As part of a collaborative group of six British scientific experts, Catherine noake will join Jonathan Van-Tam and his team for the 2021 Royal Institutions Christmas Conferences which will be recorded on December 14, 16 and 18 at the Ri and broadcast on BBC Four and iPlayer between Christmas and New Years. Lab News was able to interview Catherine on his experience with SAGE and the fight against the pandemic …
Six guest speakers will join Jonathn Van-Tam for this year’s conferences. Lab News interviewed Sharon Peacock and Catherine Noakes. The other four UK experts are pictured above.
During the pandemic, Professor Catherine Noakes used her research expertise in building physics and environmental engineering to understand how building design and ventilation can reduce the risk of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
As the co-chair of the Environment and Modeling subgroup of the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), Catherine provides advice on how the virus is transmitted and the best strategies to control the spread.
Q: What role did you and your team play during the pandemic?
A: We have mainly been involved in the detail of understanding the transmission of the virus and how we can use mitigation measures such as ventilation, masks, distancing and hand and respiratory hygiene to control the transmission. sickness. This ranged from conducting research studies based on risk modeling to collecting evidence on transmission from several studies around the world to providing scientific advice to government through my role as chair of the subgroup. SAGE environment and modeling (EMG).
Q: How did you get involved?
A: I worked on airborne infections and ventilation for about 20 years, so before the pandemic I had already worked on studies examining how the indoor environment influences the risks of diseases such as tuberculosis and the flu. In April 2020, I was asked to prepare an article for the UK government’s SAGE committee on environmental transmission of COVID-19. This led to the formation of EMG, and I’ve been involved with it ever since.
Q: What was the goal of your work?
A: I have worked with several different teams and projects over the past 20 months focusing on the physics of respiratory droplets and aerosols and how they are affected by the environment and human behavior. Much of our work has focused on modeling. We used computational fluid dynamics methodologies to perform a detailed simulation of the emission, evaporation, transport and deposition of the range of droplets and aerosols of different sizes that are emitted when we breathe, speak. and coughs. This allows us to understand how these aerosols are affected by things like temperature and humidity as well as, for example, how room ventilation or the location of a Perspex screen affects exposure to the virus. contained in these aerosols. We are also performing risk modeling that takes into account exposure to the virus through different routes, in air and through hands and surfaces, to understand the likelihood of transmission under different circumstances. This modeling is linked to several other studies that seek to measure human emissions data, assess behavior in different contexts, characterize virus survival and assess the impact of specific interventions. We need studies in all of these areas so that we can put all the pieces of the puzzle together on how and where transmission occurs and how best to control it.
Q: What challenges have you encountered?
A: The transmission of respiratory diseases is a large and complex problem that requires the contribution of many different experts. While we have a pretty good idea of the key principles that affect drivetrain, a lot of the details are still missing. We are also trying to determine how transmission occurs and how effective different measures are very quickly in supporting public health messages. Thus, the research had to proceed in a much faster time frame than usual and with real world data which is messy and changing all the time due to the national and local measures being put in place. The body of research on SARS-CoV-2 is huge and sifting through this information to pull together all the different knowledge is a real challenge.
Q: How did you overcome these challenges?
A: Collaboration has been essential in meeting some of these challenges. There has been a huge international collaborative effort to share knowledge and expertise across disciplines and bring researchers together. I am proud to be part of a great national collaboration, the PROTECT National Baseline Study on Transport and the Environment, which brings together more than 100 researchers from several organizations through a range of related projects. This allows us to explore many different aspects of transmission and provides a forum to share expertise and knowledge across the different elements of transmission. I have also worked with an extraordinary group of scientists from around the world on a number of articles, where we have particularly highlighted the importance of airborne transmission and the need to think through how we design and manage buildings better. to reduce the risk of transmission through ventilation.
Q: What impact has your project had on the global pandemic?
A: I think the work we were involved in during the pandemic had a pretty big impact. Throughout, we have assembled evidence from our own research and research conducted by several others to provide the most recent evidence on the mechanisms of transmission and the effectiveness of interventions to policy makers and the public. We use all of this knowledge to make judgments about the likelihood of particular processes occurring or how particular mitigation strategies are likely to work. While there is uncertainty about this, we have used the best international evidence to support national policies for workplaces, homes and social environments.
Catherine noake is Professor of Environmental Engineering for Buildings at the University of Leeds and Co-Chair of the Environment and Modeling Sub-Group of the UK Government’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) gov.uk/government/organisations/scientific-advisory-group-for-emergencies
Read our coverageage on this year’s Christmas conferences with Jonathan Van-Tam
Read the accompanying editorial: Sharon Peacock and the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK)