Virtual Mini-Conference

Responding to the Global Pandemic with Research

Because the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the fundamental work of our institutions, faculty around the world have had limited opportunities to showcase their teaching, research, service and scholarly pursuits. The University of Cincinnati will host a series of virtual mini-conferences highlighting the work that faculty at UC and our partner institutions are doing and/or the current challenges they are working to overcome.

Sessions will be 15 minutes long and pre-recorded. Presenters will be available during their session to answer Q&A in real time. 

March 11, 2021 | 8am - 12pm EST

Share your research that has stemmed from issues related to COVID-19. All disciplines welcome!  Participants can register for the conference through Eventbrite. There is no cost to attend this virtual event.

Presenters and Abstracts

The presenters and their abstracts are presented by general theme:

Mental Health / Psychology

The goal of this study was to assess how the COVID-19 pandemic affected parenting practices and family relationships in Ghana.

Data was drawn from an online questionnaire response from 463 respondents. The results of the paired t-test showed that the quality of the relationship with the partner was higher for the retrospectively measured “before COVID-19” mean score compared to the “during COVID-19” mean score. The mean score for the retrospectively measured “before COVID-19” parental involvement was also found to be higher.

We conclude that the challenging public health containment measures of the COVID-19 pandemic negatively influenced relationships between partners and parental involvement.

Headshot of Samuel Asiedu Owusu

Samuel Asiedu Owusu

Population and Health; Senior Research Fellow, University of Cape Coast, Ghana

Dr. Samuel Asiedu Owusu is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. His research interest is in child health, parenting practices, sexual and reproductive health, children mobilities constraints and research ethics.

Co-presenter(s): Bernard Ekumah, Dorcas Obiri-Yeboah (University of Cape Coast, Ghana)

The current study explores the relationship between pessimism, optimism, contradictions in self-awareness and future anxiety after COVID-19 among university students in the Sultanate of Oman.

The sample consisted of 422 (66.4% were females). The results suggested the possibility of predicting future anxiety after COVID-19 using their scores in pessimism, optimism, and self-perception. The model explained 32.5% of variance in future anxiety. There is a statistically significant positive effect of pessimism and the contradictions of self-awareness (the ideal self) in future anxiety after COVID-19. A negative statistically significant effect was found of optimism and contradictions of self-awareness (the real self) in future anxiety after COVID-19.

The results indicated statistically significant differences in future anxiety after COVID-19 are attributed to the variable of the school year. No differences were found based on gender and birth order.

Headshot of Said Aldhafri

Said Aldhafri

Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

Said Aldhafri is a Professor of Educational Psychology and the director of Social Observatory, Oman. Said completed his Ph.D. at UBC, Canada in 2006. He has (co-) authored 104 journal articles, four books, 6 book chapters, and 140 conference papers.

Co-presenter: Fahima Alsaidi (Oman Ministry of Education)

This study analyses the challenges faced by the caretakers of the children with special needs in institutional care during the COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown.

The study followed a case study approach in which in-depth interviews were used to collect data from a sample of 14 institutional Caretakers of children with special needs in Bangalore, Karnataka, India. The results show that the challenges were different with caretakers of the children who were staying in the institutions and sent with family due to lockdown. The caretakers who sent children home were encountering incapability of parents to engage the child with special needs, and restrictions to bring back the child to institutions. Caretakers of the children who were staying in the institutions were burnout with the workload, and in stress to keep the children engaged in 24 hours.

The study recommends the government system to strengthen the facilities for children with special needs. 

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Sheeja Karalam

Social Work and Associate Professor , CHRIST Deemed to be University, India

Dr Sheeja Karalam is a Professional Social worker, educated to PhD level, with over 8 years of Research Projects experience and 18 years of Academic Social work experience in reputed Universities in India.

Co-presenter: Cyril John (CHRIST Deemed to Be University, India)

Science / Medicine

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has emerged as a public health threat in December 2019 and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020. Since the beginning of the pandemic several articles reported negative outcomes in the surgery of COVID-19 infected patients.

The aim of this study is to report the complications and mortality of patients who has found to be infected in the perioperative period undergoing elective and emergency surgery and identify the possible associated factors. The data of COVID-19 positive patients by polymerase chain reaction from nasopharyngeal and/or oropharyngeal swab will be collected in a retrospective study from medical records of patients operated in the surgical department of Bahir Dar University, Tibebe Ghion Specialized Hospital.

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Abel Gashaw Wubie

MD and Third-year Surgical Resident, Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia

Abel Gashaw Wubie, MD completed his undergraduate program in medicine at University of Gondar College of Medicine and Health Sciences. He is a current third-year surgical resident at Bahir Dar University College of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Co-presenter: Solomon Melaku Belay (Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia)

The field of drug repurposing for treating COVID-19 has been the need of the hour. A pipeline is being proposed to analyze further the docking results of existing drugs and the protein of interest, integrating machine learning. Drugs like favipiravir, remdesivir and dexamethasone have been taken as a case study to check its interaction with SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor protein using docking studies.

The results are monitored for pie-pie, van der Waals, hydrogen bond and Alkyl interactions, etc. The inclusion of generalized additive models to analyze data from docking would confirm therapeutic targets for a specific drug of interest, thereby contributing to drug repurposing.

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Vinai George Biju

Computer Science and Engineering and Assistant professor, CHRIST Deemed to be University, India

Vinai George Biju is an Assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and coordinator of the International Office, School of Engineering and Technology, CHRIST University.

Immune hyperreactivity – manifest in a cytokine release syndrome (“cytokine storm”) – represents a severe turn in the disease state caused by several viral infections, including those with SARS-CoV-2. This inefficient, even harmful, immune response has been associated with skewed Interferon levels, but a broader mechanistic understanding of the underlying pathophysiology remains elusive. Although a cellular (type I) immune reaction is efficacious against viral infections, we noted a type II bias in the cytokine pattern produced.

The prominent SARS-CoV2 viral surface molecule, spike glycoprotein, was sufficient to stimulate VEGF, CXCL-16, IL-6, IL-21R, BMP-5, and IGFBP-2. In contrast to the broad immune activator anti-CD3, it failed to upregulate osteopontin in vivo and actually suppressed osteopontin secretion from a monocyte/macrophage cell line.

We hypothesize that the inhibition of the TH1 inducer osteopontin by SARS-CoV2 spike glycoprotein represents an immune evasion mechanism employed by the virus. We will welcome collaborative opportunities to expand the analyses.

Headshot of Georg F. Weber

Georg F. Weber

Professor, Immunology / Cancer, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center

Dr. Georg Weber has conducted research in immunology and cancer for close to 30 years (in recent months including wet-lab and in-silico COVID projects). His major focus is the cytokine osteopontin.

Co-presenter: Gulimirerouzi Fnu (University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center)

Several scientific works have provided important results about COVID-19 using systems biology approaches. The data science behind these approaches is often difficult to follow.

Here, I exemplify the analysis of 52 cell populations, 71 analytes, and RNA-seq gene expression in the blood of severe patients from the French COVID cohort upon hospitalization (n = 61). Unsupervised and integrative analyses confirmed the prominent role of neutrophil activation, with a high abundance of CD177, a specific neutrophil activation marker in COVID-19 disease. Furthermore, longitudinal analysis showed that sustained levels of serum CD177 discriminate between patients with the worst prognosis, leading to death, and those who recovered.

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Rodolphe Thiebaut

Public Health / Data Science Professor, University of Bordeaux, France

Rodolphe Thiebaut is Professor of Public Health / Data Science at the University of Bordeaux. He is leading a research group (SISTM) devoted to the modelling and analysis of high-dimensional data.

Public Health Modeling

The non-linear progression of new infection numbers in a pandemic poses challenges to the evaluation of its management. The tools of complex systems research may aid in attaining information that would be difficult to extract with other means.

To study the COVID-19 pandemic, we utilize the reported new cases per day for the globe, nine countries and six US states through October 2020. Fourier and univariate wavelet analyses inform on periodicity and extent of change. Evaluating time-lagged data sets of various lag lengths, we find that the autocorrelation function, average mutual information and box counting dimension represent good quantitative readouts for the progression of new infections. Homogeneity or heterogeneity in the population response, uptick versus suppression, and worsening or improving trends are discernible.

The analysis of epidemic or pandemic progression with the techniques available for observed (noisy) complex data can aid decision making in the public health response.

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Xia Wang

Statistics, Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati

Dr. Xia Wang is an associate professor in Statistics at the Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Cincinnati. Her research interests include Bayesian modeling of categorical data and scalable modeling of complex, high-dimensional data.

Co-presenter: Georg F. Weber (University of Cincinnati)

An innovative logistic simulation model is developed and proposed to plan and deliver mass COVID testing campaigns in very tight time windows. The developed quantitative mathematical model predicts with the maximum precision workloads, types and number of specialized personnel to involve, consumables, instrumentations, the minimum necessary spaces, time of execution of the intervention and queues length. 

The model has been tested and validated to support the South Tyrolean Health Authority for the campaign of 350 thousand COVID antigenic tests carried out in three days the last November 2020. The mathematical model replicated all physical variables and harmonized them to design the best organizational and logistical solutions which have been successfully implemented by the health authority. 

An improved version of the model is under development to plan, organize and deliver the massive inoculation campaign of anti-COVID vaccines which will be delivered in the next months worldwide.

Headshot of Francesco Pilati

Francesco Pilati

Assistant Professor and Chair of Production systems and logistics, University of Trento, Italy

Asst. Prof. at Department Industrial Engineering – University Trento (Italy) and Chair of Production systems and Logistics. Invited Lecturer at University Göttingen (Germany) for Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences.

Co-presenter: Riccardo Tronconi (University of Trento, Italy)


The purpose of our research is to understand the outcomes of MOOCs in the light of COVID-19 concerning the students of Higher Educational Institutions in India.

The COVID-19 has disrupted the normal teaching-learning role across the world and has put everyone in a nightmare. HEIs are now requesting students to take up MOOCs to explore and attain knowledge and the same is even followed by the corporate institutions. MOOCs are one of the crisis management solutions to ensure that education is continuous and not disrupted.

This study has explored the perception of MOOCs amongst the students of Higher Educational Institutions in India in the COVID-19 pandemic. The fresh data collected from the students is a reflection of their experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown. Indeed, it is quite surprising to know that majority of the respondents have arranged to learn during the pandemic, which shows the thirst and urge to learn. Digital technology and tools are welcomed and accepted by the student community. 

Headshot of Anand Shankar Raja M

Anand Shankar Raja M

Department of Commerce, Finance and Accountancy , CHRIST Deemed to be University, India

Dr. Anand Shankar Raja M works with the Department of Commerce, Christ University, India. He holds a PhD in Commerce from SRM University (SRM Institute of Science and Technology) Chennai, Tamil Nadu. His area of focus in on mystery shopping.

Headshot of Tomy K Kallarakal

Tomy K Kallarakal

Professor and Dean of Commerce, CHRIST Deemed to be University, India

Dr Tomy K. Kallarakal is a professor and Dean of Commerce, Christ University, Bengaluru, India. He earned a PhD in Commerce from Christ University, Bengaluru. His research interest is in the area of Organizational Culture and Learning Organizations.

The current study aimed to explore the difficulties facing university students in distance learning during COVID-19.

Difficulties are investigated in 4 dimensions (Psychological, academic, technological, and environmental). In addition, the study examined the effects of students’ demographic variables (gender, college, GPA, and family socioeconomic status) on the levels of this problems. The study sample consisted of 3172 students (57.3% females) from Sultan Qaboos University. Data were collected using “difficulties in distance learning” questionnaire. 

The results showed that the students manifested high levels of psychological and academic problems and medium levels of technological and environmental problems. Also, male students and students with lower GPA had higher technological problems. Academic problems were higher among scientific students in contrast to humanities students. Moreover, students from families of lower socioeconomic status had higher levels of all problems. The researchers provided some recommendations for faculty, counselors, administrative and family to support the students in distance learning.  

Headshot of Marwa Nasser Alrajhi

Marwa Nasser Alrajhi

Student Counseling- Researcher, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

Marwa Alrajhi, MA, Evaluation and Measurement, is a research assistant in the Student Counselling Centre, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman. She has a bachelor degree in education/ English and a master degree in psychological evaluation and measurement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the whole world in different levels from numerous aspects. We aim to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the educational and academic activities of healthcare professionals practicing in different countries.

A cross-sectional survey was conducted using a link to an online questionnaire which was sent to doctors, dentists and nurse working in several countries using Whatsapp medical groups.

The COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the academic activites of HCPs. However, the COVID-19 health crisis created an opportunity for enriching educational activities through e-learning, online courses and webinars. This experience should be utilized in the future as more online material becomes available.

Headshot of Hussain Alsaffar

Hussain Alsaffar

Pediatric Endocrinologist, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

Pediatric Endocrinologist Consultant - Sultan Qaboos University Hospital. Honorary Lecturer - University of Manchester. Deputy Head of Quality Improvement Committee - Child Health Dept. Deputy Chair, Communication Committee - ASPED

Co-presenters: Khadija Ali (Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain), Haider Alsaffar (Dentist, UK)

Business / Government

Micro, Small and Medium enterprises plays an important role in the economic and social development of the country. It also plays a prominent role in terms of contribution to job creation, exports and revenue earnings for the country.

With the onset of COVID-19 and lockdown since March 24, 2020, the Indian MSMEs faced numerous challenges. Threats of closing down business, non-availability of labor force, delay in payments for small companies, adding to capital costs, rise in the cost of production, GST compliance issues and tax related problems and severe cash crunch arose during the lockdown. However, the Government did announce a slew of measures to boost the MSMEs.

The objective of this study is to examine the challenges and way forward for the MSMEs especially after the lockdown.

Headshot of Sonia Mukherjee

Sonia Mukherjee

Economics and Assistant Professor, CHRIST Deemed to be University, India

Dr. Sonia Mukherjee is a PhD from Centre for International Trade and Development, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Currently, she is teaching as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics, Christ University.

During the lockdown period linked to COVID-19, digital transformation has never been so much of a priority for the public and the private sector, it has become a matter of survival. Companies around the world have re-examined their business models to sustain their operations and to ensure a real close relationship with customers who are becoming hyperconnected. 

In this presentation, I will discuss the necessary to consider human resources management in digital transformation which is not only linked to technology, but it is mainly done by the evolution of mindsets. Digital transformation will only take on the scale necessary for the development of economies if managers at all levels and all human resources mobilize and adopt the necessary behaviors of commitment and adaptation.

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Iitidal Fettah

Social Science and Humanities Professor, International University of Casablanca, Morocco

Professor at the International University of Casablanca, Iitidal Fettah holds a Ph.D in Urban Planning, Urban Governance and Territories from the National Institute of Planning and Urbanism of Rabat (Morocco).