Academics & Research in DC

Science and Engineering Hall

 

As a major research institution, the George Washington University has long valued its one-of-a-kind academic, research and career opportunities for our students and faculty alike. In fact, with campus located just four blocks from the White House and short distances from several major government and non-government agencies, most of these opportunities are literally a short walk away.

GW's annual research expenditures bolster the university’s commitment to creating world-changing discoveries on everything from AIDS research to the security of nuclear technology, to the creation of the National Chimpanzee Brain Resource, which promises to reveal new insights into human neurobiology, and participating in the life saving COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.

Moreover, GW’s state-of-the-art Science and Engineering Hall (SEH) is ushering in a new era of discovery on everything from large aerospace structures to the next generation of nanotechnology, as well as convening scientists from all over the world to share knowledge and drive the future.

 

Below you can explore some of our research project and partnerships within the District.

A new study of COVID-19 shutdowns in the United States reveals pronounced disparities in air pollution — with disenfranchised, minority neighborhoods still experiencing more exposure to a harmful air pollutant compared to wealthier, white communities. This first-of-a-kind study published today by researchers at the George Washington University looks at how air pollution changed after schools and businesses shut down in March 2020 in attempts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

With support from NASA, the researchers used data from a recently launched satellite orbiting the earth called the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument, along with ground measurements of pollution, to estimate nitrogen dioxide levels both before and after COVID-19 shutdowns. This method allowed the researchers to zoom in and compare one neighborhood’s pollution level to another in urban areas throughout the U.S. They then used demographic data to compare how nitrogen dioxide levels changed for different population sub-groups.

While previous studies have documented the inequity in air pollution exposure using models or spatially limited networks of ground monitors, this study relied on both observational and spatially complete satellite data to reveal how these inequities persisted during the unparalleled changes in human activity during COVID-19, the authors said.

The team found that changes in human activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely less passenger vehicle traffic, resulted in lower nitrogen dioxide levels among the vast majority of urban areas. Yet even that sharp decrease was not large enough to eliminate the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in exposure to this traffic-related pollutant. Marginalized, minority communities still experienced nitrogen dioxide levels during the shutdowns that, in some cities, were 50% higher than pre-pandemic levels in the nearby highest income and mostly white communities, Kerr said.

Read more about this research project in the news release. 

A pair of George Washington University School of Nursing researchers were recently awarded a grant to study maternal mortality, a public health crisis with stark racial disparities, in Washington, D.C. The project will focus on the fathers' role and involvement in pregnancy and postpartum care, and their impact on prenatal care, maternal and infant health.

Professor Y. Tony Yang and assistant professor Sherrie Wallington, both affiliated with GW Nursing’s community of policy, populations and systems department, were awarded $359,000 for this research through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program. The program supports and expands action-oriented and community-engaged research to create healthier communities. 

Dr. Wallington and Dr. Yang have partnered on this research with the Alliance of Concerned Men, Inc., a local nonprofit that seeks to prevent youth violence and build safer communities in the D.C. area. Clayton Rosenberg, the organization’s chief of staff, said the group plans to bring together important stakeholders in the community to discuss fathers’ perceptions of their role in reducing maternal mortality and the system-level factors that promote or impede fathers’ roles in being part of the solution.

To read more about this research project, visit GWToday.

The District of Columbia Clinical Trials Unit (DC CTU), a collaboration between the George Washington University (GW) and Whitman Walker Institute (WWI), was selected by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) as one of 35 HIV CTUs based at both U.S. and international institutions.

The $8.4 million, seven‐year NIAID award is part of a significant investment in infrastructure and expertise in support of HIV/AIDS clinical trials, and establishes the DC CTU as a regionally focused clinical research unit designed to address the HIV epidemic in the nation’s capital.

The DC CTU is led principal investigators Manya Magnus, professor and associate chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Milken Institute School of Public Health; Gary Simon, professor and vice chair of the  School of Medicine and Health Sciences Department of Medicine, and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at The GW Medical Faculty Associates (GW MFA); and Sarah Henn, chief medical officer for Whitman Walker Health (WWH).

The DC CTU builds upon the success of both the GW HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) site and the WWH AIDS Clinical Trials site, as well as longstanding collaborations between the organizations through the DC Center for AIDS Research (DC CFAR), which Dr. Magnus calls a “critical foundational component for much of the research we are conducting.” The collaboration between academic and community health partners will leverage an extensive history of community collaboration, as well as numerous public health and academic partnerships and contribute to trials that will eventually help end the HIV epidemic.

To read more about this research project, visit GWToday.

A team of researchers from the George Washington University (GW) has been selected as one of five sites participating in the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) INTEGRA study (HPTN 094). The study, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with funding from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, both part of the National Institutes of Health, will determine whether using mobile health units to deliver integrated health services can improve HIV and substance use outcomes among people with opioid use disorder who inject drugs.

Leading the GW research team is principal investigator Irene Kuo, PhD, MPH, associate research professor of epidemiology in the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW, and co-investigator Marc Siegel, MD, associate professor of medicine at GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and leader of the NIH-funded GW HPTN Clinical Research Site, which operates under the recently-funded NIH-funded District of Columbia Clinical Trials Unit.

“The study focuses on offering integrated care for substance use, HIV care or prevention, and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, as well as referrals for care of viral hepatitis, especially hepatitis C,” explained Kuo. At the end of a 26-week period, Kuo added, researchers hope to see increased uptake of substance abuse treatment and medication for HIV prevention and care among study volunteers.

The study will determine whether a one-stop-shopping provision of integrated care will result in better outcomes versus a standard model of care.

Reade more about this research project on the SMHS website.

A report estimates that about 10,000 Washington, D.C. residents 65 and older are living with dementia, a general term for a range of memory loss disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. The report also discusses risk factors for dementia and unmet needs of Washington, D.C. residents living with dementia and their care partners.

“We found that an estimated 13% of the city’s 65 and older population are living with dementia, and the prevalence was higher for women, minorities and older D.C. residents,” Melinda C. Power, ScD, director of the George Washington University Institute for Brain Health and Dementia, said. “Our report also made some recommendations that might help prevent this devastating disorder and help caregivers as well as those already living with memory loss.”

The report was produced by Power and other researchers at the GW Institute for Brain Health and Dementia, with funding from the D.C. Department of Health. The GW Institute for Brain Health and Dementia is an interdisciplinary research center that brings together faculty from across the university to promote and support research on cognitive health. 

Researchers at the institute and their partners at DC Health teamed up to conduct this assessment because no one knew how many Washington, D.C. residents were living with dementia or what kinds of unmet needs they or their caregivers may have. The research team also wanted to find out if there were certain modifiable risk factors in the district that could be targeted to help keep the brain healthy. They found that several lifestyle and risk factors linked to dementia were very common in the district.

Read more about this research project in the news release.