Electrical and Computer Engineering researchers focus on reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission

Alisha Kadam - 13 July 2020

A few professors and their research teams from the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are making substantial efforts in the fight against COVID-19. Their areas of research range from lap-on-chip devices for rapid virus detection, through biorobotics for enabling treatment from a safe distance, to designing emergency ventilators. 

Professor Jie Chen of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, Professor David Wishart of Biological Sciences and Computing Sciences at UofA, Dr. Shawn Babiuk of Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Professor Jamil Kanji of Faculty of Medicine at UofA are developing a lab-on-a-chip device to enable rapid antibody detection for identifying (i) the potentially millions of individuals who had COVID-19 but didn't know it, (ii) individuals with sufficient COVID-19 antibody levels who would be immune to further COVID-19 infections, and (iii) potential donors of plasma to treat others. (Contact: jchen@ece.ualberta.ca, dwishart@ualberta.ca, shawn.babiuk@canada.ca, and kanji1@ualberta.ca)

Biorobotics and Telerobotics expert, Professor Mahdi Tavakoli, has been working on multiple COVID-19 related projects along with his team of students (including 3 co-op students). One of Dr. Tavakoli's main efforts is to design and utilize robotics and wearable technologies to reduce the risk of infectious disease transmission to frontline healthcare workers by helping them evaluate, monitor, and treat patients from a safe distance, an example of which is a remotely operated ultrasound scanning system consisting of a dexterous robot arm holding an ultrasound probe and a dexterous haptic interface for the sonographer. Concurrently, Dr. Tavakoli is developing an immersive telepresence/co-presence platform based on augmented reality for telehealth, telerehabilitation, tele-assistance, and remote social services delivery with an aim to continue the provision of non-life-critical care services to retirement homes and long-term care facilities. Dr. Tavakoli is also co-editing a special issue in the journal Frontiers in Robotics and AI on Robotics, Autonomous Systems and AI for Nonurgent/Nonemergent Healthcare Delivery During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic. More information on his work can be found on this webpage.  (Contact: mahdi.tavakoli@ualberta.ca)  

Professor Scott Dick is involved in the joint University of Alberta and University of Calgary effort to design emergency COVID-19 ventilators. This project is led by Professor Michael Lipsett from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. 

Other researchers from the department have applied for COVID-19 related research grants and will be starting their work in the coming weeks. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, or if you are looking for University collaborators to help with your research needs.