Understanding COVID-19 for Educators


“Understanding COVID-19” is a live virtual course taking place April 20 & 21, from 10 am-3 pm EST both days. The course will teach high school students about COVID-19 (e.g., epidemiology, clinical care, biological mechanisms) and introduce them to the breadth of bio-related career directions that have played a role in fighting the pandemic (e.g., academia, industry, public policy, journalism). By connecting students with not just the science of COVID-19, but the career paths and people behind the response, we hope to introduce students to the breadth of career options available to those interested in STEM fields through the context of the pandemic. 

Who should attend? 

Any high school student is welcome to join. A year of biology is helpful, but not required. Students currently enrolled in a biology class should be considered as having a year of biology. Underrepresented minorities and students from under-resourced schools are encouraged to register. Though the registration process asks several questions, it is a registration process and not an application; any students who registers will be able to attend the class. 

Link to Register: tinyurl.com/HScovidcourse

Educational Objectives

Students will be exposed to fundamental concepts in biotechnology through the lens of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, students will leave the course able to answer the following questions:

Where did SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, come from and how did it spread?

How does SARS-CoV-2 cause COVID-19 disease? How is it similar or different to other coronaviruses or pandemic-causing viruses?

How do we treat COVID-19? How do medicine, academia, industry, and government come together to respond to a pandemic? 

How do we develop vaccines — in general, and specifically for COVID-19? How do different types of vaccines work?

Cost and Equipment

There is no cost to participants. Students should have access to stable internet and an internet-capable device, such as a tablet, laptop, or cellphone, ideally with an internal microphone and camera. Students for whom internet access is a barrier should contact Marissa Ferrara, mdferrara@mgh.harvard.edu

Course Organizers and Information

The course will be led by Bruce Walker, MD, Director of the Ragon Institute, and Zuri Sullivan, PhD, Harvard postdoctoral fellow. You can hear more about their goals for the course here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGjYE2GtRLw

Guest Speakers include:

  • Stephon Gilmore – NFL 2019 Defensive Player of the Year and a recovered COVID-19 patient (Patient Interview) 
  • Michael Mina – Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Lecturer)
  • Akiko Iwasaki –  Professor of Immunology at Yale University (Lecturer) 
  • Amanda Martinot – Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases and Global Health at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (Career Panel) 
  • Simone Wildes – Infectious Disease Physician at Tuft Medical Center (Career Panel) 
  • Katie Wu – Science journalist at the Atlantic (Career Panel) 
  • Andrea Carfi – VP and Head of Research, Infectious Disease at Moderna (Career Panel) 

Course organization is supported by students and professors at MIT and Harvard Medical School. Speakers include professors at Yale and Harvard, industry executives responsible for developing treatments for COVID-19, critical care physicians treating COVID-19 patients, journalists at The Atlantic, and public health experts developing policy for Massachusetts.

The course is supported by the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, MIT IMES, and Harvard and MIT’s Health Sciences and Technology program. Scientific speakr

Please feel free to contact Marissa Ferrara at mdferrara@mgh.harvard.edu with any questions. 

You can download the course information as a pdf here.