Penn BE Alumnus Helps Develop Rapid COVID-19 Test

Spencer Glantz (left) examines a scheme for light-activated protein cleavage with Dr. Brian Chow (middle) and 2014 iGEM team member Daniel Cabrera (right).

Spencer Glantz, a graduate of the Penn Bioengineering doctoral program and former member of the Brian Chow Lab, was mentioned in a recent WHYY piece highlighting the efforts of Penn labs to develop rapid, at-home testing for COVID-19. Glantz is currently a co-leader of the molecular biology team for 4Catalyzer, a medical device incubator founded by National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipient, and sponsor of the annual Rothberg Catalyzer Makerthon competition, Jonathan Rothberg. 4Catalyzer is developing the testing technology while Penn researchers are working to evaluate its effectiveness.

Glantz defended his Ph.D. in 2017 and went on to become a postdoc at the Jackson Laboratory (JAX). He was the recipient of the NSF GRFP Fellowship, and during his doctoral work, he discovered a new class of photoreceptors useful for controlling signaling at the cell membrane with light. During his time at Penn, Glantz also mentored the university’s iGEM team, bringing the annual program devoted to undergraduate-led innovation in synthetic biology to the University of Pennsylvania.

Read the full WHYY article here.

Five Tips to Stay Positive and Healthy During Social Isolation

Though the coronavirus situation is changing daily, even hourly, by now the need for physical separation from those not in your household is clear. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, says Penn psychologist Melissa Hunt.

“We’re social animals,” says Hunt, associate director of clinical training in Penn’s Psychology Department. “We have an entire neuroendocrine system that responds to touch and social proximity with people we care about, that contributes to our sense of well-being and connection in the world. Losing out on that is really hard.”

It’s also not something we’ve really been asked to do before, says Lyle Ungar, a Penn computer scientist who is part of the World Well-Being Project, an initiative that uses social media language to measure psychological well-being and physical health. “This is an experiment on a scale that we’ve never seen in the United States,” he says.

Ungar and Hunt offer some suggestions to stay positive and healthy in the face of this new social isolation.

1. Maintain a connection with the people you love, even if it can’t be a physical one. 

“Social distance does not mean no social contact,” Ungar says. Psychologically, face-to-face conversations are best, but right now they’re not likely possible. Instead, Ungar suggests video calls. “They’re second best in terms of emotional bonding,” he says. “Phone calls aren’t as good as video chats, and texting is even worse. But of course, being totally isolated is the worst.”

Read the full five tips at Penn Today. Media contact Michele W. Berger.

Melissa G. Hunt is the associate director of clinical training in the Department of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania

Lyle Ungar is a professor in the departments of Bioengineering and Computer and Information Science in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, in the Graduate Group in Genomics and Computational Biology in the Perelman School of Medicine, in the Department of Operations, Information, and Decisions in the Wharton School, and in the Department of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences.