Home COVID-19 A look back at the Ryerson community’s contributions to COVID-19 research and relief

A look back at the Ryerson community’s contributions to COVID-19 research and relief

On The Record rounds up staff and faculty efforts during the pandemic

by Katherine Newman

Many students, faculty and staff at Ryerson University have been working hard during the pandemic volunteering their time and donating supplies to make the pandemic a little easier for their communities. As the two-year anniversary of COVID-19 at Ryerson approaches, here are the top four ways the Ryerson community has made an impact: 

1. Helping make personal protective equipment (PPE)

A few groups at Ryerson have made huge contributions to the making of PPE during the pandemic. According to Ryerson, a couple of faculties donated PPE to local hospitals and frontline workers early in the pandemic. This included the Faculty of Science donating 79,000 nitrile gloves, goggles and gowns, and the Faculty of Community Services donating supplies from the School of Occupational and Public Health and the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing. 

Director of Ryerson’s Creative Technology Lab, Jonathon Anderson, has shortened the time to make face shields from four hours to 35 seconds using 3D-printing, according to Ryerson

Meanwhile, a team of 60 volunteers from the school of fashion sewed 4,000 masks using tea towels donated by the Quebec department store, Simons. 

Ryerson students, faculty and staff volunteered their time and made donations to during the COVID-19 pandemic. (@RyersonU)

2. Researching and creating new medical equipment

Several Ryerson faculty members have been researching COVID-19 over the past two years, including a number who have received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The research, funded by NSERC, includes reusable face masks, a robotic disinfectant device, a screening method that harnesses artificial intelligence, contact tracing wristbands and an ultrasound and microbubble treatment. 

Prof. Sri Krishnan has been working on a ‘Covidascope’ that analyzes speech and sound. Krishnan and his team created an app, “that can track vitals like cough, heart rate, breathing effort and oxygen level,” according to an article by Ryerson

Multiple research projects are started at Ryerson University in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic begins. (@RyersonU)

Pentavere, a startup from Ryerson’s Biomedical Zone, is using their artificial intelligence (AI) software to help health-care workers make decisions about best treatment and identifying candidates for new trials and treatments. 

Faculty and staff were also working on improved COVID-19 testing technology. Prof. John G. Marshall and his lab with the department of chemistry and biology were working on an “ultra-sensitive and reliable” COVID-19 test, while engineering professors Bo Tan and Krishnan Venkatakrishnan and their team worked to use nanosensors for portable rapid tests

3. Bridging the gap between communities

Prof. Lu Wang, who specializes in health geography, created a tool that analyzes movement in communities before and after an outbreak. Wang told Ryerson that her project will indicate which communities need more support to fight off COVID-19 by analyzing how people react and what measures they take against the illness. 

Candice Monson, psychology professor and director of IMPACT Lab, who spoke with Ryerson, has co-created Couple HOPES. This mental health platform helps couples where one or more person is suffering from PTSD, including those who are front-line workers. LUCID, a startup from SMART Lab, is another new mental health tool, created in part by the Ryerson community, aimed at using music therapy.

Students like Brandon Arkinson are helping get food, clothing and hygiene products to those in need. Arkinson and a team of 50 volunteers distributed hygiene kits and other necessities to Toronto’s homeless community at the beginning of the pandemic. Ryerson students also worked as ambassadors in eastern Toronto communities to get people vaccinated where vaccination rates were low. 

Brandon Arkinson is one of many students, faculty and staff members at Ryerson to volunteer their time during the COVID-19 pandemic. (@RyersonU)

4. Showing us the bright side

While students, faculty and staff were researching new technology, volunteering their time and donating, they were also working to keep life fun. 

The school of fashion’s annual show was effectively moved online. This year’s show included a virtual runway, a docu-series on the making of the show and a digital exhibition, all found on the Mass Exodus 2021 website. 

The program Creative Native was designed to give, “Indigenous youth the chance to learn new skills in media and the arts, helping empower them for the future,” according to a piece by Ryerson. The program was hosted by Buffy Sainte-Marie, with RTA school of media’s professor and Saagajwe Director Lila Pine. During the pandemic, the program moved online to keep Indigenous youth connected across Ontario. 

Ryerson students were also helping uplift Toronto’s community at large. Charlie Hill and Max Mezo worked with Toronto band, The Neighbourhood Watch, to create a music video featuring clips of strangers dancing, seen through their windows. The video was later covered by the Toronto Star and BlogTO.

Ryerson film students Charlie Hill and Max Mezo team up with Toronto band, The Neighbourhood Watch, to create a music video of Toronto residents dancing in their homes. (Ryerson University YouTube)

Katie Newman was a reporter with On The Record during the Winter 2022 term.

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