Bob Bernhard, Vice President for Research
Bob Bernhard, Vice President for Research
Greetings from the Notre Dame campus. We have reached the halfway point of our semester, which was shifted earlier than normal so that we could finish before Thanksgiving. We have had our highs and lows, like all campuses that are attempting in-person instruction have experienced this fall. There certainly is no such thing as overconfidence about projecting the course this virus will take.
Fortunately, we have learned that most of our research programs can operate reasonably well within our health protocols. Our many computational and data analytics projects have been able to operate remotely. Lab-based programs have adapted well to protocols that require masks, physical distancing, and frequent cleaning. And our libraries are open for scholars who depend on these essential resources. Those hit the hardest and still waiting to fully resume their scholarship in earnest are the performing arts, those with community-based or in-person assessments, and those dependent on travel to international field sites or archives. We continue to work with these faculty and students to provide accommodations and, where possible, help them to pivot in new directions or to use new methods. 
Our research programs have also played a part in helping the University manage the health threat posed by COVID-19 on campus. Our Genomics and Bioinformatics Core Facility has set up surveillance testing to significantly increase Notre Dame’s virus testing capability. Our statisticians, epidemiologists, and data scientists have also helped the University to design and implement the surveillance program. 
There have also been remarkable research program pivots to address the challenges of the coronavirus. From wastewater testing to self-regulation, to the pandemic’s impact on our sleep patterns and stress levels, Notre Dame researchers have risen to the occasion of this most challenging moment. For example, our computer scientists are using AI to improve COVID-19 diagnostics in CT scans, as well as exploring how politically extreme news sources are swaying the COVID conversation by pushing sheer quantity. Our epidemiologists are assisting with surveillance planning, including in our local Indiana schools
Overall, it has been quite a year. In keeping with our mission to be a powerful means for doing good in this world, Notre Dame is ready to “fight” the emerging challenges that the coronavirus has brought to the fore in what is clearly a moment where so much will change. Notre Dame will be looking at the increased disparities between rich and poor that are growing as a result of our economic challenges, at the racial inequity brought to light by new social forces, at the behavior of new diseases like the coronavirus, at the scientific and political elements necessary to control a pandemic, and much more.
In this life-changing moment in time, we know there is a need for more discovery and more answers. Notre Dame is ready for this “fight.”
Bob Bernhard
Vice President for Research