News Archive

Projects to Promote the Public Understanding of COVID-19 Get Underway

August 21, 2020

Media Contact:
Heather Thorstensen
Manager of Communications
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society or (919) 549-4691 ext. 216

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC— Ten teams of scientists, artists, and science communicators that won funding in July from #SciCommMake are starting their projects to promote the public understanding of COVID-19. 

#SciCommMake is a competition hosted by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society and Science Talk in which interdisciplinary teams compete for funding to create projects that help the public connect with science. A special session about COVID-19 was made possible thanks to generous donations on Giving Tuesday Now and the Science Communicators of North Carolina. 

The projects include:

A Video about COVID-19 Spread and Healthy Behaviors for Preschoolers

Clare Gibson Lisabeth DiLalla

Clare Gibson, shown above on left, and Lisabeth DiLalla, are working in conjunction with Little Lotus Inc., to create a short film aimed at preschoolers and designed to teach children about COVID-19 and health behaviors that they can employ to help keep themselves and their community safe. The video will highlight how COVID-19 can be spread, and will show handwashing, maintaining distance, and mask wearing as positive behaviors that can help reduce the spread.

“Interactive, pretend play is important for children to learn about their world and to learn new skills and overcome fears. Thus, a fun film with children, teachers, and superheroes that allows children to imitate what they see is a great way to teach children important pandemic health behaviors,” Gibson and DiLalla wrote. 

The team plans to reach out to daycare teachers in each of their local areas (Edmonton, Canada, and southern Illinois) to ask them to show their film to their preschool children. They hope the children will learn how to wash hands properly and will learn why it’s important to wash hands and wear masks during this pandemic. They also hope the children will take this message home to their parents. If they are successful, based on teacher assessment ratings, then they will make the film widely available through a social media platform.

Film Shots from Clare Gibson

Shots from filming for the video by Clare Gibson and Lisabeth DiLalla. 


A Video that Resolves Confusing Issues Related to the Communication of COVID-19 as it Relates to the 2020 U.S. Election

Stephanie Ishack and Jeff Toney

Stephanie Ishack and Jeffrey Toney have created an Instagram page, called Humans During COVID-19, to generate interest about their video. The page currently has over 1,000 followers. They will be offering contests with gift card prizes each for the best posted photographs. Their video script is already developed, and they are exploring collaborating with an audio engineer to include music and professional sound editing into their video. They are also recruiting a diverse group of people to read their script.  Then they will work with a professional videographer to put together the audio and video into a final product, to be released across various social media channels on or by mid- to late October, in time for the presidential election.

“The U.S. presidential election has heightened political divisiveness that confuses effective public health communication during the COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote.  “We want to show that science evolves as we learn more about the virus every day, but that we can save lives by changing behavior such as wearing a mask, social distancing and good hygiene.”

They plan to reach a broad and diverse public audience. The takeaway is for viewers to become actively engaged to become an educated public health advocate by showing friends, family, and community that they have changed their behavior to save lives, by wearing a mask, social distancing, and regularly washing hands. The team hopes that the public will share their video widely and will post photos of themselves exhibiting model behavior. The team will be holding a contest for the best photo wearing a face mask.

A Visual Science–Art Show Exploring the Science of COVID-19

V Anne Burg and David Goodsell

V. Anne Burg and David Goodsell know that information about the spread of Novel Coronavirus 2019 is critical knowledge for personal safety and global response to the pandemic. They will use fine art to bring awareness of what is known and to promote critical thinking in personal actions. “New Ways of Living: Understanding the Science of COVID-19” will be an art show, seeded with the work of Burg and Goodsell, that is staged with physical artifacts but presented virtually. The show will explore the science behind transmission of the virus, from the nanoscale details of respiratory drops, to the persistence of the virus in our household environments, to the population-level mechanisms and implications of testing. Cross-discipline dialogue will inform the work of participating scientist–artists and create work that bridges knowledge silos that span from the molecular to the human scale.

Artwork from Burg will include a single-room environment depicting everyday objects such as a home office with faxed lab reports, photography related to PPE, an area devoted to helping children understand COVID-19, and an interactive component displaying the propensity of COVID-19 within these spaces. Goodsell will focus on a series of watercolor paintings that explore respiratory droplets as carriers of viruses, depicted at nanometer and micrometer scales.

David Goodsell coronavirus picture

A painting by David Goodsell shows SARS-CoV-2 in a small respiratory droplet, with the virus in magenta, mucins in green, pulmonary surfactant lipids and proteins in blue, and antibodies in tan.


“Art and science are different but complementary ways of seeing the world,” Burg and Goodsell wrote. “With the show, we intend to explore the ways that science is informing our understanding of the current pandemic and the virus that causes it. Through art, we’ll share our experiences, with the intention of inspiring viewers to embark on their own explorations.”

Follow their art show on Twitter and Facebook.

#SciCommMake teams are invited to present their completed projects at the virtual Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference from November 5–8, 2020, and at Science Talk ’21, the annual Science Talk conference, from March 25–26, 2021. 

See the full list of teams and projects funded in this session of #SciCommMake.  

More about Science Talk: Science Talk is a professional society that empowers and inspires the science communication community to expand their communication potential and affect the world. Science Talk provides professional development and networking opportunities through annual conferences, blogs, community discussions, online courses, and more. On Twitter: @ScienceTalkOrg.