Carnegie Mellon University

Dear Members of the Carnegie Mellon Community:

Our community continues to make a positive impact during the worldwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I wish to express my unending gratitude for how CMU faculty, students and staff have worked together during this unprecedented time.

We have donated personal protective equipment; activated our manufacturing expertise and facilities to produce supplies; offered free access to Simon Initiative and other educational tools; and shared virtual performances that provide a much-needed creative outlet. We have seen CMU-led research making significant contributions this week, and I am writing to share just three examples:

  • Yesterday, the CMU Delphi Research Center launched COVIDCast, a site that brings together multiple data sources to support COVID-19 forecasting, including Facebook as well as Google, Quidel Corp. and a national health system. The site contains five interactive maps with real-time information at the national, regional and county level. COVIDcast leverages our leadership in machine learning, statistics and data science, and builds upon Delphi’s long-standing partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I remain grateful to the entire Delphi team, led by Ryan Tibshirani, associate professor of statistics and machine learning, and Roni Rosenfeld, professor and department head of machine learning. They were assisted by Jodi Forlizzi, director and professor of human-computer interaction, who led the team that created the data visualizations. This project has garnered much attention from CNN, Wired, CNET, NBC News, The Verge, Popular Mechanics, and Gizmodo, among others. This effort builds on earlier work done through our collaboration with Facebook, which was highlighted in Mark Zuckerberg’s Washington Post op-ed and Good Morning America interview.
  • On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that the state is partnering with Carnegie Mellon on a dashboard tool to help policymakers make informed plans for re-opening the state’s economy. Our data-driven tool is the result of collaboration by economists, policy experts and scientists from the Tepper School of Business, the Heinz College and the School of Computer Science as well as a number of experts from across the university who are highlighted on this site. The administration will use this dashboard to better understand the inherent risks and benefits to re-opening certain businesses and industry areas. I am grateful to Dean Ramayya Krishnan of the Heinz College for leading this effort.
  • Finally, Po-Shen Loh, professor of mathematical sciences, has brought together a team, including many CMU students and alumni working in mathematics, human-computer interaction, computer science and information security, to develop NOVID, an innovative contact tracing app that uses ultrasound technology to anonymously and reliably track exposure to COVID-19. Using this technology to measure the distance between two people is proving to be more effective than other Bluetooth-enabled apps on the market. This app, awaiting approval in the Google Play Store with an iOS version under development, is currently being beta-tested. This effort shows incredible promise to improve and accelerate the testing, tracing and isolation strategy that is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and safely restarting our economy.

Like so many other institutions across society, Carnegie Mellon is being tested like never before, but the world is looking to us to provide innovative solutions to the various challenges we now face. I am truly inspired by, and grateful for, the CMU researchers, faculty, staff and students who are stepping up to answer the call and showcase our nimble leadership at the intersection of technology and humanity.

Wishing you all a restful weekend and continued good health,

Farnam Jahanian
Henry L. Hillman President’s Chair