Faculty life in the coronavirus age

Events at our faculty did not stop when the state of emergency order was announced – quite the opposite. In addition to volunteering, individual workplaces found many ways to help within their specialisations. Read how in the following sections.

Thank you very much for your help!

Bioskop

Lecturers from Bioskop provided a scientific program for the children of health workers from the University Hospital Brno, on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the state-mandated quarantine. The children tried different experiments and, at the same time, learned something new.

Institute of Geography

Jiří Hladík and Dajana Snopková, both Doctoral students at the Institute of Geography, created and managed the Map of Volunteers, part of the munipomaha.cz website, in cooperation with the MU Volunteer Centre. Thanks to regular updates, the map was able to show the number of volunteers involved at different sites in the Czech Republic at any given time.
Our geographers also investigated how people’s spatial behaviour changed during the emergency. In cooperation with Altimapo, a spin-off1 of Masaryk University, they created the Quarantine Map questionnaire, which finds out where respondents stayed before the declaration of the state of emergency and during the quarantine. "Although the investigation is still ongoing, it can be said that quarantine measures have significantly affected everyday life. The number of ‘anchorages’ during the quarantine regime was approximately one third compared to the normal situation", said Dr. Ondřej Mulíček, one of the authors of the project. The knowledge of spatial behaviour gained here could be used to manage similar situations in the future.

 

1 a business entity established for the purpose of commercializing intellectual property created by a research organization (www.vutbr.cz).

Source: Magazine M (May).

Department of Anthropology

In March, colleagues from the Institute of Anthropology cooperated with experts from the Czech Technical University (ČVUT), who developed and certified a new protective respirator. Our anthropologists provided them with their database of three-dimensional models of the human face, thanks to which it will be possible to produce a protective half-mask suitable for both children and adolescents. Most standard protective equipment does not fit children and adolescents correctly as their facial proportions differ from those of adults and, therefore, the equipment does not fulfil its purpose. "We have an extensive database of three-dimensional facial scans and are currently testing both virtual and physical prototype masks for children aged 4 to 18. The goal of both our teams is primarily to set an age limit at which even juveniles can wear protective equipment intended for adults", said doc. Petra Urbanová, head of the research team and Director of the Department of Anthropology. The two-month project was supported by a grant of 130 thousand crowns from the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic.

In the future, our experts would like to develop a simple procedure for choosing the right size and shape of protective mask. "We would like to create an algorithm that can easily and quickly recommend a suitable size and type of mask with the help of a photo from a mobile phone", Urbanová explained.

The following media outlets have reported on the project:

Česká rozhlas - June 5, 2020
Lidovky.cz - May 19, 2020
Novinky.cz - May 18, 2020
Deník.cz - May 17, 2020
Magazine M - May 14, 2020
https://fulbrightsplitscreen.com/articles/petra-urbanova/

Sources: Magazine M (May) and www.em.muni.cz.

Department of Botany and Zoology

The Department of Botany and Zoology provided a company car and assistance to MU Volunteer Assistance. "I am a technical worker at the Faculty of Science. If it weren’t for coronavirus, I would now be in the Ukrainian countryside collecting samples for research", said volunteer Stanislav Němejc, who has been delivering masks and disinfectant around Brno along with his colleagues.

Source: Seznam Zprávy.

Department of Experimental Biology

The Czech Collection of Microorganisms (CCM) and the Department of Immunology are cooperating with the Department of Physical Electronics on a strategic project entitled ‘Antibacterial Abrasion Resistant Coatings for use in extremely exposed areas of hospitals and social facilities’. As part of their work, they are testing the antibacterial effects of special metal coatings. For more details, see the Department of Physical Electronics, which is sponsoring the project.

Our colleagues from Loschmidt’s laboratories are focusing on the search for a vaccine against the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, based on the premise that knowledge gained in connection with the SARS-CoV virus may be used for the production of antibodies against the s-glycoprotein in this virus. Using their software, CaverDock is conducting a virtual screening study of drugs from around the world and trying to identify a group of drugs whose development would subsequently lead to the creation of a vaccine to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from invading human cells.

Department of Physical Electronics

The Department of Physical Electronics of the Faculty of Science has donated about 3,000 gloves to the MU Volunteer Centre and, together with the Department of Chemistry, collaborated on the production of nanofibre filters for masks, for more details see the Department of Chemistry. A team from the CEPLANT centre led by Dr. David Pavliňák went even further, however, and began to look at ways to improve the properties of these filters. At present, nanofibres are applied to the backing fabric during the manufacture of the filters; however, they still need to be laminated to improve their mechanical properties and ensure better adhesion to the backing. “Lamination is an extra technological step and, at the same time, slightly reduces the filtering capacity of the material. We would like to find out whether we can replace this technological step with a process in which the base fabric and the fibres themselves can be treated with plasma, which is generated at atmospheric pressure", said Dr. Pavliňák while describing their research. Scientists in the group have set aside one year for the project, for which they have received 760 thousand crowns from the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic.

The following media outlets have reported on the project:

Magazine M - May 19, 2020
Lidovky.cz - May 19, 2020
Novinky.cz - May 18, 2020
Sciencemag.cz - May 18, 2020
Deník.cz - May 17, 2020

Researchers from the Department of Physical Electronics also collaborated with the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the Brno University of Technology, our Department of Experimental Biology and St. Anne's University Hospital on a metal coating project, where copper coatings are applied to objects printed on a 3D printer - such as Decathlon face masks and filter holders, door handles and similar items that people touch and that have their limits in terms of disinfection options. Our experts, led by Prof. Petr Vašina, Director of the department, will assess the durability of the antimicrobial surfaces and observe the extent to which the metal wears out under mechanical and chemical stress, e.g. during disinfection in the hospital environment.

Source: Magazine M (May).

Department of Chemistry

Almost immediately after the quarantine was announced, our chemists began producing a disinfectant gel for the entire university.

At the same time, Vojtěch Kundrát, a Doctoral student at the Department of Chemistry, came up with the idea of ​​improving face masks with a nanofibre filter as part of the activities of sijemerousky.cz. Together with his colleagues, they used an electrospinning device to prepare the nanofibrous material and also asked for help from experts at the Institute of Physical Electronics, who have the same device but modified as a pilot plant. "We created two two-member teams, modified the production process and spun about one and a half kilometres of material in the first phase. This will suffice for about forty to sixty-thousand insert filters", said Dr. David Pavliňák from the Department of Physical Electronics, Faculty of Science, who coordinated the activity. If necessary, experts from the Faculty of Science at MU will be able to prepare approximately twenty thousand filters per week.

Source: www.em.muni.cz.

Department of Mathematics and Statistics

The staff of the department, coordinated by Dr. Michal Bulant, Vice-Rector of MU, offered free online consultations to high school students who needed help with mathematics but could not turn to their teachers due to the quarantine situation.
In cooperation with the Department of Biostatistics and Analysis (IBA) of the Faculty of Medicine, an online analytical tool for real-time monitoring and management of the epidemic situation was created, which will enable the analysis of the overall situation in the Czech Republic. “Over the period from January 2020 to the present, we have been monitoring the epidemiological situation and created several deterministic models, transforming the most suitable model into individual regions for medium-term predictions. This then serves for the early detection of local outbreaks of the epidemic. Thus, we contribute in a small way to the system of epidemiological control in the Czech Republic, " said Dr. Lenka Přibylová. The project received financial support from the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic.

Source: Magazine M (May).

 

 


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