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Rapid Response Fund

Support for Time-Sensitive Research

How to Apply



The Standard RRF cycle is always open:

Special Call: Cornell Atkinson COVID-19

Cornell Atkinson is issuing a special request for proposals for seed funding, to enable faculty to seize urgent and unique opportunities related to the COVID-19 pandemic and sustainability. This call is in collaboration with Cornell’s Master of Public Health Program, the Vice Provost of International Affairs, the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Rapid Response Research initiative, and the Cornell Center for the Social Sciences.  This special call for proposals remains open at the current time — please continue to check this page for updates.

In collaboration with Cornell’s Master of Public Health Program, the Vice Provost of International Affairs, and SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Rapid Response Research initiative, Cornell Atkinson is issuing a special request for proposals for seed funding, to enable faculty to seize urgent and unique opportunities, expected to be in the $5,000-$10,000 range. This special call for proposals is currently open – continue to check this page for updates.

Standard Rapid Response Fund

The Rapid Response Fund (RRF) facilitates urgent or time-sensitive research, workshops, and other activities within a broad range of sustainability initiatives. The RRF positions faculty to seize unique opportunities for small research projects with funding of up to $10,000. RRF awards can be used to generate preliminary results needed to compete for targeted external funding or to help finance sustainability-related events.

RRF proposals are evaluated on an ongoing basis by the Cornell Atkinson leadership team. Colleagues considering a proposal submission are welcome to contact Graham Kerslick ( or other members of our leadership team with any questions.

Recent Awards

Using the 'Anthropause' to Quantify the Impacts of Anthropogenic Noise on an Economically and Eulturally Important Marine Mammal

Humpback whale with calf

The relationship between the human community of Southeast Alaska and humpback whales is delicate—whale watch tourism depends on whales, but their vessels are noisy and humpback whales rely on sound for survival. Tourism operators in Juneau have repeatedly adjusted their operating behavior to minimize disturbances to whales, but the question of "how loud is too loud" has yet to be answered. A team of researchers led by Fellow Aaron Rice will study humpback whale behavior and create a new set of best practices for tourism communities that minimizes noise exposure for whales.

Water Equity and Government Policy During COVID-19

Pouring water into a drinking cup

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to ensure access to safe drinking water for hand washing, sanitation, and public health. Many US states and localities have enacted moratoria on water disconnection, but these moratoria are temporary and expiring in many states. This water affordability crisis could worsen health disparities. Fellow Mildred Warner (City and Regional Planning) and Postdoctoral Associate Xue Zhang (Global Development) will build a database of state and local actions regarding water equity to explore impacts on water equity and public health. This research will contribute to policy debates at the state and national level, specifically the COVID and infrastructure bills in Congress over the next few months.

Fast Indoor Air Quality Simulations using GANS: Informing the Design of Safe and Healthy Indoor Environments During COVID-19 and Beyond

Map of age of in a classroom

COVID-19 demonstrates the need for fast, easy-to-use tools to simulate airflow to evaluate the safety and air quality during the design of interior spaces. This requires complex Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations, which immediately increase the expertise and modeling effort, but simultaneously raise a barrier to ventilation and air quality assessment. Fellow Timur Dogan (Architecture) will develop a network-based proxy to replace complex and expensive CFD simulations in design decision-making. The results of the research will facilitate evidence-based indoor space layout planning for business, schools, and other building uses.

Long-term Economic and Social Consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean

Illustration of coronavirus

During the onset of the pandemic, Nicolas Bottan (Policy Analysis + Management) conducted a massive online survey across 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to measure the initial impacts of the pandemic, receiving nearly a quarter million responses. The proposed follow-up online survey will study dynamic impacts on household income, assets, social service access with this sample, test whether people trust expert recommendations, and conduct online training programs to improve compliance with prevention behaviors.

Next of Kin: Archiving Black and Native Rural Lives During COVID-19

Dark Labs logo

Focusing on the urgency of public health, the Next of Kin oral history project will archive the voices of elders within Black and Native communities who have been disproportionately and historically affected by epidemics, including COVID-19. Examining inequity in Upstate New York, Tao Goffe (ASRC) and Jeffrey Palmer (PMA) will use Next of Kin to train undergraduate students in qualitative and quantitative oral history methodologies for a podcast and virtual workshop. (Read More)

COVID-19 Impacts on Student Motivation, Academic Performance, Health, and Well-being

Stressed student with mask

Cornell students have struggled with anxiety about their health, ability to focus on their studies, and motivation for learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Esther Angert and Kathleen Hefferon (both BIOMI) will follow the trajectory of students who enrolled in Introductory Microbiology during the Spring semester 2020 and explore how their experiences and engagement change through other courses over the Fall 2020 and Spring 2020 semesters.

Materials and Performance Testing of Cloth Face Coverings From A Fiber Science Perspective

Making masks at home

The coronavirus outbreak has caused shortages in critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies. Fellow Margaret Frey (Fiber Science + Apparel Design) will employ a textile-first approach to systematically characterize textiles based on attributes such as fiber content, yarn structure, filter efficiency, and air permeability. This approach will enable researchers to identify which fiber/fabric combinations meet the FDA mask performance. If the cloth face covering can successfully qualify as an FDA approved face mask, reusable cloth masks can replace the demand of medical face masks for non-healthcare professionals and provide accessible, affordable options to the public.

The New Normal of Work and Transformation of Workplace Under the Impact of COVID-19

Woman sits on couch and works on laptop

As the pandemic left offices in many parts of the world empty, millions of people are managing to work remotely. Based on empirical data collected through a survey in four cities, Boston, Milan, Tokyo, and Shanghai, Fellow Ying Hua (Design + Environmental Analysis) will develop a comprehensive understanding of the work-from-home (WFH) experience during the pandemic, to outline the new normal of work. Outcomes will include a set of workplace design and management recommendations for both individuals and companies.

Global Supply Chains and Government Interventions During the COVID-19 Crisis

Masked warehouse worker moves boxes

Firms’ access to finance has real impacts on growth, employment, development, and distributional outcomes. The current pandemic has severely affected firms’ ability to rely on trade credit as both suppliers and customers in the supply chain are adversely affected. Sumudu Watugala (Dyson School) will examine the impact of supply chain shocks during the COVID-19 crisis on how firms obtain financing, especially small firms in emerging or developing markets. The results of the research will inform ongoing debates and decisions on policy interventions aimed at aiding firms-especially small businesses - to avoid bankruptcy and layoffs due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.

COVID in Water and Wastewater in NYS: Outreach and Research Support and Coordination

Block by block analysis in NYC

Wastewater surveillance for COVID-19 infections involves detection and quantification of SARS-CoV-2 viral genetic material in untreated wastewater. The NYS Water Resources Institute (NYSWRI) is supporting outreach and research coordination for two water issues related to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. Fellow Brian Rahm (Biological + Environmental Engineering) will lead a team of researchers to support and scale up this critical work. Their efforts will focus on two areas: COVID-19 exposure risk associated with recreational and professional contact with surface water, and wastewater surveillance as an early warning of SARS-CoV-2 outbreak at the community scale.

Day-Ahead Case Prediction for Testable Estimation of the State of the COVID-19 Epidemic

Block by block analysis in NYC

After recently conducting one of the first studies to quantify the effects of social distancing on the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, the work of Aaron Wagner (Electrical + Computer Engineering), which has been accepted for publication, finds that social distancing merely stabilized the spread of the disease. This project will extend the existing analysis in ways that are expected to increase its impact, namely by controlling for variability in the number of tests and by creating a predictor for day-ahead case counts. These extensions will meet the urgent need for real-time estimates of the state of the epidemic.

Nature and Well-Being: The Role of Birding and Nature Engagement During COVID-19

Block by block analysis in NYC

Anecdotal reports suggest that many people have increased their engagement with the natural environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tina Phillips (Lab of Ornithology) will lead a study to examine the role of nature engagement in affecting human well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers ask whether increasing engagement with the natural world improves self-reported mental health benefits and whether “time with nature” dampens the impact of the pandemic on health and well-being.

Towards a Green Recovery: Air Quality and Economic Productivity Under COVID-19

Block by block analysis in NYC

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an unprecedented opportunity to quantify the impact of economic activity reconfiguration on air quality – a critical task which has not been fully addressed by existing research. Fellow Rohit Verma (Hotel School) will examine human perception about the tradeoff between air quality and economic productivity. His research team will consider social isolation as a natural experiment in which some socioeconomic activities are put to a complete stop (e.g., tourism), some are reduced at significant levels (e.g., manufacturing and transportation), while some have stayed the same (e.g., agriculture).

Assessing Self Procured and Locally Sourced Food Adaptations in Response to COVID-19 in Upstate New York

Child planting tomato seedling in container garden

COVID-19 and associated stay-at-home orders are profoundly impacting the food system and leading to widespread food insecurity. Reports suggest Americans are attempting to adapt by producing their own food and shortening food value chains. Fellows Kathryn Fiorella (Population Medicine + Diagnostic Sciences) and Bruce Lauber (Natural Resources), along with Karla Hanson (Population Medicine + Diagnostic Sciences), will examine how COVID-19 is shifting self-procurement strategies (I.e., gardening, fishing, foraging, and hunting) and reliance on local foods in New York State, what is motivating such shifts.

Gauging Public Perception of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Conservation Values in the United States

View of forest treetops with heart-shaped opening to sky

Determining the public’s understanding of the relationship between disease risk and biodiversity loss is essential to advancing a One Health approach to public health. Fellows Jonathon Schuldt (Communication) and Gregory Dietl (Earth + Atmospheric Sciences) will conduct a national public survey to determine if a prolonged and severe crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic can change public support for conservation. Researchers will explore whether people in the U.S. are more willing to support conservation efforts in their communities, as well as in other countries, if such efforts may help reduce their personal risk from future zoonotic disease outbreaks.

Combating Misinformation about COVID-19 in Low-Resource Environments

Map of purported COVID clusters

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to numerous conspiracy theories and pernicious bouts of misinformation. The risks of misinformation are particularly high in low-income regions of the developing world containing millions of new social media users who lack the know-how or technology to verify information and place high trust in social networks. Fellow Aditya Vashistha (Computing + Information Science) will examine how novice users discover, interact with, and combat health misinformation, with the goal of designing interventions to contain misinformation.

Comfort Evaluation of Civilian Face Masks via Wear Trials

variety of face masks

Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, coupled with state and local mandates in public situations, indicate that people will be obliged to wear face masks for the foreseeable future. To increase probably of public compliance with wear requirements, it is critical that face mask be comfortable for long term use. Fran Kozen (Fiber Science + Apparel Design) and Kimberly Phoenix (Fiber Science + Apparel Design) will identify the factors most affecting wearer comfort, the importance of these factors in determining willingness to wear a face mask for a full workday, and preferences for each of the three designs.

Understanding Facemasking Preferences, Behaviors, and Motivations for Young Adults Aged 18-24

Woman wearing a mask in front of a building

Recent public opinion polls show that young adults are the least likely demographic to comply with the CDC recommendation to wear facemasks in public settings. Through development and administration of a survey instrument, Denise Green (Fiber Science + Apparel Design) will examine facemasks behaviors, preferences, and motivations of young adults (18-24) in the United States. The goal is to provide designers, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders with information that may improve adoption of universal facemasking.

A Sociological Assessment of Community Garden Responses to the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic

Family working in a community garden

Gardens are essential for ensuring food sovereignty in urban communities, particularly for those who are underserved and marginalized. Community garden groups are adapting to remain safe while maintaining food production and cultivating socioecological resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using citizen science to quantify crop yields and qualitative social science methods to portray gardener experiences, Fellow Donald Rakow (Plant Science) and Cornell Atkinson Postdoc Tomasz Falkowski will assess how garden practices change as a result of the pandemic and how these shifts differ among users.

Development of Facemasks for Children for Improved Protection and Non-contaminated Donning/Doffing

Girl wearing facemask

With the possible reopening of daycare and elementary schools, children (3 years – 6 years) will likely be asked to wear facemasks in various situations, including daycare and after-school programs, all despite the fact that this age group is not able to adjust the fit of facemasks independently. Fellow Huiju Park (Fiber Science + Apparel Design) will develop designs and sizing guidelines for children’s facemasks based on anthropometric data, and will then disseminate educational materials and face mask patterns online with the goal of better informing the public on the most effective facemask designs for children.

Vacuum Helmet to Contain Pathogen-Bearing Droplets in Dental, Otolaryngological and Ophthlamologic Outpatient Interventions

Hospital worker wearing PPE while cleaning

Clinic encounters of dentists, otolaryngologists, and ophthalmologists inherently exposes these specialists to enhanced risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, thus threatening them, their patients, and their practices. Mahdi Esmaily Moghadam (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) and Anais Rameau (Weill Cornell Medicine) model and test a novel aerosol elimination helmet device that would act as an additional primary barrier to infection, while maintaining open access to the patient’s face. At Weill Cornell Medicine, researchers will experimentally test several prototypes of the envisioned vacuum helmet in healthy volunteers performing cough and sneeze. (Read More)

Killing Coronavirus at Surfaces with a Portable Steam Generator

Family working in a community garden

To reduce the chance of catching or spreading the coronavirus, cleaning and disinfecting commonly interfaced surfaces is critical. Fellow Zhiting Tian (Mechanical + Aerospace Engineering) will develop an effective, cheap, and non-toxic portable device that generates high-temperature steam by an exothermic chemical reaction to kill the coronavirus on the contaminated surfaces or objects. The long-term plan for the researchers is to seek a patent application on the developed design.

Modeling the Economic and Welfare Effects of Health Shocks: Brief Resilience Assessment for Viral Epidemics and Diseases in Developing Countries

Busy street corner in old town Hanoi

While all countries across the globe have been, and will continue to be, negatively affected by COVID-19, developing countries are particularly vulnerable. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs describes large-scale health shocks as potentially having “devasting consequences” on a developing country’s morbidity and mortality rates, economic activity, and food security levels. Motivated by the current pandemic, Fellow Mark Constas (Dyson School) will develop metrics and specify an analytical approach to create a compact and easily deployed measurement tool to model resilience to health shocks in developing countries.

Urbanism and Epidemics: Short- and Long-term Design Strategies to Increase Urban Resilience to Fast-Spreading Diseases

Block by block analysis in NYC

The COVID-19 crisis reveals the vulnerability of urbanizing societies where cities are the focal points of the current pandemic. Fellow Timur Dogan (Architecture), Nathaniel Hupert (Weill Medicine - Population Health Sciences), and Katharina Kral (Architecture) will analyze New York City as a case study to develop a computational model that will yield a block-level infection risk factor and an epidemic resilience score. The model will enable urban designers to plan more resilient cities and will help decision-makers better assess strategies to safely reopen cities after an epidemic.

Reopening New York: Data Needs of Regional and County Health Planners

County map of NY State

There is substantial variation across New York State's counties in the vulnerability of their populations to a localized COVID-19 outbreak. Expanding upon the web-based report on New York State’s county population vulnerability to COVID-19 disease, previously published by the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics (PAD) and the Cornell Population Center, Matthew Hall (Policy Analysis and Management) and Warren Brown (PAD) project will collect data on workforce vulnerability and health care capacity. The researchers will canvass county and regional public health planning organizations to provide feedback at the initial and subsequent phases of the project’s online reporting. (Read More)

Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Food Security and Food Consumption Among Kenyan Households


Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food supply chains, food access, and food security are expected to be particularly severe for low-income countries. Fellow Kathryn Fiorella (Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences) will examine the pandemic's impacts on food consumption and food security among Kenyan households, in order to better understand how fish access and natural resource reliance shift in response. The findings will inform recommendations for fisheries management and community support policy and programs in Kenya and other low-income settings.

Mapping the Flow and Efficacy of COVID-19-related Information in Tompkins County

Tompkins County Map

This project aims to provide immediate support for current efforts among Tompkins County organizations to effectively disseminate information related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Norman Porticella (Communication), in collaboration with Fellows Jeff Niederdeppe (Communication), Gen Meredith (Master of Public Health Program), and Amelia Greiner Safi (Master of Public Health Program) will gather information to inform One Health initiatives by investigating relationships between message framing, source credibility, and public adherence to recommendations for behaviors that limit the spread of zoonotic disease.

Measuring the Economic and Environmental Consequences of COVID-19

Air pollution in China

Fellows Shanjun Li (Dyson School) and Panle Barwick (Economics) will analyze big data on air pollution, business activities, and household consumption in China and the US, to assess environmental quality and economic impacts of COVID-19. This real-time approach with machine learning addresses concerns of reliability and delays common in government statistics.

Cross-Cutting Risk Responses: Flood Risk in the COVID-19 Context

Rainfall map

Fellow John Zinda (Global Development) and Fellows David Kay, Lindy Williams, and Robin Blakely-Armitage (all from Community and Regional Development) will adapt an existing questionnaire on flood risk and response, to incorporate perceptions and behavioral responses surrounding COVID-19, in order to compare risk perception and preparedness behaviors for flooding and COVID-19. They will also assess socioeconomic vulnerability in relation to perception of and responses to both risks.

Of Pandemics and Infodemics: How Medical Misinformation Travels Online and What to Do about It


Whereas global pandemics have precedent, the current infodemic—the proliferation of medical misinformation online, ranging from fake coronavirus cures to conspiracies about the source—does not. Through a series of online surveys, Sarah Kreps and Doug Kriner (both from Government) will examine the spread and scope of misinformation about COVID-19 and the efficacy of various measures to combat it. (Read More)

Subjective Experience of Social Distancing During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Worker engaged in an online meeting

Qi Wang (Human Development) aims to identify the subjective experience of social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic and its relation to psychological well-being. Participants of diverse ethnic-cultural backgrounds will record their experiences related to social distancing for four weeks. Their personality, cultural orientation, and well-being will be assessed at the beginning and end of the recording and again in 12 months.

Searching for Food in a Pandemic

Worker unloads bulk food from a truck

Fellow David Just (Dyson School) will examine food bank interest and use in the age of COVID-19. Just will use data from Google search trends, a survey from a national sample of food banks and food pantries, and historical tracking of COVID-19 cases by state to assess the extent of recent strain on the food bank system. Predicting this demand for food bank services is useful in planning how resources need to be allocated to and within these organizations.

Expectations About Continuation of Social Distancing Rules in COVID-19 Times

Person works at desk with multiple devices

Lars Vilhuber (Labor Dynamics Institute) will examine real-time consumer surveys on economic expectations during COVID-19 social distancing, which could lead to more efficient reopening of regional economies. This research will include weekly rapid-response surveys in the U.S. and Canada to capture metrics involving consumer uncertainty and expectation related to social distancing and the closure of nonessential businesses, as actual policy responses to the crisis evolve.

Managing Epidemics by Managing Mobility

Street traffic at a busy intersection

Fellow Samitha Samaranayake (Civil and Environmental Engineering) is developing a mathematical model to enable government officials to manage human mobility during a pandemic. Such models can support disease containment and mitigation, and back economic recovery measures that minimize travel disruption while limiting disease spread. Incorporating travel dynamics into epidemiological models will help municipal and state officials better grasp the spread of infectious disease.

Website Charts COVID-19 Spread Across New York State

Network diagram

A website developed by a team of Cornell experts led by Fellow Fengqi You (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) is offering critical insights into the spread of coronavirus infections across New York State. This online tool translates daily data into interactive visualizations depicting the virus’ progress. With additional support from Cornell’s Office of Engagement Initiatives, You collaborated with Faculty Director Daryl Nydam and Fellow Renata Ivanek on the site's functionality and design. (Read More)


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