Cross, University of Miami, University of Washington and Swarthmore, with Berman as the principal investigator. The study team aims to identify modifiable risk (e.g., emotion differentiation abilities) and resilience (e.g., belongingness) factors that moderate the impact of COVID-19 on students' anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Based upon these findings, Professor Berman hopes to develop individually tailored prevention or intervention programs that promote psychological adjustment.

A Longitudinal Investigation of Students' Day-to-Day Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Alexander Browman, assistant professor of psychology
This study will track the day-to-day academic and psychological experiences of college students during the particularly stressful circumstances of being on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Developmental Function of the Drosophila Voltage-Gated Potassium Channel Seizure

Alexis Hill, assistant professor of biology
Collaborative in-person student laboratory research has been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Professor Hill's project will support experiments designed to be conducted individually by faculty, which would complement ongoing, yet delayed, student experiments. This will hopefully result in joint publication of faculty and student research on the developmental functions of a highly conserved gene that is crucial for proper heart and nervous system function in humans.

Living Through History: The Holy Cross COVID-19 Chronicles

Cynthia Hooper, associate professor of history, and Lorelle Semley, professor of history
The project aims to support student and history faculty's desire to document the coronavirus crisis, record individual experiences and reflect on a rapidly changing world since the pandemic first hit the U.S. almost a year ago. It also builds on the work of a research and community project that began last summer via a 12-member student collective guided by professors Semley and Hooper.

Buddhist and Hindu Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Todd Lewis, professor of religious studies
This study of the forms of religious praxis in response to COVID in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, will offer insight on where Hindu and Buddhist communities in the present moment can be situated in adopting, ignoring or integrating religious explanations of this pandemic with a purely scientific view.

Responses to Pandemics in Ancient Rome and China

Thomas Martin, professor and Jeremiah W. O'Connor Jr. Chair in classics
This project will produce a contextualized set of references to ancient Roman and Chinese sources that describe responses to pandemics that ravaged the empires of Rome and China from the second to the sixth century C.E. The sources document medical, religious, political and literary responses to the tremendous loss and suffering from pandemics comparable in magnitude to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disruption and Normality on a College Campus in a Time of COVID-19

Tsitsi Masvawure, professor of practice in health studies
Professor Masvawure will examine how the pandemic has altered and disrupted students' perceptions of their place and role in the world, how students are coping in light of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and how coping strategies differ by gender, race, academic year of study and socioeconomic status.

COVID-19 and the College Sports Industry

Victor Matheson, professor of economics
This project will examine the impact of COVID-19 on the finances of athletic departments at various types of colleges and universities in the U.S., resulting in a book chapter co-authored with Professor Steve DeSimone from the accounting department entitled "COVID-19 and the College Sports Industry." The chapter will be published in the Routledge Handbook of Sport and COVID-19 edited by Stephen Frawley and Nico Schulenkorf, professors of sports management at the University of Technology, Sydney.


Justin Svec, associate professor of economics
Professor Svec, in collaboration with a recent Holy Cross computer science graduate, will work to create a functionality to embed state-level COVID-19 mortality and vaccination data onto wikimap, a free online mapping platform benefitting teachers, researchers and casual users. The defining feature of the wikimap is that it is user-editable, meaning that trusted users will be able to edit the locations of borders on the time-specific map and add layers of data that will be overlaid onto the map.