Our Faculty Experts

Select a faculty expert below to read articles related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ralph Baric, PhD, William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology

Dr. Ralph Baric (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dr. Baric

Dr. Baric conducts research in emerging infections, virus pathogenesis, drug and vaccine development. He has presented at numerous National Academy of Science meetings as well as various institutes under the National Institutes of Health organization. With more than thirty patents addressing critical advances in coronavirus research and other drug development, he has represented United States researchers at the Royal Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Baric in the news:

More Dr. Baric in the news

Twitter: @Baric_Lab

Timothy Sheahan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology

Dr. Timothy Sheahan

Dr. Sheahan

Dr. Sheahan examines the host-pathogen interface in order to discover new methods for viral control. For the past 12 years, Dr. Sheahan has been studying the molecular mechanisms of viral pathogenesis in hopes of discovering viral and/or host proteins to target for antiviral therapy. Dr. Sheahan works closely with Dr. Ralph Baric on coronavirus.

Dr. Sheahan in the news:

More Dr. Sheahan in the news

Twitter: @timothysheahan

Lisa Gralinski, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology

Dr. Lisa Gralinksi

Dr. Gralinksi

Dr. Gralinski studies coronavirus pathogenesis. Her work focuses on identifying susceptibility alleles that regulate SARS coronavirus disease mechanisms and immunity. She is particularly interested in the role of human genetics in shaping the immune response following infection and leading to complications, like acute respiratory distress. Dr. Gralinski works closely with Dr. Ralph Baric on coronavirus.

Dr. Gralinski in the news:

More Dr. Gralinski in the news

Twitter: @LisaGralinski

David R. Martinez, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Epidemiology


Dr. Martinez

Dr. Martinez is a viral immunologist with an expertise in immunity to viral pathogens of global importance including HIV, dengue, and SARS-CoV-2. As a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Ralph Baric’s lab, he focus on studying host antibody responses to dengue virus and SARS-CoV-2. As a result of the explosive SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in Wuhan China, Dr. Martinez immediately shifted his focus to studying host immune responses to coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2. In addition to being involved in the pre-clinical development of the Johnson and Johnson and Moderna SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, as well as the Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca monoclonal antibody therapies, his postdoctoral work focused on characterizing neutralizing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination.

Dr. Martinez in the news:

More Dr. Martinez in the news


Dr. Pettifor

Dr. Pettifor

Audrey Pettifor, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology

Dr. Audrey Pettifor is an epidemiologist whose research focuses on sexual behavior and determinants of HIV/STI infection in sub-Saharan Africa. Her goal is to identify modifiable risk factors and develop novel interventions to prevent new HIV infections—particularly among adolescents and young women. Since spring 2020, Dr. Pettifor has been advising the UNC administration on various aspects of COVID-19 and the return to campus.

Dr. Pettifor in the news:

Allison Aiello, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology

Dr. Allison Aiello

Dr. Aiello

Dr. Aiello’s research examines social, behavioral and biological factors that have an impact on infectious diseases and health conditions throughout life. She explores the role of social determinants – e.g., education, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, neighborhood-level stressors, and workplace or school policies – on health outcomes. In particular, Dr. Aiello’s research examines antibiotic use, vaccination rates, infectious disease transmission, diagnostic testing, and infectious disease prevention.

Dr. Aiello in the news:

More Dr. Aiello in the news and articles related to prevention of infectious disease


Dr. Planey

Dr. Planey

Arrianna Planey, PhD, Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management

Dr. Planey is a Faculty Fellow in the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. She is a health/medical geographer whose expertise includes conceptualizing and measuring health care access, health workforce issues, and chronic illnesses. Her research and teaching focuses include the application of spatial analytic/statistical/epidemiologic methods to study interactions between health(care) policies, healthcare access and utilization, and underlying, population-level health inequities. Her goal is to identify points of intervention at structural- and system-levels. Dr. Planey’s ongoing research includes collaborative studies of birth outcomes (preterm birth and low birth weight) among Black immigrants in segregated neighborhoods, travel burdens borne by rural cancer patients, and the racially disparate effects of rural hospital closures on acute care access.

Dr. Planey in the news and research publications:

Dr. Palmquist

Dr. Palmquist

Aunchalee Palmquist, PhD, Assistant Professor of Maternal and Child Health

Dr. Palmquist studies infant and young child feeding in emergencies and other situations of extreme adversity. She is the lead for the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute’s (CGBI) Lactation and Infant Feeding in Emergencies (L.I.F.E.)™ Initiative. She serves as a CGBI representative on the WHO/UNICEF Global Breastfeeding Collective, the Emergency Nutrition Network IFE Core Group, and the CORE group Humanitarian-Development Task Force. Dr. Palmquist is spearheading efforts to strengthen the implementation of recommended infant feeding practices and COVID-19 through the new United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) COVID-19 Infant & Young Child Feeding Constellation.

Dr. Palmquist in the news and research publications:

More Dr. Palmquist in the news


Dr. Palmquist, as a CGBI representative on the ENN IFE Core Group Steering Committee, helped draft:

Twitter: @AunPalmquist

David Jay Weber, MD, Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine

Dr. David Weber

Dr. Weber

Dr. Weber serves as the medical director of hospital epidemiology (infection control), Associate Chief Medical Officer, UNC Hospitals, and as director of the UNC Health Care Anti – Infective Stewardship. Dr. Weber’s research focuses on hospital-associated (nosocomial) infections especially antibiotic-resistant pathogens, surveillance, disinfection and sterilization, nosocomial pneumonia, hand hygiene, and outbreak investigations. He is particularly interested in new and emerging diseases, and vaccine implementation.

Dr. Weber in the news:

Rachel Graham, PhD, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology

Rachel Graham

Dr. Graham

Dr. Graham examines emerging infectious diseases, specifically SARS and coronavirus. She uses basic science techniques to examine host receptors and disease transmission to identify potential candidates for epidemic surveillance and preventive measures against these deadly infectious diseases. Dr. Graham works closely with Dr. Ralph Baric on coronavirus.

Dr. Graham in the news:

More Dr. Graham in the news

Kimberly Powers, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology

Kimberly Powers

Dr. Powers

Dr. Powers uses epidemiological, statistical and mathematical modeling methods to study infectious disease transmission. Watch the seminar on Coronavirus Outbreak: Biology, Epidemiology and Public Health Response held on March 3 below (begin at 23:00 mark) to see her summary of current mathematical modeling efforts to understand novel coronavirus spread.

Dr. Powers in the news:

More Dr. Powers in the news

Twitter: @kim_powers

Noel Brewer, PhD, Professor of Health Behavior

Dr. Noel Brewer

Dr. Brewer

Dr. Brewer’s research explores why people engage in vaccination and other health behaviors. He currently serves on WHO committees on vaccine acceptance and COVID-19 vaccine risk communication. Dr. Brewer has advised on vaccination for the National Academies of Science, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President’s Cancer Panel under two presidents, and National Vaccine Advisory Committee. Dr. Brewer was the inaugural chair of the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable. Dr. Brewer co-edited the FDA’s book, Communicating Risks and Benefits: An Evidence-Based User’s Guide.

Dr. Brewer in the news

More Dr. Brewer in the news

Twitter: @noelTbrewer

Leah Devlin, DDS, Professor of the Practice

Dr. Devlin

Dr. Devlin

Dr. Devlin has more than 30 years in public health practice in North Carolina including 10 years as the Wake County Health Director and 10 years as the State Health Director for North Carolina. She is helping the Office of NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen with the public pandemic response.

Dr. Devlin in the news:

Dr. Turpin

Dr. Turpin

Barbara J. Turpin, PhD, Professor and Chair of Environmental Sciences and Engineering

Dr. Turpin is an aerosol scientist who conducts research linking human exposures via airborne fine particles (aerosols) back to their sources in the indoor and outdoor environment, often through chemical and physical transformations. She is conducting research to understand the airborne spread of COVID-19 and is one of 239 signatories on a letter to the World Health Organization about the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19. Dr. Turpin is a Past President of the American Association for Aerosol Research, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for Aerosol Research.  She is a Professor and Chair of the UNC Gillings Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering.

Dr. Turpin in the news:

Dr. Fisher

Dr. Fisher

Michael Fisher, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering

Dr. Fisher develops, evaluates, and applies technologies and methods for addressing under-recognized health concerns in water and sanitation, both in the US and internationally. His research contributes to a greater understanding of the determinants of effective and beneficial water and sanitation service delivery, and to innovations and evidence that can be used to improve these services.

Dr. Fisher in the news:

Mr. Gentry

Bill Gentry, MPA, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management

Mr. Gentry, a disaster management expert, worked for the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management for more than 15 years before coming to UNC. He has joined both UNC and the Gillings School’s COVID-19 working groups and is supporting the University’s emergency operations center.

Mr. Gentry in the news:

Dr. Meier

Dr. Meier

Benjamin Mason Meier, JD, LLM, PhD, Adjunct Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management

Dr. Meier is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Policy and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management. His interdisciplinary research—at the intersection of international law, public policy, and global health—examines human rights frameworks for global health policy. Advancing legal frameworks for public health, he is working closely as a consultant to international organizations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations in the COVID-19 response.

Dr. Meier articles and chapters related to the pandemic:

More Dr. Meier in the news

Twitter: @BenjaminMMeier

Dr. Noble

Rachel Noble, PhD, Professor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering

Dr. Noble is the Mary and Watts Hill Jr. Distinguished Faculty member at the Institute of Marine Sciences, and she holds joint faculty appointments in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering within Gillings, as well as the Department of Marine Sciences and the Institute for the Environment. Dr Noble’s research program is focused on viral and bacterial pathogens in water, wastewater, stormwater, and food (including shellfish). Dr. Noble is currently working on multiple aspects of COVID-19 research.  She is working with a national team to quantify SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, including rural systems such as package treatment plants and septic systems. Through this collaborative work, it is hoped that the project team can work to identify ways that viral pathogen concentrations in sewage can serve as tracers for community transmission and infections, as well as to identify times where risk exists to the public from failing infrastructure. The second area of research is to advance the technology for quantifying SARS-CoV-2 in a range of different areas including wastewater, stormwater, through developing accurate diagnostic tools, we will be able to demonstrate the disappearance of the pathogens as we hope, over time, transition back to normal activities. A third, very exciting area of her work is to collaborate with faculty in the Carolina Population Center in the area of rural disease transmission to use spatial and demographic information to better predict the dynamics of disease transmission in rural systems.

Dr. Noble in the news:

Our Students and Alumni Respond

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health students and alumni from across disciplines are working tirelessly to put learning into action in the face of a global health crisis.

Read more about what they are doing below:

Alumni Spotlight

Benjamin Puertas, DrPH

Advisor of Human Resources for Health for the Caribbean, PAHO

Dr. Puertas is PAHO’s adviser in human resources for 26 countries in the Caribbean region. He is based in Barbados but was deployed to work on the ground in Grenada when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. By conducting risk assessments and trainings and analyzing capacity, he and the PAHO team were able to increase the safety and efficiency of the response in Granada’s hospitals.

First-generation student experiences, challenges and insights during COVID-19

Moderator: Yesenia Merino, PhD, MPH

Panelists: Stefani Baca-Atlas, MSW; Dawna Jones, MEd, MSW; Maria Dykema Erb, MEd

Pandemic Protection for People who are Incarcerated

Moderator: Dana Rice, DrPH

Panelists: Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, PhD; Bernadette E. Brown, J.D.; Amber Akemi Piatt, MPH

What have we learned from the past? What is COVID-19 teaching us?

The Emergency Preparedness, Ethics and Equity Series will explore how we can continue to foster inclusive excellence and health equity during the most turbulent of times. Speakers will explore ways to consistently apply culturally relevant, ethical and equitable decision-making so that the most vulnerable among us are not left further disenfranchised post-COVID-19.

Building COVID-19 Research Collaborations Webinar Series:

Where is SARS-CoV-2 and how does it get there?

Drs. Turpin and Brown will present an overview of current research on environmental transmission and surveillance of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Emerging research suggests that the virus can be transmitted through multiple routes, including via aerosols in indoor spaces. They will discuss the important remaining unknowns about environmental transmission, potential for environmental surveillance, and implications for controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Statistical Considerations in the Design and Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 Prevalence Studies

SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic and antibody tests are critical for identifying COVID-19 infections, modeling transmission dynamics, estimating mortality rates and guiding policy on reopening efforts. There are many statistical considerations for the use of these tests and the design of studies to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19. Drs. Hudgens and Shook-Sa will discuss challenges faced by ongoing COVID-19 prevalence studies related to study design, test performance and generalizability of results, as well as issues around sampling frame development and adaptive sampling approaches. They also present a specimen pooling model, which may facilitate the rapid scale-up of diagnostic testing.

Kids and COVID: Overview, Epidemiology, and Public Health Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic among the youngest of us

Speakers: Whitney Robinson, Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology & Aunchalee Palmquist, Assistant Professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health

Drs. Palmquist and Robinson discuss their intersecting interests in COVID-19 and kids. Dr. Palmiquist focuses on the representation of children as vectors in the perinatal and postnatal periods. Dr. Robinson discusses the epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 infection in children and implications for public health.

Social distancing privilege and real-time message testing in North Carolina

SPEAKERS: Nabarun Dasgupta, Senior Research Scientist, Injury Prevention Research Center & Allison Lazard, Assistant Professor, Hussman School of Journalism and Media

Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta share what recent smartphone mobility data reveal about the social distancing privilege gap. Dr. Allison Lazard presents results of weekly message testing to encourage social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. They discuss implications for policy and the development of a rapid response workflow to harness emergent media.

Changing your shoes while riding a bicycle during a hurricane: developing COVID-19 models on a policy timeline

SPEAKERS: Mark Holmes, Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management & Kim Powers, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology.

Drs. Holmes and Powers share their expertise and experiences in developing rapid-response COVID research. • Building epidemic models on accelerated timelines • Standing up a multi-site collaborative of co-investigators who have never met • Developing and communicating evidence to inform urgent policy decisions

Ethics Webinars:

Rethinc. Labs — Data Privacy in the Era of COVID-19 — Contact Tracing: Privacy vs. Protection

Governments around the globe are exploring how to leverage technology and data analytics to enable effective contact tracing to stem the spread of COVID-19. UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Professor of Operations Jay Swaminathan hosts a panel of experts to explore how developers, corporations, regulators and consumer advocates are thinking about the impact of integrating this technology in response to the pandemic.

Panelists include IBM Watson IoT VP of Offering Management Stephan Biller; the Heritage Foundations's Center for Technology Policy Director Klon Kitchen; the Future of Privacy Forum CEO Jules Polonetsky and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health Associate Professor and Carolina Population Center MEASURE Evaluation Project Director Jim Thomas.

Ethics Around the Table: Jim Thomas, "Ethical Pandemic Control"

A conversation in the Parr Center's Ethics Around the Table (EAT) series, hosted via Zoom on April 3, 2020. Jim Thomas, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, discusses the components of ethical pandemic response and demos a forthcoming online "dashboard" of ethical decision-making resources for policy makers, governments, and other officials responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. These resources have developed by the Gillings School of Global Public Health in collaboration with other units and centers at UNC Chapel Hill.

Coronavirus Seminar:

Watch UNC Gillings School of Public Health’s Seminar on Coronavirus Outbreak: Biology, Epidemiology and Public Health Response held on March 3, 2020.

Second Annual SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 Updates Seminar (March, 2021)

Leading experts from the Department of Epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health share the latest on new COVID-19 variants, vaccines and vaccine trials, breakthrough treatments, what’s happening in the clinical environment, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) perspectives and much more.

Visit our communications and marketing team page.
Contact sphcomm@unc.edu with any media inquiries or general questions.

Communications and Marketing Office
125 Rosenau Hall
CB #7400
135 Dauer Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7400