October 20th

The global consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are extraordinary and continue to pose significant challenges for countries around the world. Engineers have been in the forefront of solving these challenges, from repurposing automobile production lines to manufacturing protective medical gear, designing tests to detect the presence of the virus, and creating the hardware and informatics needed to analyze the voluminous data generated during the vaccine development process.

Engineering’s Role in Catalyzing COVID-19 Response, Recovery, and Resilience—a new webinar series produced by the US National Academy of Engineering, Chinese Academy of Engineering, and UK Royal Academy of Engineering—will explore the work of the innovators and companies that are pursuing the most impactful engineering advances related to this crisis. The series will be moderated by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, an internationally recognized leader in research on global health, the assessment of medical technology, evaluation and use of vaccines, and dissemination of medical innovations. Dr. Fineberg is also the former president of the US Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine) and recently chaired a committee providing on-demand COVID-19 policy advice to the US federal government. 

The webinar series will enlighten engineering students and seasoned professionals alike and bring new understanding of engineering’s role in meeting societal needs in times of adversity. The three webinars are scheduled for the spring, summer, and fall of 2021.

The first webinar, Engineering Innovations in Response to the Challenges of the Pandemic, was broadcast on April 19. It focused on the initial phase of the pandemic, when, amid crippling widespread shortages, engineers availed themselves of whatever resources were on-hand to quickly and effectively apply them to the problems created by the pandemic. Speakers highlighted examples of such efforts in the United States, United Kingdom, and China and participated in a roundtable discussion with additional experts invited to offer their perspectives and insights on the challenges confronted and the solutions developed. This webinar may be viewed via the link above.

Engineering Innovations Empowering Recovery from the Pandemic—the second webinar in the series—was held on July 23. This event addressed how engineers sought to limit exposure to the virus and accelerate the dissemination of vaccines through the application of both established and novel technologies. Presentations included ventilation and virus control for mass passenger transportation in China; the development and testing of a new vaccine delivery system that might improve COVID-19 vaccination in the developing world; and the influence of indoor airflows and effectiveness of engineering approaches to controlling airborne disease transmission in buildings. A roundtable discussion then addressed in these topics in greater detail, along with examinations of engineering approaches developed to prevent human infections from food and food packaging; the design and implementation of a COVID rapid-testing program, and a social enterprise tackling last-mile vaccine-cold chain issues. The video of this webinar may be accessed via the link above.

The final webinar Engineering for a Healthy and Resilient Future will be held October 20, 2021, and will consider how engineers can apply the lessons learned from the pandemic to enhance our ability to quickly and effectively react to future crises.

Special Acknowledgement Goes To