Joy Johnson, seen here during an installation ceremony on Oct. 22, is Simon Fraser University’s 10th president and vice-chancellor. (Submitted photo)

Joy Johnson, seen here during an installation ceremony on Oct. 22, is Simon Fraser University’s 10th president and vice-chancellor. (Submitted photo)

SFU’s Surrey campus tackling COVID-19-related research

‘We can learn now,’ SFU president Joy Johnson said, ‘so should something like this happen again we’ll be prepared. We have to learn from this current pandemic’

Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus is currently working on new health technology to streamline the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations, president and vice-chancellor Joy Johnson said during a Surrey Board of Trade digital meeting on Friday (Nov. 27).

Dr. Diane Gromala, professor of interactive arts and technology at SFU’s Surrey campus, said she’s working on a “super cluster project” for COVID-19 vaccinations, which she described as a “big project with many partners.”

Her role, she said, is to help companies with their research, “to make sure people who are vulnerable and at risk, their needs are taken into account,” that they are able to use an online booking system, and “that the logistics work for them as well.”

“Really what’s under the hood is this massive logistical, technological and physical system of making sure Canadians can get vaccinated, and we’re talking about 79,000 Canadians per day,” Gromala said of the project.

READ ALSO: New SFU president Joy Johnson sworn in during fall convocation this week

Johnson said it’s “reassuring” to hear about “all the work that’s happening on the ground” at SFU concerning vaccine delivery.

Gromala said her grad students contact every non-profit they can and “top level organizers” to better understand visible and “not so visible” needs of patients. “We’re really hands on,” she said.

Johnson said SFU’s Burnaby campus has received funding to re-fit a lab “so that we can deal with the virus, because we are developing new testing mechanisms. Researchers are focused on that, but they’re also focused on the social implications.

“We’ve got researchers in our faculty of arts and social sciences looking at gender differences, for example, and the ways in which the virus is affecting different communities in different ways,” Johnson said.

Other “exciting news,” she said, is the provincial government provided SFU with funding to establish a “pandemic studies centre. We’re just getting going on this, it’s very exciting. It’s new news for us, but we recognize that we have a lot of expertise in the area, particularly in the area of modelling. We’ve got mathematicians and computer scientists working on modelling the ways in which the pandemic spread, and indeed some of our researchers are providing all the up-to-date information, not only in British Columbia, but to the federal government as well, and the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

“We can learn now,” Johnson said, “so should something like this happen again we’ll be prepared. We have to learn from this current pandemic.”



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