- by Mount Saint Mary College

Headshots of Evan Merkhofer, James Moran, Christina Alvey, and R. Scott Russell
iROC presenters from left to right: Evan Merkhofer, associate professor of Biology, James Moran, associate professor of biology, Christina Alvey, assistant professor of Mathematics and Information Technology, and R. Scott Russell, assistant professor of Sports Management

Mount Saint Mary College will present a pair of virtual talks delving into the COVID-19 pandemic, including the science behind the virus and its impact on the Olympics.

"SARS CoV-2 Virus, the COVID 19 Pandemic, and Vaccination" will take place on Wednesday, April 7 at 7 p.m. and "The Games Must Go On: Can the Olympic Games Survive after Back-to-Back Viruses?" will be presented on Thursday, April 8 at 4 p.m.

Both talks are part of the Mount's Investigating Research on Campus (iROC) series and will take place via Zoom. They are free and open to the public, but you must register to attend. See registration links below.

April 7: SARS CoV-2 Virus, the COVID 19 Pandemic, and Vaccination

Registration link:

The SARS CoV-2 virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic is among the newest members of a family of coronaviruses that cause upper-respiratory tract infections in animals and humans. Most coronaviruses cause mild or moderate illness in humans; however, three of them cause significant and potentially fatal disease.

SARS CoV-2 is thought to have emerged from an animal reservoir in China in December 2019 and was declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020 by the World Health Organization. Today, the virus has caused more than 120 million cases of infection worldwide and has claimed more than 2.5 million lives. As we enter into the second year of this pandemic, hopes for a return to normalcy in the U.S. hinge on the mass distribution and efficacy of three vaccines that have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Drawing on their expertise within their respective disciplines, Evan Merkhofer and James Moran (associate Biology professors) and Christina Alvey (assistant professor of Mathematics and Information Technology) will discuss the biology of coronaviruses and their infectiousness in humans. They will examine the characteristics of the COVID-19 pandemic using mathematical models in comparison to other global outbreaks. Finally, they will introduce the three vaccines currently in use and discuss their predicted efficacy in protecting against SARS CoV-2 and some of the known emerging variants.

April 8: The Games Must Go On: Can the Olympic Games Survive after Back-to-Back Viruses?

Registration link:

For more than 3,000 years, the Olympic Games have been bringing people together from far-away lands to compete in peaceful athletic competition. For the ancient Greeks, this meant warring city-states laying down their arms and traveling to Olympia to participate in a great festival in honor of the King of the Gods: Zeus.

Pierre de Coubertin, the mastermind behind the modern Olympic Games, imagined a similar purpose when the Olympics were re-born in Athens in 1896. Coubertin's Olympic ideal, and one of his driving inspirations for the International Olympic Committee, was to provide the world with a way to come together in peace on a regular basis not only to compete, but also to share ideas, stories, and cultures.

That humble beginning, with 13 countries and fewer than 300 athletes, has evolved into a worldwide festival of sport including more than 200 countries and 11,000 athletes. However, for two consecutive Olympiads, bringing the world's finest athletes together in one place has also meant the possibility of spreading a devastating virus.

In 2016, the Zika Virus caused many of the world's elite athletes to consider the personal health risks of traveling to Rio de Janeiro. Postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo followed, due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. The Olympic Games have survived two World Wars, boycotts, the Cold War, and a terrorist attack. Can the Games survive this latest threat? People from every corner of the planet are hoping that answer is "yes."

The talk will be presented by R. Scott Russell, assistant professor of Sports Management. In 2019, Russell traveled to Athens and Olympia with 20 Mount Saint Mary College students for a study abroad trip focused on investigating the history of the Ancient and Modern Olympic Games. This experience led to the creation of a course on the Olympics that was first offered at the Mount in the Fall 2020 semester. The class has proven to be immensely popular and will allow the Mount to share the evolving history of the Olympic Games with students for many Olympiads to come.


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