Three STEM Student Groups Respond to COVID-19 in Their Communities

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, local engagement is more important than ever. STEM students and graduates have found ways to engage with their local communities, from texting to distributing needed products. On November 18, 2020, Engineers and Scientists Acting Locally (ESAL) hosted a webinar for these groups to share their experiences. Read more about how STEM students are promoting health and equity at the local level:


CovidSMS is a texting service founded by students at Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University to provide local information on COVID-19. The founders were inspired by the need for streamlined access to reliable information. According to the group's website, “Only 51% of low income Americans have access to the Internet, while 71% of them do have access to a basic phone with texting capabilities.” CovidSMS aims to aid those who may be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by partnering with community leaders, city officials, and local organizations to share information, helping community members make informed decisions.

Students vs. Pandemics

Students vs. Pandemics is a catalyst network founded at Harvard University to help students build community. The group shares educational materials such as policy memos and organizes service activities such as donation drives to bridge academic disciplines and empower student leaders. The movement has now expanded to over 500 members at universities around the world. They have partnered with groups at Harvard and beyond to create resources and engagement opportunities for their communities.

UCSF Science Policy Group

The final speaking group was the Science Policy Group at the University of California, San Francisco, a chapter of NSPN. While the group existed prior to COVID-19, members sprang into action to start new initiatives during the pandemic. The chapter has been making alcohol-based hand sanitizer to distribute locally. They have focused on vulnerable populations, such as those who are incarcerated or unhoused, who may not otherwise have access to hand sanitizer during this time. With each bottle, the group includes educational information about COVID-19 symptoms and prevention strategies. To date, they have distributed hand sanitizer to over 45,000 people.

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To learn more about ESAL and register for upcoming events, follow them on Twitter: @ESAL_us.

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