From new vaccine trials tackling some of the world’s deadliest diseases to cross-disciplinary boot camps training young researchers about trustworthy AI, the year 2022 has been one of discovery, collaboration, learning and global impact for the George Washington University’s community of scholars.
Thanks to our researchers, we have a better understanding of how to prevent road traffic deaths and injuries; how workplaces penalize single women; how global supply chains benefit the solar industry; how principals can disrupt inequity in their schools; and how self-sampling HPV kits may increase cervical cancer screening. GW researchers have uncovered new species hiding in plain sight and unlocked the colorful secrets of known species. And as pandemics, insurrections and other crises unfold online and off, GW physicists, photojournalists and more are on the front lines documenting and probing these historical events–and being recognized for their outstanding achievements along the way.
While our faculty write books, publish in prestigious journals and prepare a new generation of community-engaged researchers, our students are blazing their own trails with breakthrough research of their own.
Now, as the year draws to a close, here are a few research highlights from 2022. We can’t wait to see what 2023 brings:
In January, GW became one of only four U.S. sites to administer the first mRNA HIV vaccines to human study participants. The Phase I clinical trial, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and sponsored by IAVI, will test the safety and immune response of two vaccine candidates. The study is the latest in which GW is collaborating and serving as an HIV vaccine trial site. In 2018, GW became one of only two sites participating in a Phase I study for an HIV vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company GSK. In a paper published this December in “Science,” researchers showed that the GSK HIV vaccine induced broadly neutralizing antibody precursors, an important step in neutralizing HIV’s genetic variants.
This year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a team led by GW’s Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics (IDDP) a second phase of funding—$5 million—to develop a platform that aids journalists facing coordinated campaigns of online harassment. The platform will allow journalists to report abuse and tap into an array of technical and social support, including being matched with a peer advocate equipped with tools and resources to help. According to Rebekah Tromble, director of IDDP and lead investigator on the project, the team learned from journalists during the project’s first phase that they wanted support and help from other journalists and emotional support from their loved ones when facing this type of abuse.
GW is one of five academic research partners working with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology, Google and a semiconductor manufacturer to create an affordable supply of new microchip technologies for the research community and startups. The collaboration, which aims to unleash innovation in the semiconductor and nanotechnology industries, comes as the U.S. government seeks to expand U.S. manufacturing of computer chips through the bipartisan CHIPS Act. The GW team is developing new chip designs that will mimic the computational power of the human brain and nervous system. For the students involved in the project, being able to work on device fabrication and circuit design while simultaneously addressing a national priority has proved an invaluable experience.
In September, the GW Equity Institute Initiative (EII) showcased racial and socioeconomic equity research from faculty across GW. A university-wide collaboration to create an institute dedicated to community-engaged research on the problem of racial and ethnic inequality, EII has so far provided seed funding to 10 projects. The projects explore everything from the impact of parental incarceration on children and the limits of community policing to the significance of student-teacher ethnoracial matching. ”The responsibility of higher education is to create knowledge and equip students who will attack the problem of inequality in the world, even if we alone are not going to solve it,” GW Law Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew, who launched EII, said.
A study published earlier this year in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” called into question a long-held view about the role of meat eating in shaping human evolution. The study found that the dramatic increase in archaeological evidence for meat eating after the appearance of Homo erectus can largely be explained by greater research attention on this time period–effectively skewing the evidence in favor of the “meat made us human” hypothesis. According to the researchers, the findings—which were reported in more than 65 news outlets—should be of interest not just to paleoanthropologists but to all people who might base their dieting decisions on this narrative.
In May, GW’s Biostatistics Center (BSC) turned 50. For five decades, the center has conducted groundbreaking research that has improved the health outcomes and quality of life for millions of people worldwide. The center’s large-scale public health and medical studies have transformed our understanding and treatment of everything from diabetes to birth disorders. Center researchers have published more than 1,700 papers, including 61 in the “New England Journal of Medicine,” while the center has advanced biostatistical science with innovative approaches to the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of clinical research outcomes. More recently, BSC was awarded $51 million as part of a National Institutes of Health-funded project to measure long-term effectiveness of diabetes interventions.