UC contributes to fight against COVID-19

From the maths behind the lockdown, to a prototype face shield for health workers – UC staff and students are providing a range of important contributions in the fight against COVID-19.  

Below is a snapshot of just some of the incredible research and work our community is currently involved in. Tangata Tū, Tangata Ora – Engaged, Empowered, Making a Difference.


  • UC Law Professor John Hopkins is an expert in Disaster Law and advised the Select Committee, chaired by Simon Bridges on 2 April on the unique situation the level 4 lockdown in New Zealand has brought about. Read more here


  • Mathematicians Associate Professor Alex James and Professor Michael Plank from the College of Engineering, and UC BSc Hons graduate Nic Steyn are part of a research team that has been working on building SEIR-type models for COVID-19 for several weeks; one of several groups providing statistical modelling of the spread of COVID-19 for the government. Read the Spinoff article here, the Otago Daily Times interview with Professor Plank here, and a detailed summary of the team’s work here




  • College of Science psychology lecturers Associate Professor Gini McIntosh and Professor Julia Rucklidge who specialises in mental health and nutrition, gave a livestreamed talk as part of the Te Hāpai Ō | UC Live Speaker Series 2020, providing advice on how to staying on track during a time of uncertainty and stress. Find out more here


  • In a new article published on The Conversation, College of Business and Law academics Associate Professor Bernard Walker and Adjunct Fellow Tracy Hatton explore five principles leaders should follow if their role is to lead staff through the coronavirus crisis. The principles are based on research into previous disasters and offer guidance to leaders for the weeks ahead. Read the full article here


  • There are two projects relating to ventilators on the go in the College of Engineering:
  1. Shayne Gooch and other staff are collaborating with Professor Alexander Slocum from MIT to evolve a new design for a low-cost ventilator based on a Bag Valve Mask (BVM) type, which is commonly used to provide positive pressure ventilation in emergency care situations.
  2. Distinguished Professor Geoff Chase is working with his          former PhD student Dr Yeong Shiong Chiew (now based at Monash University, Malaysia) and his EU H2020 research consortia partner Dr Thomas Desaive (University of Liege, Belgium) along with their ICU partners at CHU de Liege, to develop a way to safely ventilate two patients on one ventilator. There is strong interest in ventilating multiple patients on a single ventilator due to the overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients – especially in areas like Italy and New York City. They have developed a low-cost, simple design that removes the risks associated with current proposals for ventilating multiple patients, and creates a safe, effective way to put two patients on a single ventilator. Professor Merryn Tawhai (University of Auckland and Director of the MedTech CoRE) has joined the team, which brings together world leaders in lung modelling and intensive care research, and has strong clinical links in Europe and locally with Christchurch Hospital Senior ICU Specialist and University of Otago School of Medicine Professor Geoff Shaw. They are now applying for funding to prototype and prove their ideas, translating them to low-cost, easily used hardware, and intend to share their design worldwide for everyone’s benefit.

We know there is a lot more great work like this happening at UC. If you’d like to share your work, email communications@canterbury.ac.nz

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