Campus news items: U of I heads coronavirus sequencing research project

COVID-19 test lab technician Ashalynn Bilton-Smith prepares test tubes for samples. (University of Idaho photo.)

The University of Idaho and partner schools will study coronavirus variants and sequence COVID-19 test results, in hopes of preparing for future virus outbreaks.

A $737,000 National Institutes of Health grant will finance the research, conducted by the U of I and a statewide research consortium, Idaho INBRE, the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence.

The goal of the research is to prepare for what might come next — as the virus mutates, perhaps into vaccine-resistant strains.

“As long as people are getting sick, the virus is going to continue to produce variants,” Idaho INBRE Director Carolyn Hoyde Bohach said.

“There’s not a lot of variant data from rural states with medically underserved communities such as Idaho,” said Barrie Robison, director of the U of I’s Institute of Interdisciplinary Data Sciences, and project lead on the coronavirus study. “If a new mutant shows up, anything we can understand about the dynamics of strain invasion will be important.”

Researchers say the Moscow area provides a unique research window, combining a mobile student population on a campus with mandatory coronavirus testing, and a rural, more stationary resident population.

Idaho State hires new health college dean

The new dean of Idaho State University’s College of Health says she wants to build ISU’s partnerships with industry, community partners and government agencies.

Teresa Conner

“It’s so exciting to look across a campus and see that not only here, but in Meridian, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, and Anchorage, Alaska, such a breadth of programs,” Teresa Conner said. “You have the opportunity for health sciences to engage engineering, business, education, and arts — as well as the community — and do something spectacularly innovative.”

Conner was recently named dean of the health college, which houses most programs at Idaho State’s Kasiska Division of Health Sciences. ISU is the state’s lead institution in health sciences.

In her previous positions, Conner has focused on building core research laboratories, international programs and innovative curriculum. She was the first associate provost of Health Sciences at Radford University Carilion in Roanoke, Va., and dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions at the University of North Georgia.

Boise State extends deadlines for firefighters

Boise State University students who are working the summer on the fire line will have more time to fill out their fall semester paperwork.

Firefighters will have an Aug. 27 deadline for admission, registration, fee payments, housing check-ins or dropping or adding a class.

Students seeking extensions will have to provide proof of their firefighter status.

Boise State is still encouraging students to arrive on campus as soon as possible, to limit the need to catch up during the semester.

For more information, student firefighters or family members can call (208) 426-2484 or email [email protected].

Lewis-Clark receives state grants for CTE programs

Lewis-Clark State College will use nearly $309,000 in state grants to bolster two of its career-technical programs.

The bulk of the money, nearly $294,000, will go toward the culinary arts section of its hospitality program.

The remaining $15,000 will go toward the college’s medical assistant program, a national growth field. According to U.S. Labor Department projections, the number of medical assistant’s jobs could increase by more than 19 percent by 2029.

“These grant funds will help us leverage and expand our site-based partnership delivery concept to more fully meet workforce needs in hospitality, culinary, hotel/resort management and medical assistance,” President Cynthia Pemberton said.

The money comes from Gov. Brad Little’s Building Idaho initiative, which funnels state surplus dollars into infrastructure.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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