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Kelly Hallstrom

Dr. Kelly Hallstrom, an assistant professor of microbiology at Saint Rose, and a team of college and high school students from around the country have been awarded funding to create a web resource that addresses knowledge gaps about COVID-19 for teachers and students.

Hallstrom and the students – Sharon Lin, a student at MIT; Philippa Steinberg, a student at UC Berkeley; and Tarun Martheswaran, a high school student from Utah – participated in a #SciCommMake competition hosted by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society, and Science Talk. Interdisciplinary teams competed for funding to create projects that help the public connect with science.

Participants attended a matchmaking session on June 29 to form partnerships based on expertise and creative skills. After coaching and concept development, they pitched their project ideas on July 10 to a distinguished panel of judges. Ten teams were selected to receive $1,000 each to complete their projects.

Hallstrom’s team will create a website containing an illustrated glossary of COVID-19-related terms that can be used as an educational tool inside and outside of classrooms. Examples of some of the terms include herd immunity and vaccination, as well as broader concepts like mask-wearing. The site is expected to launch by November 2020, and is being designed for use by students in sixth through 12th grades, with plans for expansion to adult audiences.

Sigma Xi invited researchers, artists, faculty, and students from across the country to apply. Participants were paired following the match-making session based on interests, goals, and backgrounds. Steinberg and Martheswaran initially came up with the idea of creating an online illustrated glossary of COVID-19 terms. After a coaching session with Dr. Sara Yeo, a science communication researcher at the University of Utah, the team decided to target the glossary to sixth- through 12th-grade students as a starting point. The hope is that students in this age group will share what they learn from the glossary with adults in their family and community.

“Communicating science has always been a passion of mine, and I am grateful for this opportunity provided by Sigma Xi and Science Talk to apply that passion to educating people about COVID-19,” said Hallstrom, who is an officer in the Albany Sigma Xi chapter that is run out of the Department of Physical and Biological Sciences at Saint Rose.