TAMPA, Fla. (May 20, 2020) – A team of researchers from the University of South Florida College of Engineering is developing a digital tool to give government agencies, researchers and health professionals unparalleled insight into COVID-19.
The project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), will collect, synthesize and visualize comprehensive coronavirus data from around the world. This will include a variety of information regarding deaths, hospital visits, symptoms and more. Using natural language processing and machine learning, the tool will be able to identify connections in the data and give users a unique view of evolving trends related to the pandemic. USF engineers say the hope is to provide front-line researchers and policy makers access to information more quickly and more organized than ever before.
“As academic researchers are writing journal articles around the world, and hospitals are reporting cases and data related to the pandemic, we will be able to gather all of those data streams and find connections among them,” said principal investigator Sylvia Thomas, associate professor of electrical engineering. “That insight is incredibly valuable in helping advance our understanding of the pandemic and could lead to improved treatment, tracking and prevention measures.”
Thomas and co-principal investigator Tempestt Neal, assistant professor of computer science and engineering, have partnered with GraphAware, Inc., a company that specializes in data processing and visualization. By combining Thomas and Neal’s academic research with GraphAware’s existing digital infrastructure, the team expects to quickly and efficiently create and deploy validated research-based solutions.
The $200,000 award is part of NSF’s Rapid Response Research program, designed to mobilize the scientific community to better understand and develop measures to respond to the virus. For the USF faculty members, it’s an opportunity to further their research while working toward solutions that could impact the lives of millions.
“Knowing that this project has the ability to affect the entire world is really incredible,” Neal said. “We’re really looking forward to making a difference and applying what we know about data science to this problem. And I’m thrilled to have the chance to partner with Dr. Thomas, as well as our industry partners, to tackle the problems we’re facing right now.”
While this project is designed to have immediate impacts on the fight against COVID-19, the tool will also be able to be applied to a variety of different areas and data streams. By interlinking information sources from around the world, the team hopes to build an open-access resource capable of detecting data trends to give front-line workers early warning of future problems.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.