College of Science and SBS produce educational video series on pandemics

College of Science and SBS produce educational video series on pandemics

By Kyle MittanUniversity Communications
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The first presentation will feature Emma Pérez (left), a research social scientist at the Southwest Center, and Michael Worobey, head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
The first presentation will feature Emma Pérez (left), a research social scientist at the Southwest Center, and Michael Worobey, head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Nicole Marrone (left), an associate professor in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, will talk with Leslie Langbert, executive director of the Center for Compassion Studies, in a video going live July 30.
Nicole Marrone (left), an associate professor in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, will talk with Leslie Langbert, executive director of the Center for Compassion Studies, in a video going live July 30.
The third video, going live Aug. 6, will feature Joyce Schroeder (left), professor and head of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Rain Wuyu Liu, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication.
The third video, going live Aug. 6, will feature Joyce Schroeder (left), professor and head of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Rain Wuyu Liu, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication.

While scientists work to uncover the many mysteries of the new coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, one thing remains clear: It has affected every aspect of daily life.

That's what organizers had in mind when they set out to produce "Science + Society: Transformation During COVID-19," a three-part video series presented by the College of Science and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The videos will premiere on the series' YouTube page at 5 p.m. on July 23, July30 and Aug. 6. They will be available to watch any time after they go live.

COVID-19 and the virus are clearly topics rooted in science, but "there's also this social and behavioral aspect," said Michael Luria, assistant dean for corporate and community engagement in the College of Science. It requires the expertise from both areas, he added, to answer the question, "How are we living in this environment where we're all having to adapt our behavior significantly?"

Elliot Cheu, interim dean of the College of Science, and John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, came up with the idea to meld their colleges' expertise in a way that would serve the public during the pandemic. The series that emerged will cover the history of pandemics, how we can be compassionate to one another during this time, and what society might look like when it's over.

To answer those questions, the series paired a geneticist with a historian, a mindfulness expert with an audiologist, and a biologist with a communication scholar. The videos show the experts – one from each college – having informal discussions via Zoom, moderated by Nancy Montoya, a communications and marketing specialist in the Office of University Communications who joined the University following her career as an award-winning broadcast journalist.

The first talk, "Making Sense of this Moment: COVID-19 in Historical Perspective," features Michael Worobey, head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Emma Pérez, research social scientist at the Southwest Center, discussing the ways they seek the truth to understand the past.

Worobey, a renowned geneticist and virologist, studies and reconstructs the origins and timelines of viruses, including the new coronavirus. Pérez is an award-winning feminist historian and author who studies how big events change history and how society makes sense of them.

Their discussion will cover how COVID-19 might be remembered a century from now, and whose stories will prevail amid conflicting narratives as the pandemic unfolds during an election year and a national fight against racial injustice. The two will also ask whether this pandemic will be largely forgotten 100 years from now – as the 1918 flu pandemic was.

Pairing these two experts from disciplines that seemed so distinctly different was difficult to picture at first, said Maribel Alvarez, associate dean for community engagement in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. But a closer look showed they were, in many ways, a natural fit.

"We thought, 'You know what, he's a historian,'" Alvarez said of Worobey, who is a member of the BIO5 Institute. Viewers, she added, will see a conversation that weaves the hard science behind gene sequencing with the stories that come from big events.

As a land-grant institution, it's important to bring conversations like these to the public, Alvarez said.

"The whole point of existing on this land is to be of service to the region," said Alvarez, holder of the Jim Griffith Chair in Public Folklore at the Southwest Center. "The community always appreciates when the University opens up its resources and knowledge."

"Compassion for Others and Ourselves During the Pandemic," the second video, will feature a talk about the ways we can take care of ourselves and be mindful of the challenges others face during the pandemic. The talk features Leslie Langbert, executive director of the Center for Compassion Studies, and Nicole Marrone, associate professor in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.

Langbert, a clinical social worker and mindfulness meditation trainer, will offer tips for avoiding anxiety, incorporating mindfulness into daily practices and showing compassion for others. Marrone, an audiologist, will show how physical distancing, masks and Zoom calls can negatively impact the 60 million Americans who live with hearing loss.

The third video will feature Joyce Schroeder, professor and head of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Rain Wuyu Liu, assistant professor in the Department of Communication. Their conversation will cover the barriers to people adopting new norms to mitigate the pandemic, such as exposure notification and wearing masks, as well as the best strategies for promoting healthy behavior.

Schroeder, a member of the BIO5 Institute and the University's Campus Re-Entry Plan Working Group, is leading the implementation of a new app that notifies users of potential exposure to the new coronavirus. Liu, also a member of the working group, is leading a research project that studies the social and cultural factors influencing people's COVID-19 preventive behaviors, with data collected in the U.S., China and Italy.

Both colleges have their own well-established lecture series. The College of Science's runs in the early spring and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences' Downtown Lecture Series runs in the fall. This video series is not intended to replace either, Alvarez and Luria said.

Presenting the series entirely online made for a unique challenge, said Alvarez, an associate research professor in the School of Anthropology and an expert on social rituals.

"We're also very much aware of and understand that there's a ritual aspect to engagement activities," she said. When people gather to attend a lecture together, she added, "that becomes part of the ritual of building community and that is harder to see online."

The videos, Luria said, were produced with Tucsonans in mind.

"The University of Arizona and our respective colleges are all part of the Tucson community," he said. "We want to do something that creates value and educational content for our community."

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