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PSM Students Work With Teams to Create Web Apps in Response to the Pandemic

On the left are bags of food ready for pick up at the Illinois Meat Science Laboratory. On the right a detail of WhereCOVID-19 platform.

As the pandemic unfolded, researchers at the University of Illinois’ CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies organized a team of graduate students and postdocs to develop a web application to track COVID-19 cases and visualize the impact on different geographic scales. Illinois Professional Science Master's (PSM)  graduate student Yong Liang, a Geographic Information Science major, was part of the WhereCOVID-19 Platform team for his summer internship experience. Different than other tracking apps, this team included social vulnerability and healthcare facility accessibility throughout Illinois in the app. Through the project Yong participated in real-world application of his GIS skills, and coordinated with other University of Illinois departments and the Illinois Department of Public Health for the development and continuation of the information.

“This experience gave me a new perspective to explore the application of GIS in the field of healthcare, which might have a promising future due to the increasing demand for health facilities and supplies,” said Yong. The team received accolades from other researchers throughout the world and in the U.S. popular press. 

The pandemic had a different kind of effect on the Meat Science Laboratory at the University of Illinois that serves a dual purpose of research outcomes of livestock grown for food, while providing an outlet for surplus fresh meat, meat products, and eggs. While the research schedule continued in March as COVID precautions were put in place, the freezers were quickly reaching capacity and the lab’s staff needed to devise a way to allow meat sales that would protect the health of both the staff and the public. For her summer internship, Alexis Remmers, a PSM student studying Animal Production, was on the team to develop an online ordering system, inventory and market available products, answer questions from the public, pack orders, devise a customer pick up system, and safely deliver the order to the customers’ vehicles in the parking lot. Alexis created a new database of product photos for the website, maintained the Facebook page and produced marketing content to push new inventory or flash sales as needed as part of her responsibilities.

“I believe that this internship allowed me to explore different areas and help determine that I enjoy engaging with customers and helping them with their needs. Overall, this taught me that sales is an area that I would like to go into as a long-term career,” Alexis explained. The lab continues to use the ordering system and marketing techniques.


Photos of bags of food ready for pick up at the Illinois Meat Science Laboratory (l), detail of WhereCOVID-19 platform (r).

Story by Natalie Bosecker, Director of the Illinois Professional Science Master's and editor of The INNOVATOR. Repost from The INNOVATOR, Spring 2021 issue