Karen Oates brings biology, immunology expertise to COVID-19 education project





Karen Oates, professor of biology & biotechnology, will coordinate the development of educational materials for a project aimed at teaching college students and the general public about vaccines.

The one-year project is funded by a $199,425 RAPID grant from the National Science Foundation to Santa Clara University. Oates is co-principal investigator on the project, working with scientists and science communicators to develop short YouTube videos, social media content, and project-based teaching materials.

“Some studies have shown that a large percentage of 18- to 29-year-olds have said they would not be vaccinated against COVID-19, if a vaccine were available,” Oates said. “I feel a responsibility to give college students information about vaccines and vaccination so they can make decisions based on science. I want them to understand their responsibilities to their communities when it comes to vaccination, and I want to give them the tools to make the right decisions.”

The project will develop educational modules on understanding science, the science of COVID-19, vaccine science, and COVID-19 science communication. Oates, an expert in biochemistry and immunology, plans to test some of the educational materials at WPI during her C Term class on human biology. All materials developed during the project will be free to users and available in English and Spanish, she said.